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Emerald City

Emerald City: An Environmental History of Seattle

Matthew Klingle
Copyright Date: 2007
Published by: Yale University Press
Pages: 368
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  • Book Info
    Emerald City
    Book Description:

    At the foot of the snow-capped Cascade Mountains on the forested shores of Puget Sound, Seattle is set in a location of spectacular natural beauty. Boosters of the city have long capitalized on this splendor, recently likening it to the fairytale capital of L. Frank Baum'sThe Wizard of Oz, the Emerald City. But just as Dorothy, Toto, and their traveling companions discover a darker reality upon entering the green gates of the imaginary Emerald City, those who look more closely at Seattle's landscape will find that it reveals a history marked by environmental degradation and urban inequality.

    This book explores the role of nature in the development of the city of Seattle from the earliest days of its settlement to the present. Combining environmental history, urban history, and human geography, Matthew Klingle shows how attempts to reshape nature in and around Seattle have often ended not only in ecological disaster but also social inequality. The price of Seattle's centuries of growth and progress has been paid by its wildlife, including the famous Pacific salmon, and its poorest residents. Klingle proposes a bold new way of understanding the interdependence between nature and culture, and he argues for what he calls an "ethic of place." Using Seattle as a compelling case study, he offers important insights for every city seeking to live in harmony with its natural landscape.

    eISBN: 978-0-300-15012-4
    Subjects: Environmental Science, History of Science & Technology

Table of Contents

  1. Front Matter
    (pp. i-viii)
  2. Table of Contents
    (pp. ix-x)
  3. Preface
    (pp. xi-xiii)
  4. List of Maps
    (pp. xiv-xiv)
  5. Acknowledgments
    (pp. xv-xx)
  6. PROLOGUE: The Fish that Might Save Seattle
    (pp. 1-11)

    Every year the salmon come home. From the deep waters of the North Pacific, millions turn toward their natal streams, driven to reproduce. All salmonids, as scientists label the fish, spawn in freshwater, but a few species undergo a miraculous physiological metamorphosis as juveniles, then leave for the sea. There, feeding off the ocean’s bounty, they grow rapidly before changing again as they return to mate and, for most species, die in freshwater. No other member of the familySalmonidaehas been as successful at this evolutionary adaptation, called anadromy, as the genusOncorhynchus,which includes the seven species of...

  7. CHAPTER 1 All the Forces of Nature Are on Their Side: The Unraveling of the Mixed World
    (pp. 12-43)

    Salmon swam through the stories the first peoples of Puget Sound told themselves. They were more than sustenance. At one time, salmon, like other animals, were more akin to people because salmon in their current form did not exist. They were one of many kinds of Animal People, protean beings that were neither entirely person nor creature who lived in the Myth Age before the arrival of humans. For eons beyond measure, the Animal People called this epic world their home, a place in which their powers and attributes were unbounded by time or space. Some could change size and...

  8. CHAPTER 2 The Work Which Nature Had Left Undone: Making Private Property on the Waterfront Commons
    (pp. 44-85)

    In a booster publication from 1914,The City That Made Itself,Welford Beaton, a Seattle Chamber of Commerce official, wrote: “Nature apparently grew tired before she finished Seattle. She made a wonderful harbor, produced an empire of timber-hung pictures on the horizon, spread three lakes among the hills, and then left the town site to itself like a tousled, unmade bed.” Only when “Man” completed “the work which Nature had left undone” could commerce “pour unhampered [into] its natural channels.” This real work could begin after Man intervened to give seminal shape to an unfinished and feminine Nature. Seattle was...

  9. Photograph galleries
    (pp. None)
  10. CHAPTER 3 The Imagination and Creative Energy of the Engineer: Harnessing Nature’s Forces to Urban Progress
    (pp. 86-118)

    Engineers, along with city planners and landscape architects, emerged as the nation’s new builders and system makers at the end of the nineteenth century. Engineering was as much about improving upon human nature as it was about improving upon physical nature. Reforming one was tied to reforming the other. Just as engineers ordered the natural world, they sought to reorder society and put people and their activities in their proper place as well. Their philosophy of place, then, did not consider particular locales as anything more than parts in larger abstract systems. In Seattle, this concept of engineering took two...

  11. CHAPTER 4 Out of Harmony with the Wild Beauty of the Natural Woods: Artistry Versus Utility in Seattle’s Olmsted Parks
    (pp. 119-153)

    Seattle’s reformers wanted a city that worked but a city that was also beautiful. For that beauty they sought what every great metropolis at the time aspired to build: splendid, verdant parks. And for that desire they turned to another kind of expert, the landscape architect, and to the acknowledged leaders in the field, the Olmsted Brothers. By bringing the rural into the city, landscape architects like the Olmsteds imagined that parks would not only provide beauty and pleasure but also promote the health and the morals of Seattle while simultaneously creating a more democratic society. The question was whether...

  12. CHAPTER 5 Above the Weary Cares of Life: The Benefits and High Social Price of Outdoor Leisure
    (pp. 154-179)

    In the summer of 1909, Seattle held its coming-out party, the Alaska-Yukon-Pacific Exposition. Since the Chicago Columbian Exposition of 1893, or even before with the Philadelphia Centennial Exposition of 1876, world’s fairs had become a favored device to announce the advent of urban greatness, and Seattle was no exception. Boosters had intended to celebrate the tenth anniversary of the Klondike Gold Rush, but their intentions were frustrated when rival Portland declared plans to honor the centennial of the Lewis and Clark Expedition in 1905, and when Virginia announced a fair to commemorate the tercentennial of the Jamestown colony two years...

  13. Photograph galleries
    (pp. None)
  14. CHAPTER 6 Junk-Yard for Human Junk: The Unnatural Ecology of Urban Poverty
    (pp. 180-202)

    In 1915, Department of Health and Sanitation inspectors condemned 547 buildings throughout Seattle, burning or razing 395 of them. Most were typical squatters’ shacks, built from lumber mill scraps and splintered wooden boxes, strewn like jetsam across the tide flats at the southern end of Elliott Bay. Inspectors from the Department of Health and Sanitation, visiting the nearby Jackson Street neighborhood the year before, found a similar scene onshore: Japanese, Greeks, Italians, Russians, Chinese, Filipinos, and eastern European Jews crowded above storefronts, crammed into basements, or squatting in decrepit old houses that barely kept “within the limit of the law.”...

  15. CHAPTER 7 Death for a Tired Old River: Ecological Restoration and Environmental Inequity in Postwar Seattle
    (pp. 203-229)

    In September 1949,Seattle Businessasked readers to identify the city’s largest river, the Duwamish, from an aerial photograph. The editors assumed that readers could not find the original watercourse once “marked only by the paths made by Indians as they moccasined their ways to fish for salmon.” Instead, the former Duwamish was now an industrialized waterway where Boeing Aircraft’s enormous Plant Number 2 hatched “mechanical birds” along a “Golden Shore” of related manufacturers, among them Bethlehem Steel, Kenworth Motor Truck, Monsanto, Isaacson Iron Works, and Cascade Gasket. The same year, students at Cleveland High School, in the blue-collar Georgetown...

  16. CHAPTER 8 Masses of Self-Centered People: Salmon and the Limits of Ecotopia in Emerald City
    (pp. 230-264)

    In 1975, Seattleites found an owners’ manual for how to build a city worthy of its scenery. It was Ernest Callenbach’s million-copy bestseller,Ecotopia,a utopian novel set two decades in the future.Ecotopiatold of an armed secession by Northern California, Oregon, and Washington, fortified by nuclear weapons, to create an independent nation founded on ecological principles. A fictional New York City journalist, William Weston, was the first American sent to report on life in this supposed paradise. His initial impressions con-firmed his stereotypes. Ecotopians were lazy and carefree, contemptuous of the Protestant work ethic and dressed in hand...

  17. EPILOGUE: The Geography of Hope: Toward an Ethic of Place and a City of Justice
    (pp. 265-280)

    Ten years returned from Vietnam, gripped by the memories of combat and disabled by bullet wounds, John Beal suffered his third heart attack in almost seven months. It was 1978, Beal was twenty-eight years old, and doctors told him that he had little time to live. In an oft-repeated story, he went down behind his house to the banks of Hamm Creek, a concrete-lined ditch in industrial south Seattle and a tributary of the Duwamish River, and cried. “I looked at this wreck of a stream,” he recalled, “filled with refrigerators, old tires, torn garbage bags, broken swings and stinking...

  18. Notes
    (pp. 281-322)
  19. Index
    (pp. 323-344)