Emerald City: An Environmental History of Seattle

Emerald City: An Environmental History of Seattle

by Matthew Klingle

Frank Baums The 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 Seattles 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.

Using Seattle as a compelling case study, he offers important insights for every city seeking to live in harmony with its natural landscape.

What People Think about "Emerald City: An Environmental History of Seattle"

I approached Emerald City as a sort of Northwest version of William Cronons Natures Metropolis.

Matthew Klingle in his book Emerald City: An Environmental History of Seattle presents the history of Seattle through both the development of the land and the effects of the development on the people and environment. The book presents interesting insight of how changes effect different segments of the population.

In some ways I did, but according to the book, Seattle is mainly as it is branded--the "Emerald City": with the Space Needle and Mount Rainera city that exemplified Americans long desire to harmonize city and countrysidea city that was urban by nature (xi). Nature thus permeates the city, co-evolving with humans who aspire and struggle to control it, blurring any clear sense of where the biological ends and the cultural begins. I found sentences such as the following less clever than expected: salmon traverse Seattles many geographies of inequality such as rich/poor, Indian/white, immigrant/native born (10). Understanding that dilemma begins by finding the human nature in salmon and the non-human nature in the all-too-human city. The name of the book begs explanation, and it helps that Klingle comes back to it in the end (though only after tying in the salmon metaphor one more time). According to Klingle, an ethic of place must begin in the city, and "ethical pragmatism" ought to replace contemporary environmentalism (276).

Also, the earlier intercepting sewer lines (built in the 1910s) did pollute the Duwamish River as Klingle shows, but they also improved many of the local lakes and of course the lives of many homeowners. Klingle also attacks City Engineer R.H. Thompson's early 20th century attempt to "regrade" Seattle's once omnipresent hills.

If you love Seattle, or just live there, or just imagine it as that faraway place where the mountains are close, and the parks are green, and somehow you can drive a Subaru carefree from office to trailhead, this book will help you see how problematic that vision of the city is. Klingle shows how extensively Seattleites altered the environments they took from indigenous peoples.

I also sensed some vague derision towards people of the past at times that I found off-putting, but that could just be me.

Are salmon raised in captivity wild?

Does he just mean being an environmentalist while also thinking about history?