Building “Natural” Beauty: Drought and the Shifting Aesthetics of Nature in Santa Barbara, California

in Nature and Culture
View More View Less
  • 1 University of California, Santa Barbara ahmccumber@umail.ucsb.edu
Restricted access

Abstract

This article analyzes the tension between the built and intrinsic elements that constitute Santa Barbara, California, as a place, by investigating two related questions: How is Santa Barbarans’ sense of place impacted by citywide cultural preferences for a specific plant aesthetic? and How have recent drought conditions affected that plant aesthetic, and its population’s cultural relationship to nature and the environment? The analysis focuses primarily on two key informant interviews, with Madeline Ward, the city’s water conservation coordinator, and Timothy Downey, the city arborist, and is further supported by ethnographic field notes. I argue that the California drought has brought parallel changes to both the city’s physical appearance and its residents’ aesthetic preferences regarding plants. This has further prompted changes to popular conceptions of Santa Barbara as a place, stemming from residents’ desire for an aesthetic that is better in tune with the ecological conditions of the area.

Contributor Notes

Andrew McCumber is a PhD student in sociology at the University of California, Santa Barbara. His work lies at the intersection of environmental and cultural sociology. The main research questions that drive his work, including this article, revolve around our cultural relationships with nature and the nonhuman world. Email: ahmccumber@umail.ucsb.edu.

  • Augé, Marc. 1995. Non-Places: Introduction to an Anthropology of Supermodernity. London: Verso.

  • Barnard, Alex V. 2016. “Making the City ‘Second Nature’: Freegan ‘Dumpster Divers’ and the Materiality of Morality”. American Journal of Sociology 121(4): 10171050.

    • Crossref
    • Search Google Scholar
    • Export Citation
  • Beittel, Will. 1984. Dr. F. Franceschi: Pioneer Plantsman. Santa Barbara, CA: Santa Barbara County Horticultural Society.

  • Bell, Desmond. 1993. “Framing Nature: First Steps into the Wilderness for a Sociology of the Landscape”. Irish Journal of Sociology 3: 122.

    • Crossref
    • Search Google Scholar
    • Export Citation
  • Bell, Michael M. 1994. Childerley: Nature and Morality in a Country Village. Chicago: University of Chicago Press.

  • Bell, Michael M. 1997. “The Ghosts of Place”. Theory & Society 26(6): 813836.

  • Bourdieu, Pierre. 1977. Outline of a Theory of Practice. Cambridge: Cambridge University Press.

  • Brewster, Bradley H., and Michael Mayerfeld Bell. 2009. “The Environmental Goffman: Toward an Environmental Sociology of Everyday Life”. Society & Natural Resources 23(1): 4557.

    • Crossref
    • Search Google Scholar
    • Export Citation
  • de Certeau, Michel. 1984. The Practice of Everyday Life. Berkeley: University of California Press.

  • Crist, Eileen. 2013. “On the Poverty of Our Nomenclature”. Environmental Humanities 3: 129147.

  • Cronon, William. 1996. “The Trouble with Wilderness or Getting Back to the Wrong Nature.” In Uncommon Ground: Rethinking the Human Place in Nature, ed. William Cronon, 6990. New York: W. W. Norton.

    • Search Google Scholar
    • Export Citation
  • Deverell, William. 2004. Whitewashed Adobe: The Rise of Los Angeles and the Remaking of Its Mexican Past. Berkeley, CA: University of California Press.

    • Crossref
    • Search Google Scholar
    • Export Citation
  • Dobrin, Sidney I., and Kenneth B. Kidd. 2004. Wild Things: Children’s Culture and Ecocriticism. Detroit, MI: Wayne State University Press.

    • Search Google Scholar
    • Export Citation
  • Dunlap, Riley E., and William R. Catton. 1983. “What Environmental Sociologists Have in Common (Whether Concerned with ‘Built’ or ‘Natural’ Environments)”. Sociological Inquiry 53(2–3): 113135.

    • Crossref
    • Search Google Scholar
    • Export Citation
  • Dryden, Patrick N. and Andrew McCumber. 2017. “#Nature: Postmoder Narrative, Place, and Nature in Santa Barbara, California”. Environmental Sociology 3(3): 286296.

    • Crossref
    • Search Google Scholar
    • Export Citation
  • Fine, Gary A. 1998. Morel Tales: The Culture of Mushrooming. Cambridge, MA: Harvard University Press.

  • Fine, Gary A. 2010. Authors of the Storm: Meteorologists and the Culture of Prediction. Chicago: University of Chicago Press.

  • Foucault, Michel. 1986. “Of Other Spaces: Utopias and Heterotopias”. Diacritics 16(1): 2227.

  • Freudenburg, William R., Scott Frickel, and Robert Gramling. 1995. “Beyond the Nature/Society Divide: Learning to Think About a Mountain”. Sociological Forum 10(3): 361392.

    • Crossref
    • Search Google Scholar
    • Export Citation
  • Gieryn, Thomas F. 2000. “A Space for Place in Sociology”. Annual Review of Sociology 26: 463496.

  • Ginn, David, and Franklin Demeritt. 2009. “Nature: A Contested Concept.” In Key Concepts in Geography, ed. Nicholas Clifford, Sarah Holloway, Stephen Rice, and Gill Valentine, 300331. Thousand Oaks, CA: Sage.

    • Search Google Scholar
    • Export Citation
  • Glassberg, David. 2001. Sense of History: The Place of the Past in American Life. Amherst: University of Massachusetts Press.

  • Gramling, Robert, and Freudenburg, William R. 1993. “Socioenvironmental Factors and Development Policy: Understanding Opposition and Support for Offshore Oil”. Sociological Forum 8(3): 341364.

    • Crossref
    • Search Google Scholar
    • Export Citation
  • Grazian, David. 2015. American Zoo: A Sociological Safari. Princeton, NJ: Princeton University Press.

  • Harvey, David. 1992. The Condition of Postmodernity: An Enquiry into the Origins of Cultural Change. Cambridge, MA: Blackwell.

  • Harvey, David. 1997. Justice, Nature and the Geography of Difference. Malden, MA Blackwell.

  • Heynen, Nikolas C., Maria Kaika, and Erik Swyngedouw. 2006. “Urban Political Ecologies: Politicizing the Production of Urban Natures.” In In the Nature of Cities: Urban Political Ecology and the Politics of Urban Metabolism, ed. Nikolas C. Heynen, Maria Kaika, and Erik Swyngedouw, 120. London: Routledge.

    • Crossref
    • Search Google Scholar
    • Export Citation
  • Hondagneu-Sotelo, Pierrette. 2014. Paradise Transplanted: Migration and the Making of California Gardens. Berkeley: University of California Press.

    • Search Google Scholar
    • Export Citation
  • Hummon, David M. 1990. Commonplaces: Community Ideology and Identity in American Culture. Albany: State University of New York Press.

  • Jerolmack, Colin. 2013. The Global Pigeon. Chicago: University of Chicago Press.

  • Lefebvre, Henri. 1992. The Production of Space. Cambridge, MA: Wiley.

  • Marx, Leo. 1964. The Machine in the Garden: Technology and the Pastoral Ideal in America. Oxford: Oxford University Press.

  • Molotch, Harvey. Harvey. 1970. “Oil in Santa Barbara and Power in America”. Sociological Inquiry. 40(1): 131144.

  • Murphy, Raymond, and Riley E. Dunlap. 2012. “Beyond the Society/Nature Divide: Building on the Sociology of William Freudenburg”. Journal of Environmental Studies and Sciences 2(1): 717.

    • Crossref
    • Search Google Scholar
    • Export Citation
  • Nash, Roderick. 2001. Wilderness and the American Mind. New Haven, CT: Yale University Press.

  • Neimanis, Astrida, Cecilia Åsberg, and Johan Hedrén. 2015. “Four Problems, Four Directions for Environmental Humanities”. Ethics & the Environment 20(1): 6797.

    • Crossref
    • Search Google Scholar
    • Export Citation
  • Price, Jennifer. 2000. Flight Maps: Adventures With Nature In Modern America: Adventures with Nature in Modern America. New York: Basic Books.

    • Search Google Scholar
    • Export Citation
  • Price, Jenny. 2006. “Thirteen Ways of Seeing Nature in L.A”. The Believer. http://www.believermag.com/issues/200604/?read=article_price. (accessed 14 November 2015)

    • Search Google Scholar
    • Export Citation
  • Relph, Edward C. 1976. Place and Placelessness. London: Pion.

  • Tompkins, Walker A. 1960. Santa Barbara’s Royal Rancho: The Fabulous History of Los Dos Pueblos. Berkeley, CA: Howell-North.

  • Tuan, Yi-Fu. 1978. Space and Place: The Perspective of Experience. Minneapolis: University of Minnesota Press.

  • Urry, John, and Jonas Larsen. 2011. The Tourist Gaze 3.0. Thousand Oaks, CA SAGE.

  • UCSB Environmental Studies. n.d. “Program History.” http://www.es.ucsb.edu/about/history.

  • Wachsmuth, David. 2012. “Three Ecologies: Urban Metabolism and the Society-Nature Opposition”. Sociological Quarterly 53(4): 506523.

    • Crossref
    • Search Google Scholar
    • Export Citation
  • Welsh, Nick. 2015. “Stage III Drought Emergency Declared”. Santa Barbara Independent. http://www.independent.com/news/2015/may/07/stage-iii-drought-emergency-declared/ (accessed 11 November 2016).

    • Search Google Scholar
    • Export Citation
  • White, Damian, Alan Rudy, and Brian Gareau. 2015. Environments, Natures and Social Theory: Towards a Critical Hybridity. Basingstoke, UK: Palgrave Macmillan.

    • Search Google Scholar
    • Export Citation
  • Williams, Raymond. 1973. The Country and the City. Oxford: Oxford University Press.

  • Williams, Raymond. 1976. Keywords: A Vocabulary of Culture and Society. Oxford: Oxford University Press.

  • Williams, Raymond. 1977. Marxism and Literature. Oxford: Oxford University Press.

  • Williams, Raymond. 1980. “Ideas of Nature.” In Culture and Materialism. London: Verso.

Metrics

All Time Past Year Past 30 Days
Abstract Views 339 141 8
Full Text Views 9 4 1
PDF Downloads 4 4 1