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In The Environment and the People in American Cities, Dorceta E. Taylor provides an in-depth examination of the development of urban environments, and urban environmentalism, in the United States. Taylor focuses on the evolution of the city, the emergence of elite reformers, the framing of environmental problems, and the perceptions of and responses to breakdowns in social order, from the seventeenth century through the twentieth. She demonstrates how social inequalities repeatedly informed the adjudication of questions related to health, safety, and land access and use. While many accounts of environmental history begin and end with wildlife and wilderness, Taylor shows that the city offers important clues to understanding the evolution of American environmental activism.
Taylor traces the progression of several major thrusts in urban environmental activism, including the alleviation of poverty; sanitary reform and public health; safe, affordable, and adequate housing; parks, playgrounds, and open space; occupational health and safety; consumer protection (food and product safety); and land use and urban planning. At the same time, she presents a historical analysis of the ways race, class, and gender shaped experiences and perceptions of the environment as well as environmental activism and the construction of environmental discourses. Throughout her analysis, Taylor illuminates connections between the social and environmental conflicts of the past and those of the present. She describes the displacement of people of color for the production of natural open space for the white and wealthy, the close proximity between garbage and communities of color in early America, the cozy relationship between middle-class environmentalists and the business community, and the continuous resistance against environmental inequalities on the part of ordinary residents from marginal communities.
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"All future research on environmentalism and social change will have to reference The Environment and the People in American Cities. It is a pathbreaking, first-rate work of scholarship. As the first scholar to consider the relationship between social inequality and conservation issues within such an inclusive framework, Dorceta E. Taylor makes stunning links between the terrain of contemporary environmental and social-justice conflicts and those of the eighteenth and nineteenth centuries."--David Pellow, author of Garbage Wars: The Struggle for Environmental Justice in ChicagoFrom the Back Cover:
"Dorceta E. Taylor has set out to write nothing short of a 'People's Environmental History of American Cities.' At the core of her social history are inequalities based on race, gender, class, and ethnicity, as wealthy white elites shaped access to housing, workplaces, parks and even cemeteries to their wishes, at the expense of everyone else. Taylor's book is a call for broader perspectives on environmental issues, to include segregation, labor market and workplace dynamics, social movements, politics, and social control. A magnum opus chock full of fascinating details of an untold history of the environmental injustices at the root of our society."--Timmons Roberts, Director of the Center for Environmental Studies, Brown University
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