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January 2001
288 pages  

6 x 9-3/4
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Transforming New Orleans and Its Environs
Centuries of Change
Colten, Craig
From prehistoric midden building to late twentieth century industrial pollution, Transforming New Orleans and Its Environs traces through history the impact of human activity upon the environment of this fascinating and unpredictable region.

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Craig Colten hails from Louisiana and lived for ten years near the banks of the Mississippi River while attending college in Baton Rouge and teaching in New Orleans. Since completing his Ph.D. at Syracuse University in 1984 he has pursued topics on human transformation of the environment with a focus on industrial pollution. After a stint at Southwest Texas State University, he has recently returned home and teaches geography and anthropology at Louisiana State University.
“This book will change the way we think about New Orleans and about cities in general. The inhospitality of the landscape for human settlement, the critical role of the river in the city’s growth, and the severity of pollution from petrochemical firms make New Orleans an ideal place to explore the relationship between city building and environmental transformation. Transforming New Orleans and Its Environs will encourage comparative analysis and move us closer to an understanding of urbanization as an environmental process.”—Andrew Hurley, University of Missouri, St. Louis

“Although all cities are reshaped nature, the intensity and scale of the reshaping of New Orleans, from a swampy floodplain to a modern metropolis, and the development of the petrochemical industry with resulting water and air polliution, environmental racism, and conflicts over state and federal regulation, make it an important place to study. Transforming New Orleans and Its Environs should provoke interest among environmental historians and geographers as well as those interested in the history of the region.”––John Cumbler, University of Louisville

“Represents the efforts of scholars who contributed 11 essays that chronicle the human transformation on the lower Mississippi River Valley, emphasizing the region's largest metropolis, New Orleans. . . . Recommended as an insightful addition to most environmental or natural history collections.”—Choice

“Craig Colten has done a great favor for those who teach about New Orleans and its region . . .This short volume is not only well written but also well organized and refreshingly free of both polemic and incomprehensivle scientific mumbo-jumbo. For those who want a readable overview of ‘The City That Care Forgot’ should have been ‘The City That Should Have Cared,’ I heartily recommend this volume. Don’ t drink the water before drinking deep from this volume.”—Ralph E. Thayer, APA Journal (Amer. Planning Assoc.) Winter 2002

“ . . . provides a valuable service in fleshing out the relationship between city building and environmental transformation along Louisiana’s industrial corridor. . . . important reading for students of environmental history and urban studies, as well as those concerned with the history of water resources, technology, or the befouling of Louisiana’s environment.” —Matthew T. Pearcy, Environmental History, July 2002

“ . . . thought-provoking and valuable. . . . a strong interdisciplinary overview of the environmental framework that both resulted from and contributed to thr growth of New Orleans.” —Martin Ross, U.S. Army Corps of Engineers, in Historical Geography, 2002

“ . . . a valuable contribution to the fields of environmental history, economic historym and historical geography. . . . a fine example of institutional economic history. Its editor and contributors are to be commended.”—Paul Paskoff, Journal of Economic History, 2002

“ . . . a collection that informs, enlightens, and at times frightens. . . . but the reader is left with a notion of hope. For those interested in the environmental history of the Lower Mississippi Valley, this is a worthy addition to their reading list.”—Michael T. Meier, Journal of Southern History, Vol. 68, No. 4, November 2002

“I plan to use it in an undergraduate environmental history course, both as a way to draw out key themes raised in the course and as a comparison to developments in other urban areas. It is a solid collection of essays, each of which addes to our understanding of how urban and industrial development can interact with natural systems and competing human uses of the environment.”--Hugh S. Gorman, Technology and Culture, July 2002

Complete Description Reviews
History of the Urban Environment

Human settlement of the Lower Mississippi River Valley—especially in New Orleans, the region’s largest metropolis—has produced profound and dramatic environmental change. From prehistoric midden building to late-twentieth century industrial pollution, Transforming New Orleans and Its Environs traces through history the impact of human activity upon the environment of this fascinating and unpredictable region. In eleven essays, scholars across disciplines––including anthropology, architecture, history, natural history, and geography––chronicle how societies have worked to transform untamed wetlands and volatile floodplains into a present-day sprawling urban center and industrial complex, and how they have responded to the environmental changes brought about by the disruption of the natural setting. This new text follows the trials of native and colonial settlers as they struggled to shape the environment to fit the needs of urbanization. It demonstrates how the Mississippi River, while providing great avenues for commerce, transportation, and colonization also presented the region’s greatest threat to urban centers, and details how engineers set about taming the mighty river. Also featured is an analysis of the impact of modern New Orleans upon the surrounding rural parishes and the effect urban pollution has had on the city’s water supply and aquatic life. Transforming New Orleans and Its Environs is ideally suited for students of environmental history and urban studies, and for those readers interested in the human impact on nature.


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