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Mining California: An Ecological History by…
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Mining California: An Ecological History

by Andrew C. Isenberg

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The virtue of this book is that it's wider ranging than the title suggests, as while the impact on California's resources by gold mining (particularly hydraulic mining) and associated industries is the foundation, how this related to farming and stock-raising, the rise of the city of Sacramento and even the Modoc War of the 1870s is also dealt with. The problem is that this means that the treatment comes off as a little superficial; I feel that this book could easily be distilled down to an article in the "New York Review of Books." The theme would then be how the lack of capital and labor led to extensive development, and the exhaustion of the California landscape. ( )
  Shrike58 | Dec 3, 2012 |
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Amazon.com Product Description (ISBN 0809095351, Hardcover)

An environmental History of California during the Gold Rush

Between 1849 and 1874 almost $1 billion in gold was mined in California. With little available capital or labor, here’s how: high-pressure water cannons washed hillsides into sluices that used mercury to trap gold but let the soil wash away; eventually more than three times the amount of earth moved to make way for the Panama Canal entered California’s rivers, leaving behind twenty tons of mercury every mile—rivers overflowed their banks and valleys were flooded, the land poisoned. In the rush to wealth, the same chain of foreseeable consequences reduced California’s forests and grasslands.

Not since William Cronon’s Nature’s Metropolis has a historian so skillfully applied John Muir’s insight—“When we try to pick out anything by itself, we find it hitched to everything else in the universe”—to the telling of the history of the American West. Beautifully told, this is western environmental history at its finest.

(retrieved from Amazon Mon, 30 Sep 2013 13:25:32 -0400)

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