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Environment and History

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Environment and History

'When The Well's Dry': Water and the Promise of Sustainability in the American Southwest

David Jenkins

Environment and History 15 (2009): 441-462. doi: 10.3197/096734009X12532652871992

The Colorado River has become part of a vast plumbing system. It is still a natural system, dependent upon weather patterns, geological processes and laws of physics. But it is also a cultural system, governed by dams, laws and political relationships. The river is neither natural nor unnatural, but both - separating the categories makes little sense. This article argues that it is more accurate to combine the categories of nature and culture, to see humans as inextricably and deeply entwined with the natural world, and to recognise all environmental issues as characterised by the contradictory relationships humans have developed with the world they inhabit.

KEYWORDS: American Southwest, Colorado River, water use, sustainability, environmental values

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