University of Pittsburgh Press

History of the Urban Environment

Martin V. Melosi and Joel A. Tarr, Editors

Published by: University of Pittsburgh Press

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History of the Urban Environment

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Precious Commodity

Providing Water for America’s Cities

Martin V. Melosi

As an essential resource, water has been the object of warfare, political wrangling, and individual and corporate abuse. It has also become an object of commodification, with multinational corporations vying for water supply contracts in many countries. In Precious Commodity, Martin V. Melosi examines water resources in the United States and addresses whether access to water is an inalienable right of citizens, and if government is responsible for its distribution as a public good. Melosi provides historical background on the construction, administration, and adaptability of water supply and wastewater systems in urban America. He cites budgetary constraints and the deterioration of existing water infrastructures as factors leading many municipalities to seriously consider the privatization of their water supply. Melosi also views the role of government in the management of, development of, and legal jurisdiction over America’s rivers and waterways for hydroelectric power, flood control, irrigation, and transportation access. Looking to the future, he compares the costs and benefits of public versus private water supply, examining the global movement toward privatization.

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Remaking Boston

An Environmental History of the City and Its Surroundings

Edited by Anthony N. Penna and Conrad Edick Wright

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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River City and Valley Life

An Environmental History of the Sacramento Region

edited by Christopher J. Castaneda and Lee M. A. Simpson

Often referred to as “the Big Tomato,” Sacramento is a city whose makeup is significantly more complex than its agriculture-based sobriquet implies. In River City and Valley Life, the contributors reveal the major transformations to the natural and built environment that have shaped Sacramento and its suburbs, residents, politics, and economics throughout its history. This environmental history provides a compelling case study of urban and suburban development in California and the American West.

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Rivers Lost, Rivers Regained

Rethinking City-River Relations

Edited by Martin Knoll, Uwe Lubken, and Dieter Schott

Many cities across the globe are rediscovering their rivers. After decades or even centuries of environmental decline and cultural neglect, waterfronts have been vamped up and become focal points of urban life again; hidden and covered streams have been daylighted while restoration projects have returned urban rivers in many places to a supposedly more natural state. This volume traces the complex and winding history of how cities have appropriated, lost, and regained their rivers. But rather than telling a linear story of progress, the chapters of this book highlight the ambivalence of these developments. The four sections in Rivers Lost, Rivers Regained discuss how cities have gained control and exerted power over rivers and waterways far upstream and downstream; how rivers and floodplains in cityscapes have been transformed by urbanization and industrialization; how urban rivers have been represented in cultural manifestations, such as novels and songs; and discuss more recent strategies to redefine and recreate the place of the river within the urban setting. At the nexus between environmental, urban, and water histories, Rivers Lost, Rivers Regained points up how the urban-river-relationship can serve as a prime vantage point to analyze fundamental issues of modern environmental attitudes and practices.

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Seattle and the Roots of Urban Sustainability

Inventing Ecotopia

Jeffrey Craig Sanders

Seattle, often called the “Emerald City,” did not achieve its green, clean, and sustainable environment easily. This thriving ecotopia is the byproduct of continuing efforts by residents, businesses, and civic leaders alike. In this book, Jeffrey Craig Sanders examines the rise of environmental activism in Seattle amidst the “urban crisis” of the 1960s and its aftermath. Like much activism during this period, the environmental movement began at the grassroots level—in local neighborhoods over local issues. Sanders links the rise of local environmentalism to larger movements for economic, racial, and gender equality and to a counterculture that changed the social and political landscape. He examines emblematic battles that erupted over the planned demolition of Pike Place Market, a local landmark, and environmental organizing in the Central District during the War on Poverty. Sanders also relates the story of Fort Lawton, a decommissioned army base, where Audubon Society members and Native American activists feuded over future land use. The rise and popularity of environmental consciousness among Seattle’s residents came to influence everything from industry to politics, planning, and global environmental movements. Yet, as Sanders reveals, it was in the small, local struggles that urban environmental activism began.

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The Turning Points of Environmental History

Edited by Frank Uekoetter

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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Urban Rivers

Remaking Rivers, Cities, and Space in Europe and North America

Urban Rivers examines urban interventions on rivers through politics, economics, sanitation systems, technology, and societies; how rivers affected urbanization spatially, in infrastructure, territorial disputes, and in flood plains, and via their changing ecologies. Providing case studies from Vienna to Manitoba, the chapters assemble geographers and historians in a comparative survey of how cities and rivers interact from the seventeenth century to the present.

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Weeds

An Environmental History of Metropolitan America

Zachary J. S. Falck

As long as humans have existed, they’ve worked and competed with plants to shape their surroundings. As cities developed and expanded, their diverse spaces were covered with and colored by weeds. In Weeds, Zachary J. S. Falck presents a comprehensive history of “happenstance plants” in American urban environments. Beginning in the late nineteenth century and continuing to the present, he examines the proliferation, perception, and treatment of weeds in metropolitan centers from Boston to Los Angeles. In dynamic city ecosystems, population movements and economic cycles establish and transform habitats where vegetation continuously changes. Americans came to associate weeds with infectious diseases and allergies, illegal dumping, vagrants, drug dealers, and decreased property values. Local governments and citizens’ groups attempted to eliminate unwanted plants to better their urban environments and improve the health and safety of inhabitants. Over time, a growing understanding of the natural environment made “happenstance plants” more tolerable and even desirable. In the twenty-first century, scientists have warned that the effects of global warming and the heat-trapping properties of cities are producing more robust strains of weeds. Falck shows that nature continues to flourish where humans have struggled: in the aftermath of Hurricane Katrina, in the abandoned homes of the California housing bust, and alongside crumbling infrastructure. Weeds are here to stay.

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