Water in North American Environmental History offers 25 cases studies that explore the range of uses and perceptions of water throughout Canadian, Mexican, and United States history.
Water has served a myriad of purposes historically as human sustenance, agricultural irrigation, sanitation, fire protection, military defense, power generation, transportation, and much more. Water and its uses provide an excellent entrée into the study of humans and the environment, not only because water is a vital resource for life, but also because water as a medium is so intimately woven into the everyday experiences of humans and into society’s economic, political, and social fabric. A North American perspective is not representative of the world’s water use, but it is an area with a linked history and many overlapping human and environmental features and concerns. With a continental perspective, the book explores many disparate topics without being confined to the history and experiences of just one country. The chapters are short, but descriptive, and departure points for what they tell us about the human experience in dealing with water and the environmental implications of water use. The text leads students to consider water in relation to society, and to the past.
The book will be of interest to students of environmental history, geography, and the environmental sciences.
Table of Contents
Part I Indigenous Peoples Before Contact 1. The Hohokam: The "Canal Builders" of the American Southwest 2. The Aztecs and the Founding of Tenochtitlan 3. The Inuit, Sea Ice, and Snow Part II Colonialization and Early-Industrial Growth 4. Acequias and Spanish Water Law 5. The Origins of Commercial Fishing in Newfoundland 6. From Waterwheels to Steam Engines Part III Expansionism and Western Settlement 7. The California Gold Rush: Placer and Hydraulic Mining 8. Capricious Border: The Rio Grande River Part IV Commerce, Industry, and Urban Growth 9. Philadelphia’s Waterworks: Pioneering Clean Water for Cities 10. Water Rerouted: The Erie Canal 11. Building the Toronto Waterfront 12. The Lure of Falling Water: Niagara Falls Part V The Mid-Twentieth Century 13. The Houston Ship Channel’s Environmental Footprint 14. "Levees-Only" in Louisiana and The Great Mississippi Flood 15. Salmon, Hydropower, and the Fraser River Part VI The Post-War Years 16. Racism and Civil Rights in American/Canadian Swimming Pools 17. Detergent Phosphates in the Great Lakes 18. The Fluoride Controversy 19. Hurricane Hazel: In Canada Part VII The New Ecology 20. Mexico’s Ixtoc 1 Oil Spill 21. The Ogallala Aquifer in Decline 22. Water Management and Privatization in Modern Mexico Part VIII Social Crises/Environmental Injustices 23. The Flint Water Crisis 24. Maquiladoras and Water Pollution 25. To Frack or Not to Frack in Mexico 26. Postscript: Climate and Water
Martin V. Melosi is Cullen Professor Emeritus of History and Founding Director of the Center for Public History at the University of Houston, USA. He studies environmental and urban history and energy history.