Great Plains Studies, Center for


Date of this Version

Spring 2011


Great Plains Research Vol. 21 No.1, 2011


© 2011 Center for Great Plains Studies, University of Nebraska-Lincoln


William Scott Swearingen, lr.'s Environmental City is a social history of how a place like Red Bud Isle and the larger city surrounding it could come to exist. Swearingen opens with the founding of Austin, and takes the reader through the ideals shaping its modern era: the battle between the twin paradigms of "growth" and "green." At its heart, the book tells the story of the success of Austin's green campaign: how "place" was created, fought for, and won. Not all battles were victories, but Swearingen points to key moments, and unpacks the slow process of institutionalizing broad environmental concepts into concrete municipal policies. He identifies the particular moments (e.g., protests, votes, and elections) and ideas (e.g., "The Five Minute Walk") that set this history in motion.

Swearingen does the yeoman's work of identifying just how one of the key aspects of Austin's culture came to be. Although lacking in comparison, Environmental City is a good book for reading about how tensions play out in a city other than Los Angeles, Chicago, or New York.