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. In Seattle 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 SeattleÆs 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.
With lucid prose and engaging examples, Jeffrey Sanders offers a case study of Seattle, where a diverse group of people combined to generate an inordinate number of enduring reforms. He shows that many of the practices we associate with sustainability emerged between 1965 and 1985, and did so with special force in urban neighborhoods, where individuals were united by concern for their immediate surroundings and as consumers of resources. This book urges that we pay as much attention to cities as we do to wilderness, forests, and national parks, and as much attention to the local as we do to the global.
Well-researched . . . a good primer on how [Seattle's] complex politics came to be.
Sanders's story of Seattle is the story of global environmental movements. His crisp narrative is a memorable contribution to environmental history, urban studies, urban sociology, and the social movement literature.
Sanders focuses on homegrown institutions that confronted social and environmental injustices. In this way, his work creates an important bridge to studies of postwar liberalism, urban reform, and its discontents . . . a welcome addition to urban, environmentalism and political histories of postwar America.
Sanders offers a vivid and compelling history of environmental activism in Seattle. His work is resourceful and well synthesized. It is an exciting story, without being overly nostalgic . . . one likely to inspire many to support and lobby for healthy and humane neighborhoods in their own communities.
Sanders aims to show how contemporary ideas and practices of urban sustainability were expressed and engaged decades earlier, and in the process helps to answer how and why Seattle and its immediate region developed during the latter half of the twentieth century. This beautifully written and organized work will serve sociologists who study social movements, cities, and communities, environmentalism, and political sociology.
Seattle and the Roots of Urban Sustainability . . . is going to be a lot of fun to teach because Sanders situates the Pacific Northwest's largest city in a dynamic context, at once local, regional, and national in scope; carefully tracks how its citizenry variously responded to opportunities to reconstruct their community . . . and offers astute assessments of Seattle's ambitious, self declared claim to be the American Ecotopia. Look no further, then, if you seek a primer on the melding of environmental and urban history . . . or a sophisticated analysis of late twentieth century grassroots politics.
Sanders finds the roots of both strengths and contradictions of the modern-day sustainability movement in his history of urban activism through neighborhood preservation, food production and consumption, and urban redevelopment. . . Far from being a narrow study of [Seattle], this engaging book deserves a wide readership among scholars interested in the history of environmentalism, cities and the urban environment, and postwar political activism.
In recovering stories that have almost faded from official civic consciousness and by connecting local concerns to national trends, Sanders negotiates the boundaries between hope and failure, "boosterism and criticism. . . . this is an outstanding case study of the tensions inherent in urban environmentalism. For scholars and activists alike, it is an important, rich, and unsettling work.
Jeffrey Craig Sanders is assistant professor of history at Washington State University.learn more