On the Historicity of Social and Ecological Change: From the Asian Carp Invasion to the Reversal of the Chicago River
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The increasingly unsustainable relationship between society and the environment is drawing considerable attention across disciplines. In sociology this attention has focused largely on developing theoretical frameworks for explicating how various social processes negatively impact the environment, however what sociology has done less well is develop rich understandings of the other side of this relationship, how ecological change can create instability in social processes. To fill this gap I employ an extended case study of the interplay between the social and ecological processes related to the introduction of Asian carp, an invasive species that has set into motion considerable contestations across political, cultural, economic and scientific social processes in the greater Chicago area as well as the Great Lakes. Through this case study I demonstrate how ecological changes, such as the migration of Asian carp, can impact social processes. I then provide an historical analysis of the 1900 reversal of the Chicago River to show how social responses to the Asian carp invasion are structured through previous histories. My aim is to demonstrate that the Asian carp invasion is not, in itself, a single transformative process, but rather a cumulative development generated and constrained via several connected social and ecological histories. My overall aim is to demonstrate the benefit of examining how social histories and ecological histories combine over time, or the historicity of social and ecological interaction.