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Seattle and the Roots of Urban Sustainability

Seattle and the Roots of Urban Sustainability: Inventing Ecotopia

Jeffrey Craig Sanders
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  • Book Info
    Seattle and the Roots of Urban Sustainability
    Book Description:

    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. InSeattle and the Roots of Urban Sustainability,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.

    eISBN: 978-0-8229-7757-5
    Subjects: History, Environmental Science

Table of Contents

  1. Prologue “The Battle in Seattle”
    (pp. 1-15)

    On November 30, 1999, Seattle’s wet downtown streets echoed with chanting voices and festive horns. That fall, Seattleites looked up from their lattes to witness a carnival of protesters and impassioned street theater descending on their city. As Christmas drew near and shoppers filled the streets, dignitaries of the World Trade Organization’s (WTO) ministerial conference converged on Seattle. The WTO conference drew together trade representatives and nongovernmental organizations (NGOs) from wealthy member-nations around the world to plan and negotiate far-reaching trade agreements affecting economies, large and small, across the globe. The proud metropolis on Elliott Bay had beat out forty...

  2. 1 Market
    (pp. 16-64)

    In the summer of 1963 the Seattle Art Museum hung a show by the painter Mark Tobey. A local art world hero, Tobey spent his formative years, during the 1940s and 1950s, as part of the “Northwest Mystic” school, a regional group of painters that included Kenneth Callahan and Morris Graves. By the 1960s his work had garnered national attention, and he had immense cultural cachet in the provincial upstart city. The museum show in 1963—entitled “Mark Tobey and the Seattle Public Market”—presented an artistic intervention in civic affairs, a painted argument about the city that had nurtured...

  3. 2 Neighborhood
    (pp. 65-98)

    While developers and their critics battled over the future of the Pike Place Market in 1969, less than three miles away, in Seattle’s Central District, an integrated team of neighborhood organizers set out on their first annual “Fall Drive on Rats.” The group, including white college students, African American residents, and Asian American activists from the city’s International District, reportedly inspected 10,090 manholes and used over 500 pounds of poison bait in their effort to rid the area of rodents. The city government had neglected the problem for years, but that fall citizen-activists reinstated a “rodent proofing” program in the...

  4. 3 Open Space
    (pp. 99-130)

    Before daybreak on a March morning in 1970, a large group of men, women, and children made their way along a Puget Sound beach, just north of downtown Seattle. Braced against the chilly salt air, the figures moved past darkened windows of beach houses in the ritzy Magnolia neighborhood. Their destination was a U.S. Army base, Fort Lawton. A 1,100-acre military outpost established in the late nineteenth century, the compound sat atop a promontory with a view of the Olympic Mountains to the west, only eight miles from Seattle’s high-rises and new freeways. Beach homes gave way to a steep...

  5. 4 Ecotopia
    (pp. 131-179)

    In the spring of 1974 Richard M. Nixon stood on a platform on the glimmering Spokane River where he addressed a crowd of over 50,000 people at the opening ceremonies of Expo ’74. Thousands of miles from the scandal that dogged him in the other Washington, Nixon took refuge at this mini–world’s fair deep in the Republican territory, Washington’s vast agricultural hinterland once proudly dubbed the “Inland Empire.” In his speech Nixon told fairgoers, “The time has come to get Watergate behind us and get on with the business of America.” Spokane’s local boosters surely agreed with his sentiment....

  6. 5 Home
    (pp. 180-214)

    Jody Aliesan estimated that between the winter of 1979 and the following spring, over 4,500 strangers milled around her kitchen, examined her living room, and peered at her raised-bed gardens. At a time when the energy crisis of the 1970s was at its most severe, Aliesan made the private realm of her North Seattle home a public display as part of the U.S. Department of Energy (DOE) Appropriate Technology Small Grants Program. She offered the throng that filed through her home in the series of open houses the chance to see how someone could live “as responsibly as possible.”¹ The...

  7. Epilogue Commons
    (pp. 215-238)

    “Park Here—Whispering Firs and Salmon Runs: A Different Sort of Downtown Space.” With this tantalizing headline, John Hinterberger, a popular food columnist for theSeattle Times, departed from his normal discussion of Seattle’s flourishing food scene in April 1991. For two years, Hinterberger told his readers, he and “a small group of people sitting in a room at City Hall” had been quietly eyeing the Cascade and south Lake Union neighborhoods just north of the downtown core. Hinterberger described sitting with his influential friends—including the Pike Place Market preservation veteran and local architect Fred Bassetti—before an artist’s...