337 Cohen Hall
Ann Greene, Universithy of Pennsylvania
"A Canal Runs Through It: The Erie and the Environment"
The Erie Canal enjoys iconic status as a technological and political event that promoted westward expansion, economic development, urban growth, and northern sectional identity. However, many Americans assume that the Canal was eventually rendered obsolete and subsequently abandoned, and are surprised to that it has remained in continuous operation from 1825 to the present. Almost no scholarly work examines the Erie Canal after its first rebuilding at mid-century, or considers the environmental implications of its construction and operation at any time in its two-century history. This workshop presentation lays out the beginning of a project on the environmental history of the Erie Canal looking at the canal’s role in the landscape and ecology of central and western New York, in conservation politics and the debate about forests and watersheds, in the history of alien and invasive species, and in regional identity and tourism. It is possible that the history of the Erie Canal reflects the history of environmentalism from the antebellum period to the present.