January 19, 2018

From Factory Town to Metropolitan Junkyard: Postindustrial Transitions on the Urban Periphery

Hurley Figure 4-550

By Andrew Hurley

The dismantling of America’s manufacturing economy in the 1970s and 1980s left hundreds of beleaguered communities struggling to reclaim something viable from the detritus of an industrial age. Across the nation’s Rust Belt, sharp workforce reductions and plant closings eroded the financial resources of local governments and families alike. Deindustrialization also saddled afflicted localities with the physical remains of industrial production: hulking factory carcasses, decaying rail spurs, and toxic waste dumps. Finding some constructive use for these brownfield sites emerged as one of the most pressing revitalization challenges of the 1990s. Postindustrial recovery proved particularly daunting for former manufacturing enclaves located on the metropolitan fringe—places like Camden, New Jersey;


East St. Louis, Illinois; and Richmond, California. These locales had grown dependent on manufacturing for their sustenance and were among the most devastated by the withdrawal of corporate investment. Their spatial placement within host metropolises, however, endowed them with opportunities for economic redevelopment that more remote centers of industry lacked. This article explores one common but understudied redevelopment response: integration into regional networks of waste handling and disposal. In the final decades of the twentieth century, manufacturing suburbs adapted and expanded a robust infrastructure for moving and transforming materials to accommodate burgeoning volumes of postconsumer garbage and scrap.

Full text (HTML) >> Full text (PDF) >> Abstract on Oxford Journals >>


Revolutions in the Grass: Energy and Food Systems in Continental North America, 1763–1848

Zappia figure3-550

By Natale Zappia

This article draws connections between the political revolutions of the Atlantic World and the equally powerful environmental revolutions occurring in North America between 1763 and 1848. The political-economic transformations that shook coastal cities also reverberated in the reorganization of food production and indirectly grass consumption, revealing deep interconnections between


imperial objectives, continental land use practices, and the emergence of a global food system. Understanding the critical role of nonhuman actors, including grass and herbivores, reveals deeper relationships shared between early modern political, cultural, and environmental history.

Full text (HTML) >> Full text (PDF) >> Abstract on Oxford Journals >>

Fascist Modernist Landscapes: Wheat, Dams, Forests, and the Making of the Portuguese New State

by Tiago Saraiva

Fascist ideology held strong claims about the relationship between national soil and national community. It has been less noticed that this “ideology of the land” materialized in massive state campaigns that led to major environmental changes. This article examines three such campaigns undertaken by the New State, Portugal’s fascist regime—the Wheat Campaign (1929), the Irrigation Plan (1935), and the Afforestation Plan (1938)—to demonstrate the importance of crops, dams, and forests to the institutionalization of fascism. It argues


that paying attention to such topics, typical of environmental historians’ narratives, suggests that instead of characterizing fascist regimes through the paradox of reactionary modernism, in which the ideology of the land constitutes the reactionary element, it is more productive to place intensive environmental management at the core of fascist modernist experiments.

Full text (HTML) >> Full text (PDF) >> Abstract on Oxford Journals >>

Cruising for Pinelands: Knowledge Work in the Wisconsin Lumber Industry, 1870–1900

Kinnear Figure 2-550

by Craig William Kinnear

Timber cruisers, those workers hired to locate and assess the value of trees, blazed the trail for the lumber industry’s expansion across northern Wisconsin between 1870 and 1900. This article demonstrates that, in addition to tough physical labor, timber cruisers did significant cultural work to gather the information needed to expand industrial logging operations. They chatted with those they met on the trail, trading exaggerated stories about the difficulty of travel in the region. From these tall tales, cruisers gleaned local knowledge about the forests. Even as they


shared local environmental knowledge, however, the cruisers kept some information, like the location of valuable pine stands, private. By gathering shared local knowledge and hiding valuable information, cruisers did the “knowledge work” with which capitalists selected the parcels of timberland best suited to industrial logging. That tall tales and outright lies were essential to cruisers’ labor suggests that this unexpected and often exploitative knowledge work was central to late nineteenth-century industrial capitalism.

Full text (HTML) >> Full text (PDF) >> Abstract on Oxford Journals >>

The Ravages of Teredo: The Rise and Fall of Shipworm in US History, 1860–1940

Nelson Figure 7-550

By Derek Lee Nelson

During the late nineteenth and early twentieth centuries, an epidemic of marine wood-boring organisms—known collectively by the catchall name teredo—tore through the American coastline, consuming wharves, ships, and any wooden objects that touched salty and brackish waters. The epidemic, consisting of both native and invasive species, stemmed from the massive commercial development of America’s coastal waterways that began in the late nineteenth century, which created new habitat upon which teredo fed, flourished, and spread. Because teredo hollowed out planks and piles out of sight until they crumbled, the surreptitious borer terrified coastal communities with unexpected damages, ranging in the millions of dollars annually. Teredo was so feared that when sailors, engineers, and stevedores wrote or spoke of it they regularly drew on the menacing catchphrase “the ravages of teredo” to describe its exploits, a negative association that helped to turn the word teredo into an environmental icon that Americans used to express social, economic, and cultural fears and disdain for decades. Americans fought the teredo epidemic by developing freshwater estuaries, importing purportedly teredo-proof hardwoods, and producing all sorts of chemical concoctions to thwart woodborers. Up until the 1940s, when the epidemic subsided, teredo played an important part in shaping the evolution of the American coastline and its peoples.

Full text (HTML) >> Full text (PDF) >> Abstract on Oxford Journals >>

The Bulldozer in the Watershed: Conservation, Water, and Technological Optimism in the Post–World War II United States

Nygren gallery-550

Joshua Nygren is an assistant professor of history at the University of Central Missouri. He is preparing a book manuscript on the history of soil and water conservation and its relationship to state-building in the twentieth-century United States.

In April 1960, Caterpillar Tractor Company ran a two-page full-color advertisement in popular magazines such as Newsweek, Time, and Saturday Evening Post (figure 1).1 The spread featured an illustration of an idealized, orderly watershed encompassing city, town, and country. Although land occupies the majority of the image, Caterpillar focuses its audience’s attention on water. A ribbon of blue slices through the greens and golds of the countryside and the soft grays and browns of the city, bisecting the prosperous and serene landscape. This water originates in the hills to the upper


left, where a menacing black cloud threatens to send torrents of water cascading downstream. The storm amounts to little, however. The river flows quietly past the small town to the crystal-clear reservoir at the center of the image. Thereafter, it obeys its bounds while passing through a bustling city in the lower right foreground. The contrast of blue against a sea of earth tones suggests that the thriving state of terrestrial life depends on a well-regulated, flood-free hydrosphere. This was achieved by the Small Watershed Program of the Soil Conservation Service (SCS), and, as the accompanying text makes clear, “powerful Caterpillar earthmoving machines.” …

Full text (HTML) >> Full text (PDF) >> Extract on Oxford Journals >>

Tigers—Real and Imagined—in Korea’s Physical and Cultural Landscape

SkabelundFig4-550 by Joseph Seeley and Aaron Skabelund

Historically, people in Korea have valued tigers more as symbols than actual living beings. Premodern Koreans gave various cultural meanings to the tiger—including trickster, divine messenger, and protector. Yet violence characterized most actual encounters between tigers and humans. Various Korean dynasties, most significantly the Chos?n (1392–1910), pursued wild tigers as threats and as sources of valuable fur. Human population growth, agricultural expansion, and overhunting placed significant pressure on them by the late nineteenth century. During the period of Japanese colonial rule over Korea (1910–45), nationalists reimagined tigers as symbols of resistance to imperial


rule. Traditional attitudes toward wild tigers changed little, however, as continued hunting and habitat destruction led to their disappearance by the mid-twentieth century. But even in their absence, tigers’ cultural mystique continued. The tiger’s disappearance encouraged a feeling of closeness and affinity for the animal rather than diminishing their symbolic importance. Tiger nostalgia has led some to consider bringing them back, but the tiger remains a symbol with more importance as a cultural idea than a living animal.

Full text (HTML) >>

Full text (PDF) >>

Abstract on Oxford Journals >>

Making Sea Cucumbers Out of Whales’ Teeth: Nantucket Castaways and Encounters of Value in Nineteenth-Century Fiji

Fig4Melillo-550 by Edward D. Melillo

This article explores the social biographies of sea cucumbers and whales’ teeth, challenging a prevalent tendency among scholars to endow objects with abstract essences. It focuses on encounters of value in which the meanings of material possessions fluctuated across cultural and ethnic boundaries. Such moments of contradiction and coalescence had profound environmental and social consequences and suggest new ways that environmental historians might understand the roles of cultural arbitrage and expropriation in the making of the world system. To illustrate these crucial issues, this article discusses the experiences of David


Whippy and William Cary, two Nantucket castaways in nineteenth-century Fiji, and it investigates long-term connections that emerged among Nantucket, Fiji, and the broader ecosystems and cultures of the Pacific Ocean region during the 1800s. Both men were involved in the export of sea cucumbers (genus Holothuria) from Fiji to China and the importation of sperm whales’ teeth to Fiji from various parts of the Pacific. The histories of these two commodities offer potent testimonials about cultural and ecological changes during the nineteenth century.

Full text (HTML) >>

Full text (PDF) >>

Abstract on Oxford Journals >>

Environmental Consequences of the Peace: The Great War, Dammed Lakes, and Hydraulic History in the Eastern Alps

Fig4Landry-550 by Marc Landry

This article examines hydropower development in early twentieth-century Bavaria to suggest the importance of peace settlements in the environmental history of war. At the turn of the twentieth century, the Alpine lake Walchensee became the center of plans to transform the Alpine lake into a reservoir. At this time, engineers across the Alps recommended converting high-altitude lakes into reservoirs. The new infrastructure would deepen the hydroelectric transition in the Alps, enabling the substitution of hydro for coal and expanding water power’s role in the electricity supply. Despite the Bavarian state’s determination to take advantage of the Walchensee’s energy storage capabilities, societal and political opposition brought the project to a standstill on the eve of the First


World War. The pressure of total war subsequently convinced Bavarians to move forward; however, crises accompanying the peace settlement of Versailles—above all Germany’s loss of coal reserves due to territorial changes—ensured that Bavaria finally broke ground on the facility in the postwar period. The Walchensee reservoir did fulfill some of its energy promises, but only at the price of dramatic environmental change. The new landscape of energy storage disrupted ecological and human communities alike. Only in the post–World War II period did Bavarians consider revising aspects of this environmental legacy of Versailles.

Full text (HTML) >>

Full text (PDF) >>

Abstract on Oxford Journals >>

Mapping Permafrost Country: Creating an Environmental Object in the Soviet Union, 1920s–1940s

ChuFigure3-550 by Pey-Yi Chu

Permafrost appears in contemporary discussions about climate change as a natural object whose thawing threatens to accelerate global warming. How did “permafrost” emerge from the phenomenon of frozen earth? This article analyzes the origins of permafrost as a concept in the Soviet Union. In the 1930s, a scientist named Mikhail Sumgin advanced a term, definition, and geographic understanding of permafrost that became standardized in the USSR and subsequently abroad. Sumgin combined a name suggesting longevity with a technical definition oriented to short-term conditions. He also represented frozen earth as a cohesive physical geographic space that he called “the region of permafrost.” Although


these ideas were contested, they suited the revolutionary moment in Russian and Soviet history. The notion of permafrost country highlighted the importance of an emerging discipline for Stalinist industrialization. Descriptions of the dynamism of permafrost country also cast permafrost as an object in relief. This article argues that permafrost is neither a neutral descriptor of frozen earth nor a self-evident environmental object. Frozen earth was transformed into permafrost in a process inseparable from scientists claiming expertise and communicating their work against the background of socialist revolution.

Full text (HTML) >>

Full text (PDF) >>

Abstract on Oxford Journals >>