Review of Jamie Benidickson’s the Culture of Flushing: A Social and Legal History of Sewage
4 Pages Posted: 13 Mar 2011
Date Written: March, 11 2011
Rarely have legal histories peered into the latrines of the 19th and 20th century. Fortunately, the view from within Jamie Benidickson's book, 'The Culture of Flushing: A Social and Legal History of Sewage', is informative and comprehensive. A reader looking for a full examination of the social and legal history of sewage in Canada, the United States and the United Kingdom will find it in this volume. Benidickson moves through 200 years of sewage history by focusing on key developments in our attitude and treatment of sewage in major urban centers, including Toronto, New York, Chicago, and London. He chronicles the early history of neglect and the prevailing attitude of streams as 'nature’s sewers' and how water came to become an acceptable medium for disposing urban and industrial waste. With clarity and insight, Benidickson traces the major court battles, and legislation culminating in the Clean Water Act of 1972. Each step in the murky legal and cultural history of waste disposal, including the legislative attempts, the arguments made in court, the judicial opinions issued at various stages of ongoing litigation is clearly summarized. The author also puts this legal history in the larger context of environmental degradation, national legislation, and changing cultural attitudes and norms of collective responsibility.
Keywords: environmental protection, sewage, clean water
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