Cities and Nature in the American West
Publication Year: 2010
Published by: University of Nevada Press
Series: The Urban West Series
Cities and Nature in the American West was born of a profound sense of loss, personal and professional. All of its contributors were friends and admirers of Hal K. Rothman, a superb historian of the American West, who at forty-eight died way too soon. Shortly after his passing on February 25, 2007, I began contacting some of his colleagues to see if they would be interested...
Into the West
Where is the American West? It should be easy enough to locate on a map, but doing so requires identifying it in relation to other cardinal points on a compass—east defines west, and vice versa. That reciprocal relationship also demands a historical calculation: which West at what time? The Northwest Ordinance of 1787 had nothing to do with...
Sweetening the Urban Marketplace: California’s Hawaiian Outpost
In 1921, Elwood Mead, professor at the University of California and chair of California’s Land Settlement Board, received a call from George P. Cooke, secretary of the Hawaiian Homes Commission (HHC). Born of an act of U.S. Congress, the HHC intended to resettle native Hawaiians on government land. By the early 1900s...
Crabgrass or Grapes: Urban Sprawl, Agricultural Persistence, and the Fight for the Napa Valley
“You could grow a really good crop of rutabagas here,” David Whitmer, the Napa County agricultural commissioner, joked in 2004, “but nobody would come and watch you harvest them.”1 Instead, the Napa Valley hitched its fame and fortune to wine and the tourism that has accompanied it. Napans have engaged in commercial viticulture...
Natives’ Return: LBJ’S Texas White House and Lady Bird’s Wildflowers
When Lady Bird Johnson passed away on July 11, 2007, she was laid to rest next to her husband in the private family cemetery on the Hill Country ranch on the Pedernales River that had served as the “Texas White House” during Lyndon Johnson’s presidency and had been their home since the 1950s. Press coverage and memorial tributes to...
Fishy Thinking: Salmon and the Persistence of History in Urban Environmental Politics
The weather was only partly at fault. On the evening of December 14, 2006, a powerful low-pressure system slammed into the Pacific Northwest, delivering heavy rainfall and hurricane-force winds. Some two million residents from southern British Columbia to Oregon lost power for days, some for weeks. At least eight...
One City, Two Rivers: Columbia and Willamette Rivers in the Environmental History of Twentieth-Century Portland, Oregon
At a regular Portland City Council session in late December 1909, Mayor Joe Simon called for a vote on an ordinance aimed at controlling nuisances in the city’s harbor. A steadfast ally of waterfront commercial interests, the mayor prodded the councilors to fix what he saw as a social and an economic problem. They responded by...
Private Water: The Curious Case of San Jose’s Water Supply
San Jose, located in Santa Clara County, California—the “Valley of Heart’s Delight” and then “Silicon Valley”—became an incorporated city in 1850, the same year that California entered the Union. San Jose was the state’s first capital and now is the third largest city in the state and the tenth most populous in the country. For the first several...
Performing Bears and Packaged Wilderness: Reframing the History of National Parks
Traffic in paradise. We were inching along at two miles an hour in a line of cars, vans, and campers that seemed endless. Ahead a park ranger was directing traffic in the midst of pandemonium. Cars were veering off to the side of the road, skidding to a stop, and people were jumping out and running across the street with...
The Devil in the Cathedral: Sewage and Garbage in Yosemite National Park
Yosemite National Park is unquestionably one of the “crown jewels” of the United States National Park System.1 Beyond the stunning geologic grandeur of its glacially carved valley, the park received adoring praise from the pen of John Muir who beckoned others to come worship in the wilderness cathedral.2 The combination...
Sleeping Outside: The Political Natures of Urban Camping
On a warm Saturday night in June 2005, three young men arrived at their carefully chosen campsite. They pitched their North Face tents, unrolled their sleeping bags, and sat down to enjoy an evening in the out of doors. Friends and successful entrepreneurs from New York City, this group of campers appeared to be following a...
Boundary Issues: Clarifying New Orleans’s Murky Edges
At first, there were just tiny ridges flanking the river, barely perceptible piles of Big Muddy’s mud. Then, over millennia they grew, as the Mississippi deposited layers of soil during flood seasons. It happened like this: when the swollen river spread from its channel, the unconstrained torrent slackened. Without a current carrying...
The Nature and Business of War: Drilling for Oil in Wartime Los Angeles
In 1942, Seaboard Oil Company proposed to drill for oil beneath Elysian Park in Los Angeles, arguing that the wells would help supply the war effort. Although support for the war ran very high, protests erupted immediately. Oil had brought a great deal of wealth to Los Angeles, but the petroleum industry had also caused a...
Stand by Your Brand: Vail, Colorado, and The Consumer Roots of Popular Environmentalism
Vail, Colorado, is an environmental disaster. At least, that is how many people see it today. An overgrown corporate megaresort, it has turned a scenic alpine glen into an ugly jumble of towers and condominium blocks, crowding the valley floor and clawing up the slopes on either side. It has metastasized westward down the Eagle...
The Whole Earth Catalog, New Games, and Urban Environmentalism
“Soylent Green is people!” Charleton Heston screamed at the climax of the 1973 environmental science fiction cult film Soylent Green. The movie appeared during a period of scarcity-fueled apocalyptic nightmares, climaxing with the Arab oil embargo and the energy crisis. Soylent Green was just one example of a subgenre...
Escape to the West/Return to the East: The Lure of the City Familiar
I’m an eastern and midwestern urbanite, born and educated in Jersey City, New Brunswick, and Chicago, and now a long-time resident of Pittsburgh. I am habituated to eastern industrial cities! Twice in my lifetime, however, I tried to acclimate myself to living in western urban environments—specifically, Tucson, Arizona, and...