The Historical Structure of Disorder: Urban Ecology in Los Angeles and Beyond

Jared Orsi

in Hazardous Metropolis

Published by University of California Press

Published in print May 2004 | ISBN: 9780520238503
Published online March 2012 | e-ISBN: 9780520930087 | DOI:
The Historical Structure of Disorder: Urban Ecology in Los Angeles and Beyond

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Los Angeles is by no means extraordinary or exceptional in catastrophes. Its droughts are not Sahelian; its floods would be puny on the Mississippi; and its earthquakes have not approached the magnitude, death toll, or devastation of several recent Asian temblors. The lesson that Los Angeles flood control offers, then, is not a jeremiad about impending doom but rather an insight into the apparently random but actually patterned omnipresent threat of low-grade failures that afflict modern cities. Everywhere we look, it seems, we find disorder in urban places, disorder that challenges the assumption that lies behind all environmental management—that natural systems are more or less predictable and that the exceptions to this rule can be controlled by the rationality of human artifice. But disorder is not the same as pure randomness; it is not without structure. The significance of the Los Angeles flood-control history is that it helps explain the historical structure of disorder in cities.

Keywords: Los Angeles; flood control history; disorder; cities; catastrophes; environmental management; natural systems

Chapter.  7978 words. 

Subjects: History of the Americas

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