In Sinking Chicago, Harold Platt shows how people responded to climate change in one American city over a hundred-and-fifty-year period. During a long dry spell before 1945, city residents lost sight of the connections between land use, flood control, and water quality. Then, a combination of suburban sprawl and a wet period of extreme weather events created damaging runoff surges that sank Chicago and contaminated drinking supplies with raw sewage.
Chicagoans had to learn how to remake a city built on a prairie wetland. They organized a grassroots movement to protect the six river watersheds in the semi-sacred forest preserves from being turned into open sewers, like the Chicago River. The politics of outdoor recreation clashed with the politics of water management. Platt charts a growing constituency of citizens who fought a corrupt political machine to reclaim the region’s waterways and Lake Michigan as a single eco-system. Environmentalists contested policymakers’ heroic, big-technology approaches with small-scale solutions for a flood-prone environment. Sinking Chicago lays out a roadmap to future planning outcomes.
Harold L. Platt is Professor of History Emeritus at Loyola University Chicago. He is the author or editor of several books, including Shock Cities: The Environmental Transformation and Reform of Manchester and Chicago, and Building the Urban Environment: Visions of the Organic City in the United States, Europe, and Latin America (Temple ). He has twice won the book-of-the-year award from the American Public Works Association.
"Platt has written the ﬁrst study of the effects of long-term climate change on the American city of Chicago. It is an important undertaking, and the author is ﬁt for the task.... Platt’s ﬁne study, then, is a model for how other historians might write the history of ongoing climate change—with a critical eye toward crafting policies that will help people weather the storm."--American Historical Review