The Southwestern Historical Quarterly, Volume 106, July 2002 - April, 2003 Page: 492
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Southwestern Historical Quarterly
interaction between soil, topography, vegetation, hydrology, and humankind
has constantly redefined place and peoples. Eleven essays trace those overlap-
ping border crossings to show how the Spanish, Mexicans, and Americans have
manipulated, been shaped by, and sought to protect this South Texas land-
scape. Rather than structure the book chronologically, the editor has chosen to
partition the book into five thematic areas: Climate Controls, Ground Move-
ment, Social Ecology, Water Fights, and Land Marks. Although On the Border
demonstrates how physical geography has framed human settlement and use,
the book's main focus is on the ways that cultures have changed and in turn
been altered by a recast nonhuman ecology. To highlight these interactive bor-
der crossings and redrawn boundaries, a number of authors use specific re-
source issues, particularly water, around which to construct their essays. The
result is a book that works on several levels.
First, On the Border adds to the growing body of literature on urban environ-
mental history. Although cities and their metropolitan environs have long been
framed by the natural environment and in turn shaped nature, it was not until
the 199os that urban environmental history really came into its own. The growth
and maturity of the field are evidenced in this edited volume. As a consequence,
there is a concern for how the built environment and human activities in cities
recast the natural environment through displacing and eliminating indigenous
biological ecosystems, the introduction of foreign species, increased pollution,
and how San Antonio shaped an ever-widening hinterland. Second, it does not
eschew politics and power as important categories of understanding for environ-
mental history. The results are a number of the essays that illustrate how shifting
social/political structures shape social and environmental geographies of dis-
ease, homicide, parks, and water policy. Third, it shows the importance of tech-
nology and the cultural context that gave shape to that technology in
transforming space and life, whether the forms were railroads, dams, or military
installations. Fourth, it reflects a number of the major themes in western Ameri-
can history, such as the shaping hand of the federal government and a multicul-
tural West. Finally, On the Border draws the reader's attention to historical
continuities between the past and present, the ironies of human-induced
changes that have brought a poverty of progress to San Antonio, and societal re-
form responses to those impacts.
As with any book, On the Border has limitations. Although a few essays touch on
issues of ecology, gender (especially the role of women in shaping environmental
reform), as well as class and race (in terms of environmental justice and how envi-
ronmental and human exploitation goes hand-in-hand), much more might have
been done with any or all of those categories. Noticeably absent as well, except for
one brief statement, was the role religion played in shaping the landscape. There
is also a degree of overlapping information that some readers will find helpful, but
others annoying. Nonetheless, Char Miller's edited work is a welcome addition to
a growing literature on the environmental history of the urban West.
Fort Lewis College, Durango, Colorado
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Texas State Historical Association. The Southwestern Historical Quarterly, Volume 106, July 2002 - April, 2003, periodical, 2003; Austin, Texas. (texashistory.unt.edu/ark:/67531/metapth101223/m1/560/: accessed September 19, 2017), University of North Texas Libraries, The Portal to Texas History, texashistory.unt.edu; crediting Texas State Historical Association.