Nature’s Crossroads is likely to become the definitive book on Minnesota’s environmental history. This engaging volume explains how the dynamic flow of resources, people, and ideas between the Twin Cities and their hinterlands shaped the state’s history. Nature’s Crossroads will appeal not only to those who love Minnesota but to environmental historians, geographers, rural sociologists, urban planners, and others interested in understanding the complexity of seemingly simple midwestern landscapes.
Minnesota’s Twin Cities have long been powerful engines of change. From their origins in the early nineteenth century, the Twin Cities helped drive the dispossession of the region’s Native American peoples, turned their riverfronts into bustling industrial and commercial centers, spread streets and homes outward to the horizon, and reached well beyond their urban confines, setting in motion the environmental transformation of distant hinterlands. As these processes unfolded, residents inscribed their culture into the landscape, complete with all its tensions, disagreements, contradictions, prejudices, and social inequalities. These stories lie at the heart of Nature’s Crossroads. The book features an interdisciplinary team of distinguished scholars who aim to open new conversations about the environmental history of the Twin Cities and Greater Minnesota.
Here are compelling stories about the changing human communities of the Twin Cities and how they shaped and were shaped by their environments, from riverfronts to hinterlands. Topics range from water, energy, and acid rain to imagined eco-cities, bicycle paths, suburban sprawl, historic preservation, and, yes, lakes. Though the reader can move among chapters in any order, Vrtis and Wells provide structure and themes, including varied environmentalisms, Indigenous resistance, and environmental justice.
George Vrtis is an environmental historian and professor of history and environmental studies at Carleton College. He is the coeditor of Mining North America: An Environmental History since 1522. His research interests include mining and resource use, urban environments, and protected areas and wilderness.
Christopher W. Wells is an environmental historian and professor of environmental studies at Macalester College. His is the author of Car Country: An Environmental History and Environmental Justice in Postwar America: A Documentary Reader. His research focuses on the ways that technology—and especially technological systems—have reshaped the American environment, mediating and structuring people’s relationships with the natural world.