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 >>


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 >>

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 >>

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 >>