Garbage, wastewater, hazardous waste: these are the lenses through which Melosi views nineteenth- and twentieth-century America. In broad overviews and specific case studies, Melosi treats the relationship between industrial expansion and urban growth from an ecological perspective.
Martin V. Melosi is Hugh Roy and Lillie Cranz Cullen University Professor of History and director of the Center for Public History at the University of Houston. He is the author or editor of numerous books, including Energy Metropolis: An Environmental History of Houston and the Gulf Coast; Garbage in the Cities: Refuse, Reform, and the Environment; The Sanitary City: Environmental Services in Urban America from Colonial Times to the Present; and Effluent America: Cities, Industry, Energy, and the Environment.
What’s the difference between an anthill and a city?
Protection from weather and predators, living and working quarters, transportation networks, food storage capability—all these they hold in common. And while there are obvious differences between humans and ants, both exist in the same space and time dimension—in nature.
This simple idea, imagining cities as part of the larger physical world, has driven the work of the historian Martin Melosi for twenty-five years. Melosi is one of a handful of scholars who examine urban history from an ecological perspective, using the city to help define the place of nature in human life. Cities, he maintains, are places where humans live, work, play, consume goods, and make waste—just as humans have in caves, on farms, and in villages. To imagine the city as outside of nature limits what can be known about our past, and our future. Effluent America is a collection of essays spanning this innovative scholar’s career and the growing field of urban environmental history.
Garbage, wastewater, hazardous waste: these are the lenses through which Melosi views nineteenth- and twentieth-century America. In broad overviews and specific case studies, Effluent America treats the relationship between industrial expansion and urban growth from an ecological perspective. He charts the development of city services, the rationale for their implementation, and how they affected growth. He explores the environmental impacts of unprecedented methods of production, the influence of new forms of energy, and changing patterns of consumption during the Industrial Revolution and beyond. In so doing, he traces how one of the richest nations in the world became also the most wasteful, a juxtaposition of affluence and effluence.
Other essays consider the important role of American cities in the history of the conservation and environmental movements. Melosi sketches the reforms and reformers, born out of such urban “quality of life” issues as pollution, sanitation, public health, and the need for greenspace. He also profiles the environmental justice movement, whose response to environmental problems is a question—Who bears the most risk?
Urban environmental history is a window on the past, but it also directly informs issues of the present: public health, pollution, the role of government in delivering services, etc. Effluent America is an important volume for students of history and urban affairs, as well as for policymakers and all those concerned about the one world we inhabit.
“As a collection of essays that span more than two decades, the work helps identify the range of environmental issues in areas of urban and industrial life. . . . In bringing this well-documented, insightful material together with new introductory essays, Melosi has performed a true service to the study of the urban environment.”—Robert Gottlieb, Occidental College
“ This is a good book that historians and environmental policy analysts will want to read. The literature reviews provided at the beginning of each section put each of the chapters in context. (The book is worth owning if only for these literature reviews.)”--Register of the Kentucky Historical Society
“An intellectual journey with one of the giants of urban environmental history. . . . I will assign material from this book for my courses in urban and environmental geography and I would recommend others to do the same for similar courses. Having within an arm’s reach a collection of thoughts from a leader and visionary in urban environmental history is the book’s greatest value.”--The Pennsylvania Geographer