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Caleb Bell
Caleb Bell

Land Of Sunshine Book Buy

Gary Mormino ranges far and wide across the landscape and boundaries of a place that is at once America's southernmost state and the northernmost outpost of the Caribbean. From the capital, Tallahassee--a day's walk from the Georgia border--to Miami--a city distant but tantalizingly close to Cuba and Haiti--Mormino traces the themes of Florida's transformation: the echoes of old Dixie and a vanishing Florida; land booms and tourist empires; revolutions in agriculture, technology, and demographics; the seductions of the beach and the dynamics of a graying population; and the enduring but changing meanings of a dreamstate. Beneath the iconography of popular culture is revealed a complex and complicated social framework that reflects a dizzying passage from New Spain to Old South, New South to Sunbelt.

land of sunshine book buy

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Land of Sunshine is the sixth release from the University of Pittsburgh's History of the Urban Environment series, edited by Martin Melosi and Joel Tarr. The book's structure is consistent with the series' publicized goal of showcasing some of the best scholarship in the field of urban environmental history. A varied and interdisciplinary collection of essays and image folios, the book is designed to stimulate consideration of how Los Angeles has taken its contemporary shape. Land of Sunshine's editors, William Deverell and Greg Hise, have solicited contributions whose overarching focus is the interaction between the city's setting and the human beings whose environmental manipulations produced modern metropolitan Los Angeles. In their introduction, Deverell and Hise establish the book's intention to provide some scholarly perspective on the question of Los Angeles's environmental sustainability, and by extension, on the general role of cities in "nature."

Because of the topical and temporal variety encompassed by this book, the editors have chosen to avoid imposing a forced chronology on the sequence of its component essays. Rather, Deverell and Hise have grouped the authors' contributions into three thematic sections titled "Analysis of Place," "Land Use and Governance," and "Nature and Culture."

Part 1, "Analysis of Place," begins with a collection of early-twentieth-century Los Angeles photographs, selected by William McClung, followed by three essays written by L. Mark Raab, an anthropologist, Paula Schiffman, a biologist, and economists Karen Clay and Werner Troesken. Despite the editors' caveat regarding Land of Sunshine's lack of strict chronology, it is evident that they felt compelled as historians to start their book at the "beginning of the story," so to speak. Consequently, these first three essays paint a partial portrait of Los Angeles's pre-urban site. Raab introduces us to the area's first human inhabitants, and consistent with current approaches to Native American history, he tries to rescue these hunter-gatherers from common stereotypes. They were, the author says, neither passive elements of their natural environment nor omniscient eco-engineers. While eschewing environmental determinism, Raab points nonetheless to osteological research that posits an increase in violence during prehistoric periods of prolonged drought, triggering the reader's consideration of how long-term climatic patterns have affected the fate of southern Californians since time immemorial. Schiffman's essay is a description of the Los Angeles prairie ecosystem that quickly disappeared after European settlement began. Climate comes to the fore in this essay as well, as Schiffman notes that similarities between the Californian and Spanish environments facilitated not only Spanish occupation and farming techniques but also biotic transfers. Finally, Clay and Troesken offer a quantitative analysis of Mexican land claims in California with the goal of determining the fairness of the Land Act of 1851. The authors conclude that California did fairly well in recognizing the validity of land rights established during prior national regimes, but that the data is complicated by non-political factors that affected property retention. It is on this point that the essay's principal environmental argument is made with respect to the effect of drought in the 1860s on the rancheros' persistence. While this essay is a very good piece of economic history, its minor attention to natural phenomena, especially given its placement directly after the Schiffman article, makes its inclusion seem an obligatory move by the editors to fill a transitional space between pre-contact California and the essays in part 2, all of which cover specifically urban topics set in the late nineteenth and twentieth centuries.

Part 2, "Land Use and Governance," makes up the bulk of the book. After Terry Harkness's aerial graphics depicting changing land uses over time, the seven essays that appear here are joined in their attention to policy and planning, and to contests between social classes and economic interest groups over uses of urban space. Historian Daniel Johnson launches this section with his essay on pollution and reform in the early twentieth century. Johnson demonstrates that working-class Angelenos, enjoying a high rate of homeownership, resisted the affront to their property values caused by industrial pollution, and balanced this as best they could with their interest in preserving the jobs that polluting industries provided. In so doing, they found themselves in shifting alliances with other members of their urban community, as business interests conflicted over the merits of beauty and tourism on the one hand and industrial productivity with its consequent environmental costs on the other. Paul Sabin, a specialist in energy politics, follows up with a related essay on beaches versus oil that highlights the contest between extractive industry and tourism, recreation, and residential real estate. The author shows that even during the depression of the 1930s, majorities of Californians consistently voted to protect their beaches against private exploitation. Sabin also examines the political struggles of the 1920s and 1930s over the distribution of the economic benefits of oil revenues.

In the next essay, Tom Sitton, an urban historian, describes the role of progressive-minded private organizations composed of leading citizens in promoting urban environmental planning. This article is in large part a testament to the Haynes Foundation, which provided the grant to Land of Sunshine's editors that funded the authors' honoraria. While Sitton concludes that the Foundation's impact is hard to measure, he credits civic associations of this sort with providing the public with an invaluable educational service toward the goal of making rational environmental choices. Following Sitton, urban geographer Christopher Boone seems to underscore the idea that we need to disentangle our notions of public interest from the realities of class interest when examining urban environmental choices. Boone's case study of L.A.'s industrial East Side demonstrates that the placement of noxious industries and working-class ethnic minority housing--in this case Latino--go hand in hand. His history, though, places industrial development first in time, followed by residential growth. The resulting environmental inequities appear to be a consequence of unequal political power between communities and of a history of economic and racial segregation. One is reminded at this point of the first article in this section of the book, and of the potential for an intergenerational comparison of the struggle for healthy urban neighborhoods.

Part 3, "Nature and Culture," includes a visually appealing folio of landscape photographs with commentary by book dealer and photographic literature enthusiast Michael Dawson, followed by three final essays and an epilogue. Jennifer Price, a free lance writer and environmental historian, gives us thirteen ways of looking at nature in Los Angeles, guided by the principle that we need to look for nature within the everyday life of the city rather than seeing nature and the metropolis as strictly antithetical. One of her proposals, that we should see Los Angeles's nature as an ecology that urbanites build in and manage, certainly has utility if conceptual clarity can be turned into effective policy. The next essay is historian Douglas Sackman's appraisal of Los Angeles's Edenic image and the consequences of imposing paradisiacal expectations on the region's geography and its people. With a strong focus on the gardening of exotic species and the industrial farming of oranges, Sackman concludes that the human reinvention of southern California's nature has borne and concealed substantial social costs. While Sackman analyzes the relationship between people and plant cultivation, geographers Unna Lassiter and Jennifer Wolch address animal domestication, and particularly the role of animals in the lives of Los Angeles's Chicana and Latina population. Their essay, based on interviews, emphasizes the attachment of Chicanas and Latinas to a wide array of animals, not all of which are typically considered appropriate to dense urban settings. Lassiter and Wolch find that the women in their study reject human domination of animals, have strong sentimental attachments to both household pets and livestock, and also view their animals as a link to their rural ancestry. One wonders if some comparison might not be made to all those many successive waves of peasant immigrants from around the world who have been flowing to America's cities since the 1840s. The cultural contest over "proper" uses of urban space, especially regarding the place of domesticated animals in the city, is an old one.

Robert Gottlieb, an urban and environmental policy expert, offers Land of Sunshine's brief epilogue. Gottlieb brings the book to its conclusion with a note of optimism regarding the potential for a productive urban environmental awareness. Gottlieb cites the eventual emergence of a watershed management policy in Los Angeles after the state's voters defeated plans for a Peripheral Canal. He also notes that Los Angeles has become home to several community food system initiatives, including community-supported agriculture and farm-to-school distribution networks. The author's admission that many of these changes are occurring at the margins of Los Angeles's community leaves us hoping that a set of new urban environmental debates and models will reach the city's heart before too long. 041b061a72


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