"When Joe Biden attempted to compliment Barack Obama by calling him "clean and articulate," he unwittingly tapped into one of the most destructive racial stereotypes in American history. This book tells the history of the corrosive idea that whites are clean and those who are not white are dirty. From the age of Thomas Jefferson to the Memphis Public Workers strike of 1968 through the present day, ideas about race and waste have shaped where people have lived, where people have worked, and how American society's wastes have been managed. Clean and White offers a history of environmental racism in the United States focusing on constructions of race and hygiene. In the wake of the Civil War, as the nation encountered emancipation, mass immigration, and the growth of an urbanized society, Americans began to conflate the ideas of race and waste. Certain immigrant groups took on waste management labor, such as Jews and scrap metal recycling, fostering connections between the socially marginalized and refuse. Ethnic "purity" was tied to pure cleanliness, and hygiene became a central aspect of white identity. Carl A. Zimring here draws on historical evidence from statesmen, scholars, sanitarians, novelists, activists, advertisements, and the United States Census of Population to reveal changing constructions of environmental racism. The material consequences of these attitudes endured and expanded through the twentieth century, shaping waste management systems and environmental inequalities that endure into the twenty-first century. Today, the bigoted idea that non-whites are "dirty" remains deeply ingrained in the national psyche, continuing to shape social and environmental inequalities in the age of Obama."--Publisher information.
Built on an estuary, New York City is rich in population and economic activity but poor in available land to manage the needs of a modern city. Since consolidation of the five boroughs in 1898, New York has faced innumerable challenges, from complex water and waste management issues, to housing and feeding millions of residents in a concentrated area, to dealing with climate change in the wake of Superstorm Sandy, and everything in between. Any consideration of sustainable urbanism requires understanding how cities have developed the systems that support modern life and the challenges posed by such a concentrated population. As the largest city in the United States, New York City is an excellent site to investigate these concerns. Featuring an array of the most distinguished and innovative urban environmental historians in the field, 'Coastal Metropolis' offers new insight into how the modern city transformed its air, land, and water as it grew.
Fresh Kills—a monumental 2,200-acre site on Staten Island—was once the world's largest landfill. From 1948 to 2001, it was the main receptacle for New York City's refuse. After the 9/11 attacks, it reopened briefly to receive human remains and rubble from the destroyed Twin Towers, turning a notorious disposal site into a cemetery. Today, a mammoth reclamation project is transforming the landfill site, constructing an expansive park three times the size of Central Park.Martin V. Melosi provides a comprehensive chronicle of Fresh Kills that offers new insights into the growth and development of New York City and the relationship among consumption, waste, and disposal. He traces the metamorphoses of the landscape, following it from salt marsh to landfill to cemetery and looks ahead to the future park. By centering the problem of solid-waste disposal, Melosi highlights the unwanted consequences of mass consumption. He presents the Fresh Kills space as an embodiment of massive waste, linking consumption to the continuing presence of its discards. Melosi also uses the landfill as a lens for understanding Staten Island's history and its relationship with greater New York City. The first book on the history of the iconic landfill, Fresh Kills unites environmental, political, and cultural history to offer a reflection on material culture, consumer practices, and perceptions of value and worthlessness.
Recycling is widely celebrated as an environmental success story. The accomplishments of the recycling movement can be seen in municipal practice, a thriving private recycling industry, and widespread public support and participation. In the United States, more people recycle than vote. But, as Samantha MacBride points out in this book, the goals of recycling--saving the earth (and trees), conserving resources, and greening the economy--are still far from being realized. The vast majority of solid wastes are still burned or buried. MacBride argues that, since the emergence of the recycling movement in 1970, manufacturers of products that end up in waste have successfully prevented the implementation of more onerous, yet far more effective, forms of sustainable waste policy. Recycling as we know it today generates the illusion of progress while allowing industry to maintain the status quo and place responsibility on consumers and local government. Most disturbingly, it does so with the strong support of environmental social movements that defend recycling even as they grapple with its shortcomings. MacBride offers a series of case studies in recycling that pose provocative questions about whether the current ways we deal with waste are really the best ways to bring about real sustainability and environmental justice. MacBride does not aim to debunk or discourage recycling but to help us think beyond recycling as it is today. In the name of ecological citizenship, she challenges us to consider larger problems of solid waste, the global range of environmental threats, and policy alternatives that go beyond curbside collection of cans, bottles, and paper.