Engineering Nature

Engineering Nature: Water, Development, and the Global Spread of American Environmental Expertise

JESSICA B. TEISCH
Copyright Date: 2011
Pages: 272
https://www.jstor.org/stable/10.5149/9780807878019_teisch
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  • Book Info
    Engineering Nature
    Book Description:

    Focusing on globalization in the late nineteenth and early twentieth centuries, Jessica Teisch examines the processes by which American water and mining engineers who rose to prominence during and after the California Gold Rush of 1849 exported the United States' growing technical and environmental knowledge and associated social and political institutions. In the frontiers of Australia, South Africa, Hawaii, and Palestine--semiarid regions that shared a need for water to support growing populations and economies--California water engineers applied their expertise in irrigation and mining projects on behalf of foreign governments and business interests.Engineering Natureexplores how controlling the vagaries of nature abroad required more than the export of blueprints for dams, canals, or mines; it also entailed the problematic transfer of the new technology's sociopolitical context. Water engineers confronted unforeseen variables in each region as they worked to implement their visions of agrarian settlement and industrial growth, including the role of the market, government institutions, property rights, indigenous peoples, labor, and, not last, the environment. Teisch argues that by examining the successes and failures of various projects as American influence spread, we can see the complex role of globalization at work, often with incredibly disproportionate results.

    eISBN: 978-1-4696-0351-3
    Subjects: Environmental Science, Technology, History

Table of Contents

  1. Front Matter
    (pp. i-vi)
  2. Table of Contents
    (pp. vii-x)
  3. ACKNOWLEDGMENTS
    (pp. xi-xii)
  4. INTRODUCTION California Welcomes the World
    (pp. 1-16)

    All of the great world’s fairs of history—London, Philadelphia, Chicago, St. Louis, Paris—gazed back in time and recorded the progress made by important events, discoveries, and inventions. They also looked forward. The first international fair in 1851 portrayed a world dominated by the new industrial capitalism. Exhibits in London’s Hyde Park represented an ordered world where people bought and sold goods and exchanged ideas about art, science, technology, education, and the relations among nations. The magical world’s fairs that followed celebrated the march of human progress by honoring these themes.¹

    San Francisco’s Panama-Pacific International Exposition of 1915 was...

  5. CHAPTER 1 Lessons of Valuable Experience WHAT CALIFORNIA LEARNED FROM INDIA
    (pp. 17-38)

    The American government chartered or subsidized many of the nation’s early enterprises, including interstate railroads. Yet it showed little support for irrigation development in California, even when agriculture began to surpass mining as the state’s predominant industry in the 1870s. Individuals and private companies built ditches and canals to carry water to their dry fields. Such unregulated private development, while dynamic for the mining industry, produced chaotic results for irrigation. California’s water laws allowed irrigators to monopolize water to the detriment of other users. The shortage of capital and labor as well as battles among miners, farmers, and ranchers also...

  6. CHAPTER 2 A Great Mission for the Race LESSONS AND EXPERIENCES FROM CALIFORNIA
    (pp. 39-66)

    In his position as state engineer, William Hammond Hall embodied a growing reliance on technology and rhetoric shared by many Californians. Indeed, California engineers’ models of irrigation shared a host of traits, not all of them technical. Many late-nineteenth-century engineers and policy makers used Jeffersonian rhetoric about grassroots democracy, local control, free markets, social mobility, and faith in the common man to gain popular support for projects that intended to reorder the landscape and society. They imbued these ideals with the modern values of scientific and expert management. As Californians transitioned from a frontier to industrial society, engineers’ experiments in...

  7. CHAPTER 3 The California Model & the Australian Awakening
    (pp. 67-96)

    In the late nineteenth and early twentieth centuries, California engineers experimented with different models of irrigation. Their models attempted to deal with issues such as the relative involvement of the government, private capitalists, interest groups, and the market in economic growth. Yet the overall lesson for California had been a lesson in frustration. Simply put, private interests had trumped what many people had perceived as the public good.

    Despite their mixed success, Californians’ irrigation experiments, technologies, and ideas about modern rural life were welcomed warmly in Victoria, Australia, which many engineers—from both California and Victoria—perceived as possessing conditions...

  8. CHAPTER 4 Home Is Not So Very Far Away CIVILIZING THE SOUTH AFRICAN FRONTIER
    (pp. 97-132)

    In December 1895, Cecil Rhodes planned a raid against South Africa’s Transvaal government. The plot featured wealthy British mine owners battling alleged injustices by the Transvaal government, a brush with death sentences issued by London’s High Court, and public officials’ falls from grace. Rhodes’s political bungle, called the Jameson Raid after the rebel commander, Dr. Leander Starr Jameson of the British South Africa Company (BSA), gained worldwide notoriety. It resulted in the arrest of sixty-four so-called reformers, including prominent California mining engineer John Hays Hammond and eleven other Americans.

    What were American engineers doing in South Africa in 1895? What...

  9. CHAPTER 5 Nothing but Commercial Feudalism CALIFORNIA’S HAWAIIAN EMPIRE
    (pp. 133-160)

    In 1921, Elwood Mead, at the time teaching at the University of California and chairing the state’s Land Settlement Board, received a call from George P. Cooke, secretary of the Hawaiian Homes Commission (HHC). Created by an act of the U.S. Congress, the HHC planned to resettle native Hawaiians on government land. By the early 1900s, it had become clear that remedial measures would have to be taken to resurrect the “vanishing” Hawaiian race. HHC leaders believed that settling Hawaiians in agricultural communities on homelands would create a new yeoman class of farmers that would offset the influx of Asian...

  10. CHAPTER 6 Palestine’s Peculiar Social Experiments
    (pp. 161-178)

    In 1923, Elwood Mead left his teaching position at the University of California at Berkeley and embarked on a trip around the world. Since his work in Australia, foreign government officials had solicited his advice on irrigation and settlement policy. After visiting Hawaii and recommending that the government resettle native Hawaiians on small, intensively cultivated farms, Mead sailed to Sydney. He spent four months in Australia, where he helped the New South Wales government develop lands watered by the Murray-Murrumbidgee River system. From Australia, Mead and his children sailed to Singapore, Java, and Calcutta. They then traveled by rail across...

  11. CONCLUSION The Common World Destiny
    (pp. 179-188)

    The dream of progress shared by Elwood Mead and other California engineers had deep roots in the nineteenth century and persisted into the first half of the twentieth. This was, after all, the time that Frederick H. Newell dubbed the Age of the Engineer, the era when the idea of universal progress took on different variations around the world.¹ This vision of progress, based largely on technical innovation and capitalist growth, paid little heed to questions of race, nationality, culture, and history. Instead, engineers such as George Morison believed that progress—in the form of such aweinspiring creations as railroads,...

  12. NOTES
    (pp. 189-216)
  13. BIBLIOGRAPHY
    (pp. 217-240)
  14. INDEX
    (pp. 241-260)