Handbook of Cities and the Environment
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Handbook of Cities and the Environment

Edited by Kevin Archer and Kris Bezdecny

With an ever-growing majority of the world's human population living in city spaces, the relationship between cities and nature will be one of the key environmental issues of the 21st Century. This book brings together a diverse set of authors to explore the various aspects of this relationship both theoretically and empirically. Rather than considering cities as wholly separate from nature, a running theme throughout the book is that cities, and city dwellers, should be characterized as intrinsic in the creation of specifically urban-generated ‘socio-natures’.
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Chapter 14: “Restoring” Seattle’s river: competing conceptions of the Duwamish socio-nature

Kevin Archer and Kris Bezdecny


Seattle is often thought of as a traditionally sustainable city, particularly given its natural environmental setting and the seemingly progressive and outdoorsy vigor of its now largely service economy-based workforce. The city’s actual history, however, has involved much anthropocentric environmental terraforming, from the drastic leveling of downtown hills to the massive infilling of estuaries and waterfronts on to the canalization of lakes from fresh to salt water. This chapter briefly takes account of this history with a particular emphasis on the terraforming that has affected Seattle’s only river, the Duwamish, the estuary of which was almost completely engineered out of existence and heavily industrialized. This historical overview sets the context for the body of the chapter, which discusses the contemporary attempt to somehow “restore” a more ecocentric river more suitable for seemingly more sustainable post-industrial times. The key theme will be what it actually means to restore a river that is no longer a river with various stakeholders desiring and therefore foreseeing many, quite varying, outcomes for such a restoration.

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