The Working Landscape

From Urban and Industrial Environments

The Working Landscape

Founding, Preservation, and the Politics of Place

By Peter F. Cannavò





In America today we see rampant development, unsustainable resource exploitation, and commodification ruin both natural and built landscapes, disconnecting us from our surroundings and threatening our fundamental sense of place. Meanwhile, preservationists often respond with a counterproductive stance that rejects virtually any change in the landscape. In The Working Landscape, Peter Cannavò identifies this zero-sum conflict between development and preservation as a major factor behind our contemporary crisis of place. Cannavò offers practical and theoretical alternatives to this deadlocked, polarized politics of place by proposing an approach that embraces both change and stability and unifies democratic and ecological values, creating a "working landscape."

Place, Cannavò argues, is not just an object but an essential human practice that involves the physical and conceptual organization of our surroundings into a coherent, enduring landscape. This practice must balance development (which he calls "founding") and preservation. Three case studies illustrate the polarizing development-preservation conflict: the debate over the logging of old-growth forests in the Pacific Northwest; the problem of urban sprawl; and the redevelopment of the former site of the World Trade Center in New York City. Cannavò suggests that regional, democratic governance is the best framework for integrating development and preservation, and he presents specific policy recommendations that aim to create a "working landscape" in rural, suburban, and urban areas. A postscript on the mass exile, displacement, and homelessness caused by Hurricane Katrina considers the implications of future climate change for the practice of place.


$70.00 X ISBN: 9780262033640 448 pp. | 6 in x 9 in


$35.00 X ISBN: 9780262532921 448 pp. | 6 in x 9 in


  • Cannavò captures the multidimensional and contested character of place in recent American struggles and the vital need for a democratic politics able to address this. The Working Landscape demonstrates impressive breadth of scholarship and theoretical sophistication, yet is clearly written, accessible, and engaging.

    John M. Meyer

    Associate Professor and Chair, Department of Government and Politics, Humboldt State University.

  • As our impact on the land increases, we seem to be faced with a dilemma: to continue to found new landscapes and settlements, or to preserve oldones. In this far-reaching book, threaded through with illuminating andchallenging case studies, Peter Cannavo shows us what a mistake it is tocome down on one side or the other of this debate. Instead he makes apersuasive case for democratic engagement as the route to the effectiveintegration of founding and preservation. This is how to create a trulyworking landscape.

    Andrew Dobson

    Keele University

  • An excellent book. Peter Cannavò examines a commonly noted dichotomy in environmentalism the tension between preservation and development but approaches it in a completely novel and thoroughly comprehensive way. Cannavò breaks down barriers between political theory, geography, urban design and planning, and sociology by weaving together arguments from all the disciplines in his critique of the preservation/development impasse, creating an academic space many of our colleagues have avoided. This comprehensive interdisciplinary approach is quite successful and is extremely rare in environmental thought.

    David Schlosberg

    Professor and Chair, Department of Political Science, Northern Arizona University