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Cities of Nature: Socio-natural Crisis and the Production of Space in New Orleans and Seattle

  • Author(s): Janos, Nicholas
  • Advisor(s): DuPuis, Melanie
  • et al.
Abstract

Cities of Nature: Socio-natural Crisis and the Production of Space in New Orleans and Seattle

Nik Janos

This dissertation shows how the seemingly social processes of urbanization are deeply entangled with seemingly natural processes, such as ecological, biological, and climatological ones. Using historical comparative methods and archival research, I compare urbanization in New Orleans and Seattle by looking at two apparently distinct social and ecological crises. One, in New Orleans I examine the entangled relationship between urbanization and hurricanes in Southeast Louisiana. Specifically, I trace the path dependent history between Hurricane Betsy in 1964 and Hurricane Katrina in 2005. Two, in Seattle I examine the entangled relationship between urbanization and the decimation of salmon populations in the Puget Sound. Specifically, I trace the path dependent history between a landmark 1974 court ruling called the Boldt Decision, which granted Native Americans half the salmon catch, and the 1999 Endangered Species Listing for Chinook salmon, which made the Seattle metropolitan area the first urban area to have an endangered species listing. Case one appears to be induced by nature, whereas case two by humans. But I say these are indistinct. The case studies indicate that the distinctions between what comes to us and what comes from us dissolves if you look at "natural disasters" as hybrid socio-natural processes. Furthermore, what people call disasters are not one-time events but rather crises long in the making. Overall, this dissertation tells a story about how the urbanization of New Orleans and Seattle has made the natural and social more entangled, which in turn has made some populations of humans and non-humans more vulnerable than others. The comparison of New Orleans and Seattle sheds light on how each urbanized region is shaped by particular social and ecological relations, but additionally, how city builders shape and are shaped by generalized strands of socio-natural entanglement: capitalist urbanization, deployment of technology, governance practices, and social participation. The comparison also illuminates how socio-natural relations and potential crises of the future are made by events and decision of the past as well as ones that unfold in the present.

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