Although history may be seen as a tapestry portraying the wars and conquests of humankind, it may also be seen as the continuous expansion of human presence in the planet, the domestication of animals, and the reshaping of natural environment into one that fits the needs of humans. Humans are always chasing after the next frontier, oftentimes compromising the environmental cleanliness and healthiness of their very own surroundings (Haughton & Hunter, 2003). The history of San Francisco is also characterized by a continuous expansion and chasing after the proverbial next frontier.
Brechin (2001) in his book, Imperial San Francisco: Urban Power, Earthly Ruin explores the history of San Francisco and challenges the stereotypical view that the city is tolerant. By tracing through 150 years of the city’s history, the author was able to uncover grievous features of the city’s history. San Francisco was one of the major sites of the Gold Rush in the mid nineteenth century. The founding members of the society, usually from the South, engaged in mining coal and other minerals in the area.
This resulted to the environmental devastation of wet lands, streams and forests of San Francisco (Brechin, 2001). The aristocracy who managed most of the mining industry derived tremendous profit from such industry. These profits were then diverted into other endeavors such as the exploitation of forests, currency speculation and extraction of oil. As a result of the process, several towns were destroyed. The forest region around Lake Tahoe diminished drastically, a wide area of farmland were buried by the onslaught of mining debris, leading to the contamination of the soil and bodies of water around the area.
In addition to this, Brechin (2001) underscores that the research on nuclear power started at the University of California and was completed in the Manhattan Project. The price of progress is staggering! Although San Francisco, today, is a famous city and frequented by tourists, such progress was attained at such a big cost to the environment and consequently, the cost will be transferred to the future generations. San Francisco, according to Brechin (2001) epitomizes the city in the Atomic Age, together with the environmental havoc that it brings.
The example of San Francisco is also being repeated in developing countries. A lot of people are now migrating from the countryside into the cities. This trend makes the cities crowded, unsustainable in terms of the people’s use of the environment and causes pollution. In spite of these environmental issues, these cities are experiencing economic growth. The question, however, is that until when will this growth be experienced? (Evans, 2002). The presence of economic growth alongside environmental decay is also present in Africa, where most of nations in the region are developing ones.
Although the efforts of these countries for development are bearing fruit, the environmental issues and problems being experienced by these countries in the continent are the result of activities geared toward making them more developed. The population of elephants in Africa has been greatly affected because of the desire of people to amass wealth from their tusks (Tesi, 2000). Urban growth attracts people from less developed areas of any given country. As such, they would need to have jobs, use the resources available in their environment and sustain their lives.
Along the process, the ecological balance is affected. As shown by the experience of San Francisco, as well as by the African continent, economic growth is accompanied by the degradation of the environment.
Brechin, G. (2001). The Environment and Development in Africa. California: University of California Press. Evans, P. B. (2002). Livable Cities? : Urban Struggles for Livelihood and Sustainability. California: University of California Press. Haughton, G. , & Hunter, G. (2003). Sustainable Cities. London: Routledge. Tesi, M. K. (2000). The Environment and Development in Africa. New York: Lexington Books.