We watched an interview video about a man named Donald Worster and his studies as a historian and read an article about mining California and what the West had to offer. Unlike most historians Donald Worster’s studies deal with the past but its main focus is on nature. Donald is known as an Environmental Historian. Throughout Donald’s interview he describes how the west was untouched and unseen for so many years but is then brutalized by travelers and immigrants that are a part of a mining economy. A mining economy is one that thinks we will always find new resources to fill in the place of resources that they have already depleted; unlimited amount of resources. In this interview Donald also discusses men like Theodore Roosevelt and John Muir. Worster describes John Muir as an American Public Prophet and Naturalist because of his writings about how passionate he was about nature and wild life. Muir’s work was published in magazines and news articles to spread the word of our nature and its beauty. During this time many believed that the arts shaped the way we as humans viewed nature. Roosevelt saved more land for preservation than any other president.
In the article “Mining California” by Andrew Isenberg, Isenberg mentions Native American and their ideas, California’s climate, geography, population, and technological advancements. Isenberg also includes information about the economic demands of mining, different Acts that were supposed to help California, and the causes and effects on Hydraulic mining. “Geologically, California is one of the youngest and most rapid changing regions in the world” , with environments ranging in altitude from 282 feet below sea level to 14,500 feet above sea level. California suffered two major droughts one lasting from 890-1100 and the other from 1210-1350. The Indians of California would set fires in both fall and spring to kill the rest of crops that were either alive or dead to have fresh soil to plant new crops. This fresh soil would allow easy access for a cleaner plow of the soil for the new crops. The economic demands of mining took a toll on all natural environments like land, agriculture, and animals which caused some to be completely depleted. After seeing this was happening California started to pass laws and acts that funneled natural resources from western public into the control of industrial entrepreneurs.
The purpose of watching the Donald Worster video was to inform students that there is a lot of history about our land that we don’t know about. In fact, we learn in high school and college about wars, significant dates, treaties, and slavery in our history classes but we are never really informed about the West and significant history of California land we live on. Worster was trying to make us aware that we must take care of our ecosystem; otherwise the ecosystem will eventually die off due to human caused activity. He was informing us that even though mining economy was beneficial in some regions and times of the US; it was also a very poor way of treating our planet. The workers of this economy would excavate our land until t was depleted then move onto more land until that area was depleted as well. A voice I would like to hear from Worster’s ideas would be the voices of John Muir and his ideas, Theodore Roosevelt and his ideas, and also some of the workers of the different economies.
The purpose of the article “Mining California” was specifically to inform student’s about the demand for natural resources, the causes and effect of mining and agriculture, some technological advances, the percentages of laborers, and the overall effect of hydraulic mining. “California was a rare place that promised its inhabitants prosperity and the pristine.” Although we’ve learned California was mined for gold another contributing factor of California was all of its trees. California cut large numbers of trees to build cities to support the growing population. The demand for lumber by city builders contributed to the deforestation of one-third of California’s availed supply of timber by 1872. With the large growing population also came sewage systems and factories to industrialize California. A major problem with the factories was that they emitted large amounts of toxins into the air, water, and soil. By 1910, one in five American laborers was an immigrant. The discovery of gold not only attracted Americans to California but also migrants from Europe, Latin America, and East Asia. “Hydraulic mining, urban development, and industrial logging and ranching proved successful enough endeavors that they inspired the further exploitation both within and outside the state.”
In class we enhanced our knowledge more about Environmental history and the mining of California. We discussed that Environmental historians were more based on the West. There was a thought process from the 18660s-1900s that California and the US were never going to run out of natural resources. Unlike Anglo-Saxon Europeans whose tradition was to migrate and develop to become more modernized right then was different from a naturalist thought process because they think how is what we are doing now going to affect our future. After the Civil War almost half the cowboys in the west were black and as the cities grew more and more men started to get more office jobs and become less outdoorsy. After being mentally and physically broken from the Civil War, California was the place to go because the nature was a sense of relief and calming. Mining California main purpose was for the gold rush and what it had to offer. In class we learned about the consequences of development and demographic changes. One of the main ways laborers would mine was by hydraulic mining which they thought was a great success. The problem with hydraulic mining was that it destroyed mountains that could never be rebuilt, it could change the shape and depth of river beds, and if the actual hydraulic line became clogged, it would cause a great amount of flooding. In 1860 thirty-nine percent of the state’s residents were foreign born and by 1910 one in every five American Laborers was an immigrant. By 1900 over $9.7 billion was invested in American industry but only $330 million was invested in the West. Automobiles were invented to help with transportation and to help lower the rate of horse carcasses lying around.
How did the Indians maintain the fires they started? When was the first Hydraulic mine created? How did we preserve all of John Muir’s work? What was the percentage of American born laborers? How did the US get all of the money to invest into the West?