front cover of Amazon Sweet Sea
Amazon Sweet Sea
Land, Life, and Water at the River's Mouth
By Nigel J. H. Smith
University of Texas Press, 2002

Far into the Atlantic Ocean, the outflow from the Amazon River creates a "sweet sea" of fresh water. At the river's mouth, a vast delta of river channels and marshes, floodplain and upland forests, open and scrub savannas, floating meadows, and mangrove swamps hosts an astonishingly diverse assemblage of plant and animal life. So rich is this biological treasure house that early European explorers deemed it inexhaustible.

In this highly readable book, Nigel Smith explores how human use of the Amazon estuary's natural resources has been affected by technological change, rapid urban growth, and accelerated market integration. Avoiding alarmist rhetoric, he shows how human intervention in the estuary has actually diversified agriculture and helped save floodplain forests from wanton destruction. His findings underscore the importance of understanding the history of land use and the ecological knowledge of local people when formulating development and conservation policies. The book will be of interest to everyone concerned with the fate of tropical forests, conserving biodiversity, and developing natural resources in a sustainable manner.

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The Archaeology of Environmental Change
Socionatural Legacies of Degradation and Resilience
Edited by Christopher T. Fisher, J. Brett Hill, and Gary M. Feinman
University of Arizona Press, 2009
Water management, soil conservation, sustainable animal husbandry . . . because such socio-environmental challenges have been faced throughout history, lessons from the past can often inform modern policy. In this book, case studies from a wide range of times and places reveal how archaeology can contribute to a better understanding of humans' relation to the environment.

The Archaeology of Environmental Change shows that the challenges facing humanity today, in terms of causing and reacting to environmental change, can be better approached through an attempt to understand how societies in the past dealt with similar circumstances. The contributors draw on archaeological research in multiple regions—North America, Mesoamerica, Europe, the Near East, and Africa—from time periods spanning the Holocene, and from environments ranging from tropical forest to desert.
 
Through such examples as environmental degradation in Transjordan, wildlife management in East Africa, and soil conservation among the ancient Maya, they demonstrate the negative effects humans have had on their environments and how societies in the past dealt with these same problems. All call into question and ultimately refute popular notions of a simple cause-and-effect relationship between people and their environment, and reject the notion of people as either hapless victims of unstoppable forces or inevitable destroyers of natural harmony.
 
These contributions show that by examining long-term trajectories of socio-natural relationships we can better define concepts such as sustainability, land degradation, and conservation—and that gaining a more accurate and complete understanding of these connections is essential for evaluating current theories and models of environmental degradation and conservation. Their insights demonstrate that to understand the present environment and to manage landscapes for the future, we must consider the historical record of the total sweep of anthropogenic environmental change.
 
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Autophobia
Love and Hate in the Automotive Age
Brian Ladd
University of Chicago Press, 2008
Cars are the scourge of civilization, responsible for everything from suburban sprawl and urban decay to environmental devastation and rampant climate change—not to mention our slavish dependence on foreign oil from dubious sources abroad. Add the astonishing price in human lives that we pay for our automobility—some thirty million people were killed in car accidents during the twentieth century—plus the countless number of hours we waste in gridlock traffic commuting to work, running errands, picking up our kids, and searching for parking, and one can’t help but ask: Haven’t we had enough already? After a century behind the wheel, could we be reaching the end of the automotive age?
 
From the Model T to the SUV, Autophobia reveals that our vexed relationship with the automobile is nothing new—in fact, debates over whether cars are forces of good or evil in our world have raged for over a century now, ever since the automobile was invented. According to Brian Ladd, this love and hate relationship we share with our cars is the defining quality of the automotive age. And everyone has an opinion about them, from the industry shills, oil barons, and radical libertarians who offer cars blithe paeans and deny their ill effects, to the technophobes, treehuggers, and killjoys who curse cars, ignoring the very real freedoms and benefits they provide us. Focusing in particular on our world’s cities, and spanning settings as varied as belle epoque Paris, Nazi Germany, postwar London, Los Angeles, New York, and the smoggy Shanghai of today, Ladd explores this love and hate relationship throughout, acknowledging adherents and detractors of the automobile alike.
 
Eisenhower, Hitler, Jan and Dean, J. G. Ballard, Ralph Nader, OPEC, and, of course, cars, all come into play in this wide-ranging but remarkably wry and pithy book. A dazzling display of erudition, Autophobia is cultural commentary at its most compelling, history at its most searching—and a surprising page-turner.
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Betrayal of Science and Reason
How Anti-Environmental Rhetoric Threatens Our Future
Paul R. Ehrlich and Anne H. Ehrlich
Island Press, 1996

Despite widespread public support for environmental protection, a backlash against environmental policies is developing. Fueled by outright distortions of fact and disregard for the methodology of science, this backlash appears as an outpouring of seemingly authoritative opinions by so-called experts in books, articles, and appearances on television and radio that greatly distort what is or is not known by environmental scientists. Through relentless repetition, the flood of anti-environmental sentiment has acquired an unfortunate aura of credibility, and is now threatening to undermine thirty years of progress in defining, understanding, and seeking solutions to global environmental problems.

In this hard-hitting and timely book, world-renowned scientists and writers Paul R. Ehrlich and Anne H. Ehrlich speak out against what they call the "brownlash." Brownlash rhetoric, created by public relations spokespersons and a few dissident scientists, is a deliberate misstatement of scientific findings designed to support an anti-environmental world view and political agenda. As such, it is deeply disturbing to environmental scientists across the country. The agenda of brownlash proponents is rarely revealed, and the confusion and distraction its rhetoric creates among policymakers and the public prolong an already difficult search for realistic and equitable solutions to global environmental problems.

In Betrayal of Science and Reason, the Ehrlichs explain clearly and with scientific objectivity the empirical findings behind environmental issues including population growth, desertification, food production, global warming, ozone depletion, acid rain, and biodiversity loss. They systematically debunk revisionist "truths" such as:

  • population growth does not cause environmental damage, and may even be beneficial
  • humanity is on the verge of abolishing hunger; food scarcity is a local or regional problem and is not indicative of overpopulation
  • there is no extinction crisis
  • natural resources are superabundant, if not infinite
  • global warming and acid rain are not serious threats to humanity
  • stratospheric ozone depletion is a hoax
  • risks posed by toxic substances are vastly exaggerated
The Ehrlichs counter the erroneous information and misrepresentation put forth by the brownlash, presenting accurate scientific information about current environmental threats that can be used to evaluate critically and respond to the commentary of the brownlash. They include important background material on how science works and provide extensive references to pertinent scientific literature. In addition, they discuss how scientists can speak out on matters of societal urgency yet retain scientific integrity and the support of the scientific community.

Betrayal of Science and Reason is an eye-opening look at current environmental problems and the fundamental importance of the scientific process in solving them. It presents unique insight into the sources and implications of anti-environmental rhetoric, and provides readers with a valuable means of understanding and refuting the feel-good fables that constitute the brownlash.

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Conquering Nature
The Enviromental Legacy of Socialism in Cuba
Sergio Diaz-Briquets
University of Pittsburgh Press, 2000

Conquering Nature provides the only book-length analysis of the environmental situation in Cuba after four decades of socialist rule, based on extensive examination of secondary sources, informed by the study of development and environmental trends in former socialist countries as well as in the developing world. It approaches the issue comprehensively and from interdisciplinary, comparative, and historical perspectives. Based on the Cuban example, Díaz-Briquets and Pérez-López challenge the concept that environmental disruption was not supposed to occur under socialism since it was alleged that guided by scientific policies, socialism could only beget environmentally benign economic development. In reality, the socialist environmental record proved to be far different from the utopian view.

Between the early 1960s and the late 1980s the environmental situation worsened despite Cuba’s achieving one of the lowest population growth rates in the world and having eliminated extreme living standard differentials in rural areas, two of the primary reasons often blamed for environmental deterioration in developing countries. The government’s approach was to “conquer nature” and under its central planning approach, it did not take local circumstances into consideration. This disregard for the environmental consequences of development projects continues to this day despite official allegations to the contrary—as the country pursues an economic survival strategy based on the crash development of the tourist sector and exploitation of natural resources. An underlying conclusion of the book is that the environmental legacy of socialism will present serious challenges to future Cuban generations.

Conquering Nature provides, for the first time, a relevant analysis of socialist environmental policies of a developing country. It will be of interest to students and scholars of Cuba and those interested in environmental issues in developing countries.

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The Conquest of the Russian Arctic
Paul R. Josephson
Harvard University Press, 2014

Spanning nine time zones from Norway to the Bering Strait, the immense Russian Arctic was mostly unexplored before the twentieth century. This changed rapidly in the 1920s, when the Soviet Union implemented plans for its conquest. The Conquest of the Russian Arctic, a definitive political and environmental history of one of the world's remotest regions, details the ambitious attempts, from Soviet times to the present, to control and reshape the Arctic, and the terrible costs paid along the way.

Paul Josephson describes the effort under Stalin to assimilate the Arctic into the Soviet empire. Extraction of natural resources, construction of settlements, indoctrination of nomadic populations, collectivization of reindeer herding--all was to be accomplished so that the Arctic operated according to socialist principles. The project was in many ways an extension of the Bolshevik revolution, as planners and engineers assumed that policies and plans that worked elsewhere in the empire would apply here. But as they pushed ahead with methods hastily adopted from other climates, the results were political repression, destruction of traditional cultures, and environmental degradation. The effects are still being felt today. At the same time, scientists and explorers led the world in understanding Arctic climes and regularities.

Vladimir Putin has redoubled Russia's efforts to secure the Arctic, seen as key to the nation's economic development and military status. This history brings into focus a little-understood part of the world that remains a locus of military and economic pressures, ongoing environmental damage, and grand ambitions imperfectly realized.

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Dancing at the Dead Sea
Tracking the World's Environmental Hotspots
Alanna Mitchell
University of Chicago Press, 2005
One hundred and fifty years after the publication of On the Origin of Species, award-winning environmental reporter Alanna Mitchell set out to retrace the idea of evolution and grapple with the fact that a massive extinction of the planet's species was well under way. So began a three-year odyssey in which Mitchell picked up where Darwin left off, examining not just the origin but also the ultimate fate of our world.

Combining scientific curiosity with travel and adventure, Dancing at the Dead Sea takes the reader on an intimate tour through the world's environmental hotspots. Readers join Mitchell as she tracks the spectacular biodiversity of regions as extraordinary as the island of Madagascar, the rain forests of Suriname, the parched oases of Jordan, the Arctic desert of Banks Island, the volcanic crests of Iceland, and, ultimately, the Galapagos archipelago, where Darwin conducted his famous research. Along the way, Mitchell introduces us to the numerous scientists and conservationists who are working to protect these endangered places. She also chronicles the courageous efforts of everyday men and women in these regions as they try to convince governments to turn the world's hotspots into environmentally protected areas.

Ultimately, Mitchell's travels around the world compel her to ponder our shelf life as a species in the grand evolutionary scheme of the planet. She wonders what Darwin would make of the profound ecological destruction she witnesses. Is the human race suicidal? What can help our species avert extinction? Posing tough and cutting questions such as these, Dancing at the Dead Sea is a must-read for aficionados of good science writing and travel literature alike.
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Desert Frontier
Ecological and Economic Change Along the Western Sahel, 1600-1850
James L.A., Jr. Webb
University of Wisconsin Press, 1994

Desert Frontier is a study of the ecological and economic impact of a long-term trend toward increasing aridity along the southern edge of the western Sahara. Beginning in the early seventeenth century, this climatological trend forced the desert approximately 200–300 kilometers to the south, transforming ethnic identities and ways of life along the length of the Sahel. Based on extensive archival research and on Saharan oral data, Desert Frontier argues that the principal historical dynamics of the precolonial Sahel were determined by this pervasive ecological crisis, rather than by the dynamics of a European-dominated world system.

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The Desert Islands of Mexico’s Sea of Cortez
Stewart Aitchison
University of Arizona Press, 2010
The desert islands in the Sea of Cortez are little known except to a few intrepid tourists, sailors, and fishermen. Though at first glance these stark islands may appear barren, they are a refuge for an astounding variety of plants and animals. While many of the species are typical of the greater Sonoran Desert region, some are endemic or unique to one or two islands. For example, Isla Santa Catalina is home to the world’s only rattlesnake that has lost its ability to grow a rattle. Other islands host nesting birds, such as Isla Rasa, a tiny, flat flow of basalt lava that attracts nearly half a million elegant and royal terns and Heermann’s gulls each spring.

The Desert Islands of Mexico’s Sea of Cortez is one of the few books devoted to the biogeography of this remarkable part of the world. The book explores the geologic origin of the gulf and its islands, presents some of the basics of island biogeography, details insular life—including residents of the intertidal zone —and provides a brief outlook for preserving this area. More than a simple guidebook, Aitchison’s writing will take both actual and armchair travelers through a gripping tale of natural history.

Like the rest of our fragile planet, the Sea of Cortez and its islands are threatened by humans. Overfishing has eliminated or greatly diminished many fish stocks, and dams on rivers that once flowed into the gulf prevent certain nutrients from reaching the sea. The tenuousness of this area makes the book’s extraordinary photographs and the firsthand descriptions by a well-known teacher, writer, and photographer all the more compelling.
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DeVoto’s West
History, Conservation, and the Public Good
Bernard DeVoto
Ohio University Press, 2005
Social commentator and preeminent Western historian Bernard DeVoto vigorously defended public lands in the West against commercial interests. At his death in 1955, DeVoto had won both the Pulitzer and Bancroft prizes. But he was most famous for his eloquent writing that advocated conservation of America's prairies, rangeland, forests, mountains, canyons, and deserts.DeVoto's West: Essays on History, Conservation, and the Public Good showcases the complexity, depth, and breadth of DeVoto's thinking. Editor Edward K. Muller introduces these twenty-two essays (many of which originally appeared in Harper's renowned column The Easy Chair) that passionately and coherently advocate federal control for vast tracts of public land. DeVoto addressed many issues, including the plundering of resources by absentee eastern corporations, Westerners' conflicted relationship to exploitation, and the degradation of the national parks. He believed that conservation of natural resources in the West required government control of public lands against livestock associations, timber interests, and their congressional allies who plotted the privatization of the national forests and the extraction of resources in the national parks.DeVoto's West collects the best of DeVoto's conservation pieces for the first time. It will introduce a new generation to prose that has retained its relevance and remains a remarkably current and timely argument for protecting public lands. Bernard DeVoto was born in Ogden, Utah, in 1897. He spent his adult life in the East, first teaching English at Northwestern University, Chicago, then living in New York, and finally settling in Cambridge, Massachusetts. He is the subject of an acclaimed biography, The Uneasy Chair, by Wallace Stegner.
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front cover of The Earth Remains Forever
The Earth Remains Forever
Generations at a Crossroads
By Rob Jackson
University of Texas Press, 2002

Writing especially for people who've tuned out the environmental debate, Rob Jackson persuasively argues that we're at a crucial turning point in environmental history, where choices we make now will determine the quality of life into the unforeseeable future. Laying out the scientific facts in plain language and with flashes of humor, he shows how the escalation of population growth and resource consumption in the twentieth century caused problems from ozone depletion to global warming, habitat destruction, and biodiversity loss. At the same time, however, he highlights ongoing solutions to these problems and ways in which we can create a sustainable future for subsequent generations and all life on earth. His urgent message is not that we've already failed, but that we can succeed.

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The Ecological City
Preserving and Restoring Urban Biodiversity
Rutherford H. Platt
University of Massachusetts Press, 1994
Interdisciplinary in content as well as approach, this collection of original essays takes a fresh look at the ecology of urban communities. Written by experts from a variety of professions--academic researchers, private and public program managers, and citizen activists--the book explores issues of geography, ecology, landscape architecture, urban forestry, law, and environmental education. Contributions include broad overviews of common problems a well as detailed case studies of specific programs.

Although several contributors are natural scientists, the book focuses on matters of public policy and public-private collaboration. The aim is not only to assess the impact of increasing urbanization on biodiversity, but also to propose new ways of preserving and restoring the balance between the natural and the built environment through planning and design.
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front cover of Effluent America
Effluent America
Cities, Industry, Energy, and the Environment
Martin V. Melosi
University of Pittsburgh Press, 2001
Garbage, wastewater, hazardous waste: these are the lenses through which Melosi views nineteenth- and twentieth-century America. In broad overviews and specific case studies, Melosi treats the relationship between industrial expansion and urban growth from an ecological perspective.
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Environment and Society in the Japanese Islands
From Prehistory to the Present
Bruce L. Batten
Oregon State University Press, 2015
Over the long course of Japan’s history, its people profited from their rich natural environment while simultaneously facing significant environmental challenges. Over time, they have altered their natural environment in numerous ways, from landscape modification to industrial pollution. How has the human-nature relationship changed over time in Japan? How does Japan’s environmental history compare with that of other countries, or that of the world as a whole?

Environment and Society in the Japanese Islands attempts to answer these questions through a series of case studies by leading Japanese and Western historians, geographers, archaeologists, and climatologists. These essays, on diverse topics from all periods of Japanese history and prehistory, are unified by their focus on the key concepts of “resilience” and “risk mitigation.” Taken as a whole, they place Japan’s experience in global context and call into question the commonly presumed division between pre-modern and modern environmental history.

Primarily intended for scholars and students in fields related to Japan or environmental history, these accessibly-written essays will be valuable to anyone wishing to learn about the historical roots of today’s environmental issues or the complex relationship between human society and the natural environment.
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Fragile Web
What Next for Nature?
Edited by Jonathan Silvertown
University of Chicago Press, 2010

Biodiversity is as close as your breakfast table. Your cereal and coffee are the products of at least a dozen species of plants and animals. And believe it or not, you are related to your morning meal—all life on earth is descended from a common ancestor, giving new meaning to the old saying “You are what you eat.”

            Making clear why the future of biodiversity matters, Fragile Web—which takes its name from the delicate mechanism that holds all life together—unites a team of international experts to explore the wonder of the natural world. Drawing on the very latest research, the book explains what biodiversity is and explores its evolution, from 3.5 billion years ago to the present day. It discusses the importance of the world’s ecosystems and how directly or indirectly humans are responsible for the fate of nature. Crucially, it also examines what can be done to protect the natural world and why it matters. Although we cannot undo all that we have done, ignoring the current crisis facing biodiversity could fundamentally change the lives of future generations.

Fully illustrated with color photographs, diagrams, and maps, and edited by celebrated ecologist Jonathan Silvertown, this book is a timely snapshot of the state of life on Earth. From the plant and animal products that make up our breakfast to the ecosystems that help to produce clean water, our very survival depends upon the variety of plant and animal life on our planet. The year 2010 has been declared by the United Nations the International Year of Biodiversity, and The Fragile Web will be an essential guidebook for our time.

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front cover of From Workshop to Waste Magnet
From Workshop to Waste Magnet
Environmental Inequality in the Philadelphia Region
Sicotte, Diane
Rutgers University Press, 2016
Like many industrialized regions, the Philadelphia metro area contains pockets of environmental degradation: neighborhoods littered with abandoned waste sites, polluting factories, and smoke-belching incinerators. However, other neighborhoods within and around the city are relatively pristine. This eye-opening book reveals that such environmental inequalities did not occur by chance, but were instead the result of specific policy decisions that served to exacerbate endemic classism and racism. 
 
From Workshop to Waste Magnet presents Philadelphia’s environmental history as a bracing case study in mismanagement and injustice. Sociologist Diane Sicotte digs deep into the city’s past as a titan of American manufacturing to trace how only a few communities came to host nearly all of the area’s polluting and waste disposal land uses. By examining the complex interactions among economic decline, federal regulations, local politics, and shifting ethnic demographics, she not only dissects what went wrong in Philadelphia but also identifies lessons for environmental justice activism today. 
 
Sicotte’s research tallies both the environmental and social costs of industrial pollution, exposing the devastation that occurs when mass quantities of society’s wastes mix with toxic levels of systemic racism and economic inequality. From Workshop to Waste Magnet is a compelling read for anyone concerned with the health of America’s cities and the people who live in them. 
 
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Global Environmental Governance
Foundations of Contemporary Environmental Studies
James Gustave Speth and Peter M. Haas
Island Press, 2006
Today's most pressing environmental problems are planetary in scope, confounding the political will of any one nation. How can we solve them?

Global Environmental Governance offers the essential information, theory, and practical insight needed to tackle this critical challenge. It examines ten major environmental threats-climate disruption, biodiversity loss, acid rain, ozone depletion, deforestation, desertification, freshwater degradation and shortages, marine fisheries decline, toxic pollutants, and excess nitrogen-and explores how they can be addressed through treaties, governance regimes, and new forms of international cooperation.

Written by Gus Speth, one of the architects of the international environmental movement, and accomplished political scientist Peter M. Haas, Global Environmental Governance tells the story of how the community of nations, nongovernmental organizations, scientists, and multinational corporations have in recent decades created an unprecedented set of laws and institutions intended to help solve large-scale environmental problems. The book critically examines the serious shortcomings of current efforts and the underlying reasons why disturbing trends persist. It presents key concepts in international law and regime formation in simple, accessible language, and describes the current institutional landscape as well as lessons learned and new directions needed in international governance. Global Environmental Governance is a concise guide, with lists of key terms, study questions, and other features designed to help readers think about and understand the concepts discussed.
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A Good That Transcends
How US Culture Undermines Environmental Reform
Eric T. Freyfogle
University of Chicago Press, 2017
Since the birth of the modern environmental movement in the 1970s, the United States has witnessed dramatic shifts in social equality, ecological viewpoints, and environmental policy. With these changes has also come an increased popular resistance to environmental reform, but, as Eric T. Freyfogle reveals in this book, that resistance has far deeper roots. Calling upon key environmental voices from the past and present—including Aldo Leopold, Wendell Berry, David Orr, and even Pope Francis in his Encyclical—and exploring core concepts like wilderness and the tragedy of the commons, A Good That Transcends not only unearths the causes of our embedded culture of resistance, but also offers a path forward to true, lasting environmental initiatives.

A lawyer by training, with expertise in property rights, Freyfogle uses his legal knowledge to demonstrate that bad land use practices are rooted in the way in which we see the natural world, value it, and understand our place within it. While social and economic factors are important components of our current predicament, it is our culture, he shows, that is driving the reform crisis—and in the face of accelerating environmental change, a change in culture is vital. Drawing upon a diverse array of disciplines from history and philosophy to the life sciences, economics, and literature, Freyfogle seeks better ways for humans to live in nature, helping us to rethink our relationship with the land and craft a new conservation ethic. By confronting our ongoing resistance to reform as well as pointing the way toward a common good, A Good That Transcends enables us to see how we might rise above institutional and cultural challenges, look at environmental problems, appreciate their severity, and both support and participate in reform.
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Greening Africana Studies
Linking Environmental Studies with Transforming Black Experiences
Rubin Patterson
Temple University Press, 2014
Insufficient attention has been given to the environment in Africana studies within the academy. In Greening Africana Studies, Rubin Patterson initiates an important conversation explaining why and how the gap between these two disciplines can and should be bridged. His comprehensive book calls for a green African transnationalism and focuses on the mission and major paradigms that identify the respective curriculum, research interests, and practices.
 
In his original work, Patterson demonstrates the ways in which black communities are harmed by local environmental degradation and global climate change. He shows that many local unwanted land use sites (LULUs), such as brownfields and toxic release inventory facilities, are disproportionately located in close proximity to neighborhoods of color, but also to colleges and universities with Africana studies programs. Arguing that such communities are not aggressively engaging in environmental issues, Greening Africana Studies also provides examples of how Africana studies students as well as members of black communities can prepare for green careers.
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Human Ecology in the Wadi al-Hasa
Land Use and Abandonment through the Holocene
J. Brett Hill
University of Arizona Press, 2006
Amid mounting concern over modern environmental degradation, archaeologists around the world are demonstrating the long history of such processes and the way they have shaped current landscapes. A growing body of evidence shows how humans have modified their environment for millennia, and contemporary problems cannot be understood without an adequate sense of this ecological past and the role of humans in it. The Wadi al-Hasa, a large canyon draining the Transjordan Plateau into the Dead Sea, has been the location of repeated cycles of settlement and land use for thousands of years.

This book focuses on changing land-use patterns and their relationship to socio-political organization. Using a combination of archaeological and environmental data, Brett Hill examines the human ecology of agriculture and pastoralism from the beginnings of domestication through the rise and collapse of complex societies. Models of land use often consider political complexity as an important factor affecting mismanagement. Together with GIS erosion modeling and settlement pattern analysis, Hill evaluates the archaeological, historical, and environmental record spanning the Holocene to show how land use was affected by the rise of centralized authority. Yet populations in the Hasa maintained the ability to resist authority and return to a nomadic life when it became advantageous. This process emphasizes the power of local groups to pursue alternative strategies when their interests diverged from those of elites, creating a dynamic that reshapes the landscape each generation.

Hill’s analysis contributes significantly to our understanding of the history of human ecology in the southern Levant, wherein current debates are complicated by research at different scales and by a lack of consensus on the importance of localized phenomena. It not only complements existing research but also seeks to refine models of processes in human ecology to demonstrate the effect of political organization on land mismanagement.
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Human Impact on Ancient Environments
Charles L. Redman
University of Arizona Press, 1999
Threats to biodiversity, food shortages, urban sprawl . . . lessons for environmental problems that confront us today may well be found in the past. The archaeological record contains hundreds of situations in which societies developed long-term sustainable relationships with their environments—and thousands in which the relationships were destructive. Charles Redman demonstrates that much can be learned from an improved understanding of peoples who, through seemingly rational decisions, degraded their environments and threatened their own survival. By discussing archaeological case studies from around the world—from the deforestation of the Mayan lowlands to soil erosion in ancient Greece to the almost total depletion of resources on Easter Island—Redman reveals the long-range coevolution of culture and environment and clearly shows the impact that ancient peoples had on their world. These case studies focus on four themes: habitat transformation and animal extinctions, agricultural practices, urban growth, and the forces that accompany complex society. They show that humankind's commitment to agriculture has had cultural consequences that have conditioned our perception of the environment and reveal that societies before European contact did not necessarily live the utopian existences that have been popularly supposed. Whereas most books on this topic tend to treat human societies as mere reactors to environmental stimuli, Redman's volume shows them to be active participants in complex and evolving ecological relationships. Human Impact on Ancient Environments demonstrates how archaeological research can provide unique insights into the nature of human stewardship of the Earth and can permanently alter the way we think about humans and the environment.
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Indigenous Traditions and Ecology
The Interbeing of Cosmology and Community
John A. Grim
Harvard University Press, 2001

A new perspective on religions and the environment emerges from this collection. The authors, a diverse group of indigenous and non-native scholars and environmental activists, address compelling and urgent questions facing indigenous communities as they struggle with threats to their own sovereignty, increased market and media globalization, and the conservation of endangered bioregions.

Drawing attention to the pressures threatening indigenous peoples and ways of life, this volume describes modes of resistance and regeneration by which communities maintain a spiritual balance with larger cosmological forces while creatively accommodating current environmental, social, economic, and political changes.

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Kicking Off the Bootstraps
Environment, Development, and Community Power in Puerto Rico
Déborah Berman Santana
University of Arizona Press, 1996
While small communities in Third World countries usually seem at the mercy of central governments and foreign capitalists, local activists can help exploited peoples correct environmental abuses and social injustices and seize control of their own destinies.

Kicking Off the Bootstraps is a powerful case history of such an effort. It describes a grassroots activist movement that emerged in the Puerto Rican community of Salinas to counter the poverty and economic dependence experienced by its citizens in the wake of "Operation Bootstrap," a post-World War II industrial development program. Déborah Berman Santana examines the efforts of the community to develop its own economic strategy based primarily on environmentally and socially responsible uses of local natural and human resources.

Berman Santana shows how local activists are seeking to empower the Salinas community to make decisions concerning economic development. She evaluates present-day efforts to develop positive alternatives, examining the motivations of the activists, the nature of their projects, their efforts to mobilize the community, their dealings with government and other organizations, and the obstacles they face. In a closing chapter, she addresses the potential roles of community leaders, outside activists, local businesses, and government in actualizing these alternatives.

A testimony to one community's efforts to determine its own future, Kicking Off the Bootstraps deals with real issues such as control over productive resources, quality of life, and environmental health. It also extends an examination of community-directed activism to an exploration of policy implications for sustainable development. While this concept is often too vague to be applied to real strategies, the Salinas experience provides a clear idea of what sustainable development can—and should—mean in actual practice.
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Killing the Koala and Poisoning the Prairie
Australia, America, and the Environment
Corey J. A. Bradshaw and Paul R. Ehrlich
University of Chicago Press, 2015
Though separated by thousands of miles, the United States and Australia have much in common. Geographically both countries are expansive—the United States is the fourth largest in land mass and Australia the sixth—and both possess a vast amount of natural biodiversity. At the same time, both nations are on a crash course toward environmental destruction. Highly developed super consumers with enormous energy footprints and high rates of greenhouse-gas emissions, they are two of the biggest drivers of climate change per capita. As renowned ecologists Corey J. A. Bradshaw and Paul R. Ehrlich make clear in Killing the Koala and Poisoning the Prairie, both of these countries must confront the urgent question of how to stem this devastation and turn back from the brink.
 
In this book, Bradshaw and Ehrlich provide a spirited exploration of the ways in which the United States and Australia can learn from their shared problems and combine their most successful solutions in order to find and develop new resources, lower energy consumption and waste, and grapple with the dynamic effects of climate change. Peppering the book with humor, irreverence, and extensive scientific knowledge, the authors examine how residents of both countries have irrevocably altered their natural environments, detailing the most pressing ecological issues of our time, including the continuing resource depletion caused by overpopulation. They then turn their discussion to the politics behind the failures of environmental policies in both nations and offer a blueprint for what must be dramatically changed to prevent worsening the environmental crisis.
 
Although focused on two nations, Killing the Koala and Poisoning the Prairie clearly has global implications—the problems facing the United States and Australia are not theirs alone, and the solutions to come will benefit by being crafted in coalition. This book provides a vital opportunity to learn from both countries’ leading environmental thinkers and to heed their call for a way forward together.
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Kinship to Mastery
Biophilia In Human Evolution And Development
Stephen R. Kellert
Island Press, 1997

Kinship to Mastery is a fascinating and accessible exploration of the notion of biophilia -- the idea that humans, having evolved with the rest of creation, possess a biologically based attraction to nature and exhibit an innate affinity for life and lifelike processes. Stephen R. Kellert sets forth the idea that people exhibit different expressions of biophilia in different contexts, and demonstrates how our quality of life in the largest sense is dependent upon the richness of our connections with nature.

While the natural world provides us with material necessities -- food, clothing, medicine, clean air, pure water -- it just as importantly plays a key role in other aspects of our lives, including intellectual capacity, emotional bonding, aesthetic attraction, creativity, imagination, and even the recognition of a just and purposeful existence. As Kellert explains, each expression of biophilia shows how our physical, material, intellectual, emotional, and spiritual well-being is to a great extent dependent on our relationships with the natural world that surrounds us.

Kinship to Mastery is a thought-provoking examination of a concept that, while not widely known, has a significant and direct effect on the lives of people everywhere. Because the full expression of biophilia is integral to our overall health, our ongoing destruction of the environment could have far more serious consequences than many people think. In a readable and compelling style, Kellert describes and explains the concept of biophilia, and demonstrates to a general audience the wide-ranging implications of environmental degradation.

Kinship to Mastery continues the exploration of biophilia begun with Edward O. Wilson's landmark book Biophilia (Harvard University Press, 1984) and followed by The Biophilia Hypothesis (Island Press, 1993), co-edited by Wilson and Kellert, which brought together some of the most creative scientists of our time to explore Wilson's theory in depth.

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A Land Between Waters
Environmental Histories of Modern Mexico
Edited by Christopher R. Boyer
University of Arizona Press, 2012
Mexico is one of the most ecologically diverse nations on the planet, with landscapes that range from rainforests to deserts and from small villages to the continent’s largest metropolis. Yet historians are only beginning to understand how people’s use of the land, extraction of its resources, and attempts to conserve it have shaped both the landscape and its inhabitants.

A Land Between Waters explores the relationship between the people and the environment in Mexico. It heralds the arrival of environmental history as a major area of study within the field of Mexican history. This volume brings together a dozen original works of environmental history by some of the foremost experts in Mexican environmental history from both the United States and Mexico.

The contributions collected in this seminal volume explore a wide array of topics, from the era of independence to the present day. Together they examine how humans have used, abused, and attended to nature in Mexico over more than two hundred years. Written in clear, accessible prose, A Land Between Waters showcases the breadth of Mexican environmental history in a way that defines the key topics in the field and suggests avenues for subsequent work. Most importantly, it assesses the impacts of environmental changes that Mexico has faced in the past with an eye to informing national debates about the challenges that the nation will face in the future.
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Land of Sunshine
An Environmental History of Metropolitan Los Angeles
William Deverell
University of Pittsburgh Press, 2006

Most people equate Los Angeles with smog, sprawl, forty suburbs in search of a city-the great "what-not-to-do" of twentieth-century city building. But there's much more to LA's story than this shallow stereotype. History shows that Los Angeles was intensely, ubiquitously planned. The consequences of that planning-the environmental history of urbanism--is one place to turn for the more complex lessons LA has to offer.

Working forward from ancient times and ancient ecologies to the very recent past, Land of Sunshine is a fascinating exploration of the environmental history of greater Los Angeles. Rather than rehearsing a litany of errors or insults against nature, rather than decrying the lost opportunities of "roads not taken," these essays, by nineteen leading geologists, ecologists, and historians, instead consider the changing dynamics both of the city and of nature.
In the nineteenth century, for example, "density" was considered an evil, and reformers struggled mightily to move the working poor out to areas where better sanitation and flowers and parks "made life seem worth the living."

We now call that vision "sprawl," and we struggle just as much to bring middle-class people back into the core of American cities. There's nothing natural, or inevitable, about such turns of events. It's only by paying very close attention to the ways metropolitan nature has been constructed and construed that meaningful lessons can be drawn. History matters.

So here are the plants and animals of the Los Angeles basin, its rivers and watersheds. Here are the landscapes of fact and fantasy, the historical actors, events, and circumstances that have proved transformative over and over again. The result is a nuanced and rich portrait of Los Angeles that will serve planners, communities, and environmentalists as they look to the past for clues, if not blueprints, for enhancing the quality and viability of cities.

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The Land of the Dead Is Open for Business
Jacob Strautmann
Four Way Books, 2020
The Land of the Dead Is Open for Business is an extended elegy for Jacob Strautmann’s home state of West Virginia and its generations of inhabitants sold out by the false promise of the American Dream. Throughout the book, voices rise up from the page to describe a landscape eroded and plundered by runaway capitalism—its mountain tops leveled by the extractive industries, its waters polluted by runoff from mines—and the fallout from that waste. Those who remain are consigned to life in a ravaged land denuded of nature where birds die and “Sheep / birth limp two-headed things and some / that speak like men if they speak at all.”
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Living Politics in South Africa’s Urban Shacklands
Kerry Ryan Chance
University of Chicago Press, 2018
While much has been written on post-apartheid social movements in South Africa, most discussion centers on ideal forms of movements, disregarding the reality and agency of the activists themselves. In Living Politics, Kerry Ryan Chance radically flips the conversation by focusing on the actual language and humanity of post-apartheid activists rather than the external, idealistic commentary of old.
 
Tracking everyday practices and interactions between poor residents and state agents in South Africa’s shack settlements, Chance investigates the rise of nationwide protests since the late 1990s. Based on ethnography in Durban, Cape Town, and Johannesburg, the book analyzes the criminalization of popular forms of politics that were foundational to South Africa’s celebrated democratic transition. Chance argues that we can best grasp the increasingly murky line between “the criminal” and “the political” with a “politics of living” that casts slum and state in opposition to one another. Living Politics shows us how legitimate domains of politics are redefined, how state sovereignty is forcibly enacted, and how the production of new citizen identities crystallize at the intersections of race, gender, and class. 
 
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Loss and Wonder at the World’s End
Laura A. Ogden
Duke University Press, 2021
In Loss and Wonder at the World's End, Laura A. Ogden brings together animals, people, and things—from beavers, stolen photographs, lichen, American explorers, and birdsong—to catalog the ways environmental change and colonial history are entangled in the Fuegian Archipelago of southernmost Chile and Argentina. Repeated algal blooms have closed fisheries in the archipelago. Glaciers are in retreat. Extractive industries such as commercial forestry, natural gas production, and salmon farming along with the introduction of nonnative species are rapidly transforming assemblages of life. Ogden archives forms of loss—including territory, language, sovereignty, and life itself—as well as forms of wonder, or moments when life continues to flourish even in the ruins of these devastations. Her account draws on long-term ethnographic research with settler and Indigenous communities; archival photographs; explorer journals; and experiments in natural history and performance studies. Loss and Wonder at the World's End frames environmental change as imperialism's shadow, a darkness cast over the earth in the wake of other losses.
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The Matter of Empire
Metaphysics and Mining in Colonial Peru
Orlando Bentancor
University of Pittsburgh Press, 2016
The Matter of Empire examines the philosophical principles invoked by apologists of the Spanish empire that laid the foundations for the material exploitation of the Andean region between 1520 and 1640. Centered on Potosi, Bolivia, Orlando Bentancor’s original study ties the colonizers’ attempts to justify the abuses wrought upon the environment and the indigenous population to their larger ideology concerning mining, science, and the empire's rightful place in the global sphere. Bentancor points to the underlying principles of scholasticism, particularly in the work of Thomas Aquinas, as the basis of the instrumentalist conception of matter and enslavement, despite the inherent contradictions to moral principles. Bentancor grounds this metaphysical framework in a close reading of sixteenth-century debates on Spanish sovereignty in the Americas and treatises on natural history and mining by theologians, humanists, missionaries, mine owners, jurists, and colonial officials. To Bentancor, their presuppositions were a major turning point for colonial expansion and paved the way to global mercantilism.
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Meander Scars
Reflections on Healing the Willamette River
Abby Phillips Metzger
Oregon State University Press, 2013
Abby Phillips Metzger’s book of personal stories recounts a forgotten Oregon river, the Willamette, as it was before white settlement. Once a rich network of channels and sloughs, the Willamette today bears the scars of development and degradation.

Yet, through canoe trips and intimate explorations of the river, Metzger discovers glints of resiliency: a beaver trolling through a slough, native fish in quiet backwaters, and strong currents that carry undertones of the wild Willamette. Together with tales from farmers and scientists alike, these experiences lead Metzger to ask whether something scarred can fully heal, and whether a disjointed river can be whole again.

A story of re-discovery as told by a learner, Meander Scars will appeal to readers of literary nonfiction, river advocates, naturalists, and outdoor enthusiasts interested in sustaining healthy river systems for themselves, their children, and beyond.
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Mourning in the Anthropocene
Ecological Grief and Earthly Coexistence
Joshua Trey Barnett
Michigan State University Press, 2022
Enormous ecological losses and profound planetary transformations mean that ours is a time to grieve beyond the human. Yet, Joshua Trey Barnett argues in this eloquent and urgent book, our capacity to grieve for more-than-human others is neither natural nor inevitable. Weaving together personal narratives, theoretical meditations, and insightful readings of cultural artifacts, he suggests that ecological grief is best understood as a rhetorical achievement. As a collection of worldmaking practices, rhetoric makes things matter, bestows value, directs attention, generates knowledge, and foments feelings. By dwelling on three rhetorical practices—naming, archiving, and making visible—Barnett shows how they prepare us to grieve past, present, and future ecological losses. Simultaneously diagnostic and prescriptive, this book reveals rhetorical practices that set our ecological grief into motion and illuminates pathways to more connected, caring earthly coexistence.
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Nevada's Environmental Legacy
Progress or Plunder
James W. Hulse
University of Nevada Press, 2009

Nevada's relatively brief history (it became a state in 1864) has been largely a story of the exploitation of its natural resources. Mining has torn down mountains and poisoned streams and groundwater. Uncontrolled grazing by vast herds of sheep and cattle has denuded grasslands and left them prey to the invasion of noxious plant species and vulnerable to wildfire. Clear-cut logging practices have changed the composition of forests and induced serious soil erosion. More recently, military testing, including hundreds of atomic blasts to determine the efficacy of nuclear weapons, has irreversibly polluted expanses of fragile desert landscape. And rampant development throughout the state over the past four decades, along with the public's growing demand for recreational facilities, has placed intolerable demands on the arid state's limited water resources and threatened the survival of numerous rare plant and animal species. Veteran historian and Nevada native James W. Hulse considers the state's complex environmental history as a series of Faustian bargains between the state's need for economic development and the industries, government agencies, and individuals that have exploited Nevada's natural resources with little concern for the long-term consequences of their activities. His survey covers all these issues, and examines public attitudes about the environment and the role of federal and state agencies in creating, interpreting, and enforcing environmental policies.

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No Way Home
The Decline of the World's Great Animal Migrations
David S. Wilcove
Island Press, 2010
Animal migration is a magnificent sight: a mile-long blanket of cranes rising from a Nebraska river and filling the sky; hundreds of thousands of wildebeests marching across the Serengeti; a blaze of orange as millions of monarch butterflies spread their wings to take flight. Nature’s great migrations have captivated countless spectators, none more so than premier ecologist David S. Wilcove. In No Way Home, his awe is palpable—as are the growing threats to migratory animals.
 
We may be witnessing a dying phenomenon among many species. Migration has always been arduous, but today’s travelers face unprecedented dangers. Skyscrapers and cell towers lure birds and bats to untimely deaths, fences and farms block herds of antelope, salmon are caught en route between ocean and river, breeding and wintering grounds are paved over or plowed, and global warming disrupts the synchronized schedules of predators and prey. The result is a dramatic decline in the number of migrants.
 
Wilcove guides us on their treacherous journeys, describing the barriers to migration and exploring what compels animals to keep on trekking. He also brings to life the adventures of scientists who study migrants. Often as bold as their subjects, researchers speed wildly along deserted roads to track birds soaring overhead, explore glaciers in search of frozen locusts, and outfit dragonflies with transmitters weighing less than one one-hundredth of an ounce.
Scientific discoveries and advanced technologies are helping us to understand migrations better, but alone, they won’t stop sea turtles and songbirds from going the way of the bison or passenger pigeon. What’s required is the commitment and cooperation of the far-flung countries migrants cross—long before extinction is a threat. As Wilcove writes, “protecting the abundance of migration is key to protecting the glory of migration.” No Way Home offers powerful inspiration to preserve those glorious journeys.
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Panarchy
Understanding Transformations in Human and Natural Systems
Edited by Lance H. Gunderson and C. S. Holling
Island Press, 2001

Creating institutions to meet the challenge of sustainability is arguably the most important task confronting society; it is also dauntingly complex. Ecological, economic, and social elements all play a role, but despite ongoing efforts, researchers have yet to succeed in integrating the various disciplines in a way that gives adequate representation to the insights of each.

Panarchy, a term devised to describe evolving hierarchical systems with multiple interrelated elements, offers an important new framework for understanding and resolving this dilemma. Panarchy is the structure in which systems, including those of nature (e.g., forests) and of humans (e.g., capitalism), as well as combined human-natural systems (e.g., institutions that govern natural resource use such as the Forest Service), are interlinked in continual adaptive cycles of growth, accumulation, restructuring, and renewal. These transformational cycles take place at scales ranging from a drop of water to the biosphere, over periods from days to geologic epochs. By understanding these cycles and their scales, researchers can identify the points at which a system is capable of accepting positive change, and can use those leverage points to foster resilience and sustainability within the system.

This volume brings together leading thinkers on the subject -- including Fikret Berkes, Buz Brock, Steve Carpenter, Carl Folke, Lance Gunderson, C.S. Holling, Don Ludwig, Karl-Goran Maler, Charles Perrings, Marten Scheffer, Brian Walker, and Frances Westley -- to develop and examine the concept of panarchy and to consider how it can be applied to human, natural, and human-natural systems. Throughout, contributors seek to identify adaptive approaches to management that recognize uncertainty and encourage innovation while fostering resilience.

The book is a fundamental new development in a widely acclaimed line of inquiry. It represents the first step in integrating disciplinary knowledge for the adaptive management of human-natural systems across widely divergent scales, and offers an important base of knowledge from which institutions for adaptive management can be developed. It will be an invaluable source of ideas and understanding for students, researchers, and professionals involved with ecology, conservation biology, ecological economics, environmental policy, or related fields.


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Perverse Subsidies
How Misused Tax Dollars Harm The Environment And The Economy
Norman Myers and Jennifer Kent
Island Press, 2001
Much of the global economy depends upon large-scale government intervention in the form of subsidies, both direct and indirect, to support specific industries or economic sectors. Distressingly, many of these subsidies can be characterized as “perverse” -- rather than helping society achieve a desired goal, they work in the opposite direction, causing damage to both our economies and our environments. Worldwide subsidies have long been thought to total $2 trillion per year, but until now, no attempt has been made to determine what proportion of that actually subverts the public interest.In Perverse Subsidies, leading environmental analyst Norman Myers takes a detailed look at the subject, offering a comprehensive view of subsidies worldwide with a particular focus on the extent, causes, and consequences of perverse subsidies. He defines many different kinds of subsidies, from tax incentives to government handouts, and considers their wide-ranging impacts, as he: examines the role of subsidies in policymaking quantifies the direct costs of perverse subsidies examines the major subsidies in agriculture, energy, road transportation, water, fisheries, and forestry considers the environmental effects of those subsidies offers policy advice and specific recommendations for eliminating harmful subsidies .The book provides a valuable framework for evaluation of perverse subsidies, and offers a dramatic illustration of the scale and dimensions of the problem. It will be the standard reference on those subsidies for government reform advocates, policy analysts, and environmentalists, as well as for scholars and students interested in the interactions between policymaking and environmental issues.
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A Prison in the Woods
Environment and Incarceration in New York's North Country
Clarence Jefferson Hall
University of Massachusetts Press, 2020
Since the mid-nineteenth century, Americans have known the Adirondack Mountains of upstate New York as a site of industrial production, a place to heal from disease, and a sprawling outdoor playground that must be preserved in its wild state. Less well known, however, has been the area's role in hosting a network of state and federal prisons. A Prison in the Woods traces the planning, construction, and operation of penitentiaries in five Adirondack Park communities from the 1840s through the early 2000s to demonstrate that the histories of mass incarceration and environmental consciousness are interconnected.

Clarence Jefferson Hall Jr. reveals that the introduction of correctional facilities—especially in the last three decades of the twentieth century—unearthed long-standing conflicts over the proper uses of Adirondack nature, particularly since these sites have contributed to deforestation, pollution, and habitat decline, even as they've provided jobs and spurred economic growth. Additionally, prison plans have challenged individuals' commitment to environmental protection, tested the strength of environmental regulations, endangered environmental and public health, and exposed tensions around race, class, place, and belonging in the isolated prison towns of America's largest state park.
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Remaking Boston
An Environmental History of the City and Its Surroundings
Anthony N. Penna
University of Pittsburgh Press, 2009
Since its settlement in 1630, Boston, its harbor, and outlying regions have witnessed a monumental transformation at the hands of humans and by nature. Remaking Boston chronicles many of the events that altered the physical landscape of Boston, while also offering multidisciplinary perspectives on the environmental history of one of America's oldest and largest metropolitan areas.

Situated on an isthmus, and blessed with a natural deepwater harbor and ocean access, Boston became an important early trade hub with Europe and the world. As its population and economy grew, developers extended the city's shoreline into the surrounding tidal mudflats to create more useable land. Further expansion of the city was achieved through the annexation of surrounding communities, and the burgeoning population and economy spread to outlying areas. The interconnection of city and suburb opened the floodgates to increased commerce, services and workforces, while also leaving a wake of roads, rails, bridges, buildings, deforestation, and pollution.

Profiling this ever-changing environment, the contributors tackle a variety of topics, including: the glacial formation of the region; physical characteristics and composition of the land and harbor; dredging, sea walling, flattening, and landfill operations in the reshaping of the Shawmut Peninsula; the longstanding controversy over the link between landfills and shoaling in shipping channels; population movements between the city and suburbs and their environmental implications; interdependence of the city and its suburbs; preservation and reclamation of the Charles River; suburban deforestation and later reforestation as byproducts of changing land use; the planned outlay of parks and parkways; and historic climate changes and the human and biological adaptations to them.
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Residual Governance
How South Africa Foretells Planetary Futures
Gabrielle Hecht
Duke University Press, 2023
In Residual Governance, Gabrielle Hecht dives into the wastes of gold and uranium mining in South Africa to explore how communities, experts, and artists fight for infrastructural and environmental justice. Hecht outlines how mining in South Africa is a prime example of what she theorizes as residual governance—the governance of waste and discard, governance that is purposefully inefficient, and governance that treats people and places as waste and wastelands. She centers the voices of people who resist residual governance and the harms of toxic mining waste to highlight how mining’s centrality to South African history reveals the links between race, capitalism, the state, and the environment. In this way, Hecht shows how the history of mining in South Africa and the resistance to residual governance and environmental degradation is a planetary story: the underlying logic of residual governance lies at the heart of contemporary global racial capitalism and is a major accelerant of the Anthropocene.
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Salmon and Acorns Feed Our People
Colonialism, Nature, and Social Action
Kari Marie Norgaard
Rutgers University Press, 2019
Finalist for the 2020 C. Wright Mills Award from the Society for the Study of Social Problems

Since time before memory, large numbers of salmon have made their way up and down the Klamath River. Indigenous management enabled the ecological abundance that formed the basis of capitalist wealth across North America. These activities on the landscape continue today, although they are often the site of intense political struggle. Not only has the magnitude of Native American genocide been of remarkable little sociological focus, the fact that this genocide has been coupled with a reorganization of the natural world represents a substantial theoretical void. Whereas much attention has (rightfully) focused on the structuring of capitalism, racism and patriarchy, few sociologists have attended to the ongoing process of North American colonialism. Salmon and Acorns Feed Our People draws upon nearly two decades of examples and insight from Karuk experiences on the Klamath River to illustrate how the ecological dynamics of settler-colonialism are essential for theorizing gender, race and social power today. 
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Speaking for the River
Confronting Pollution on the Willamette, 1920s-1970s
James V. Hillegas-Elting
Oregon State University Press, 2018
Since the late 1960s, Oregon has been at the forefront of environmental protection in the United States. The state generally, and Portland in particular, continue to have strong “green” credentials well into the twenty-first century. Within this forty year period of progress, however, the health of the Willamette River has been a consistent blot on the record. Willamette River water pollution has not gone away—the problem has, in fact, gotten much more complex. James Hillegas-Elting’s book, Speaking for the River, provides a historical look at this dilemma.

Willamette River cleanup efforts between 1926 and 1975 centered on a struggle between abatement advocates and the two primary polluters in the watershed, the City of Portland and the pulp and paper industry. Beginning in 1926, clean streams advocates created ad hoc groups of public health experts, sanitary engineers, conservationists, sportsmen, and others to pressure Portland officials and industry representatives to cease polluting the river. By the late 1960s, these grassroots initiatives found political footholds at the state level. As governor between 1967 and 1975, Tom McCall took the issue of environmental protection personally, providing the charisma and leadership that was needed to finally make substantive progress toward cleaning the Willamette.

Speaking for the River is the first book to describe the historical roots of Willamette River pollution, providing important context for understanding the political, fiscal, and technological antecedents to the present-day conundrum. Hillegas-Elting’s contribution to the academic literature on environmental and urban history in Oregon will be welcomed by policy makers, environmentalists, and concerned citizens alike.
 
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The Turning Points of Environmental History
Frank Uekotter
University of Pittsburgh Press, 2010
From the time when humans first learned to harness fire, cultivate crops, and domesticate livestock, they have altered their environment as a means of survival. In the modern era, however, natural resources have been devoured and defiled in the wake of a consumerism that goes beyond mere subsistence. In this volume, an international group of environmental historians documents the significant ways in which humans have impacted their surroundings throughout history.
    John McNeill introduces the collection with an overarching account of the history of human environmental impact. Other contributors explore the use and abuse of the earth’s land in the development of agriculture, commercial forestry, and in the battle against desertification in arid and semi-arid regions. Cities, which first appeared some 5,500 years ago, have posed their own unique environmental challenges, including dilemmas of solid waste disposal, sewerage, disease, pollution, and sustainable food and water supplies.
The rise of nation-states brought environmental legislation, which often meant “selling off” natural resources through eminent domain. Perhaps the most damaging environmental event in history resulted from a “perfect storm” of effects: cheap fossil fuels (especially petroleum) and the rapid rise of personal incomes during the 1950s brought an exponential increase in energy consumption and unforseen levels of greenhouse gasses to the earth’s atmosphere. By the 1970s, the deterioration of air, land, and water due to industrialization, population growth, and consumerism led to the birth of the environmental and ecological movements.
    Overall, the volume points to the ability and responsibility of humans to reverse the course of detrimental trends and to achieve environmental sustainability for existing and future populations.
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The Value of Life
Biological Diversity And Human Society
Stephen R. Kellert
Island Press, 1996

The Value of Life is an exploration of the actual and perceived importance of biological diversity for human beings and society. Stephen R. Kellert identifies ten basic values, which he describes as biologically based, inherent human tendencies that are greatly influenced and moderated by culture, learning, and experience. Drawing on 20 years of original research, he considers:

  • the universal basis for how humans value nature
  • differences in those values by gender, age, ethnicity, occupation, and geographic location
  • how environment-related activities affect values
  • variation in values relating to different species
  • how vlaues vary across cultures
  • policy and management implications
Throughout the book, Kellert argues that the preservation of biodiversity is fundamentally linked to human well-being in the largest sense as he illustrates the importance of biological diversity to the human sociocultural and psychological condition.
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Veer Ecology
A Companion for Environmental Thinking
Jeffrey Jerome Cohen
University of Minnesota Press, 2017

The words most commonly associated with the environmental movement—save, recycle, reuse, protect, regulate, restore—describe what we can do to help the environment, but few suggest how we might transform ourselves to better navigate the sudden turns of the late Anthropocene. Which words can help us to veer conceptually along with drastic environmental flux? Jeffrey Jerome Cohen and Lowell Duckert asked thirty brilliant thinkers to each propose one verb that stresses the forceful potential of inquiry, weather, biomes, apprehensions, and desires to swerve and sheer. Each term is accompanied by a concise essay contextualizing its meaning in times of resource depletion, environmental degradation, and global climate change.

Some verbs are closely tied to natural processes: compost, saturate, seep, rain, shade, sediment, vegetate, environ. Many are vaguely unsettling: drown, unmoor, obsolesce, power down, haunt. Others are enigmatic or counterintuitive: curl, globalize, commodify, ape, whirl. And while several verbs pertain to human affect and action—love, represent, behold, wait, try, attune, play, remember, decorate, tend, hope—a primary goal of Veer Ecology is to decenter the human. Indeed, each of the essays speaks to a heightened sense of possibility, awakening our imaginations and inviting us to think the world anew from radically different perspectives. A groundbreaking guide for the twenty-first century, Veer Ecology foregrounds the risks and potentialities of living on—and with—an alarmingly dynamic planet.

Contributors: Stacy Alaimo, U of Texas at Arlington; Joseph Campana, Rice U; Holly Dugan, George Washington U; Lara Farina, West Virginia U; Cheryll Glotfelty, U of Nevada, Reno; Anne F. Harris, DePauw U; Tim Ingold, U of Aberdeen; Serenella Iovino, U of Turin; Stephanie LeMenager, U of Oregon; Scott Maisano, U of Massachusetts, Boston; Tobias Menely, U of California, Davis; Steve Mentz, St. John’s U; J. Allan Mitchell, U of Victoria; Timothy Morton, Rice U; Vin Nardizzi, U of British Columbia; Laura Ogden, Dartmouth College; Serpil Opperman, Hacettepe U, Ankara; Daniel C. Remein, U of Massachusetts, Boston; Margaret Ronda, U of California, Davis; Nicholas Royle, U of Sussex; Catriona Sandilands, York U; Christopher Schaberg, Loyola U; Rebecca R. Scott, U of Missouri; Theresa Shewry, U of California, Santa Barbara; Mick Smith, Queen’s U; Jesse Oak Taylor, U of Washington; Brian Thill, Golden West College; Coll Thrush, U of British Columbia, Vancouver; Cord J. Whitaker, Wellesley College; Julian Yates, U of Delaware.

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Vital Decomposition
Soil Practitioners and Life Politics
Kristina M. Lyons
Duke University Press, 2020
In Colombia, decades of social and armed conflict and the US-led war on drugs have created a seemingly untenable situation for scientists and rural communities as they attempt to care for forests and grow non-illicit crops. In Vital Decomposition Kristina M. Lyons presents an ethnography of human-soil relations. She follows state soil scientists and peasants across labs, greenhouses, forests, and farms and attends to the struggles and collaborations between farmers, agrarian movements, state officials, and scientists over the meanings of peace, productivity, rural development, and sustainability in Colombia. In particular, Lyons examines the practices and philosophies of rural farmers who value the decomposing layers of leaves, which make the soils that sustain life in the Amazon, and shows how the study and stewardship of the soil point to alternative frameworks for living and dying. In outlining the life-making processes that compose and decompose into soil, Lyons theorizes how life can thrive in the face of the violence, criminalization, and poisoning produced by militarized, growth-oriented development.
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