Monday, May 27, 2013

Real History in a Fictive Universe

Christian Science Monitor October 1914
My involvement in the Future Bear project goes beyond my interest in comic book. As a historian, I study urban planning and development history.  Much of the contemporary debate around environmental problem in the United States reflects questions that first emerged with close of the western frontier in the 1890s and recognition of negative consequences of massive urbanization and industrialization in the United States.

These pressure gave birth to social reform focus on civic betterment and conservation that evolved to become modern city planning and environmental movements.  In our contemporary debates, we arguable about finding viable solution to the pressure associated with sprawl, housing, pollution, and access to municipal services.  These are not new concerns, instead they are same ideas expressed between 1890 and 1920.  The planning and conservation movement that emerged in that period provided a variety of possible solutions that continue today.

 In crafting the Future Bear narrative I'm borrowing from historical debate about public welfare and regulatory standards that began in the 1890s. Replicated decade after decade, the details have evolved, but the ideological positions inherent to groups on both side remain familiar.   For me thinking about how to approach this debate is heavily influenced by my research into the American Civic Association (ACA).  

The ACA was founded in 1904 and was one of the most active organizations promoting rural and urban planning.  The early 20th century was a period of grassroots activism driven by private groups such as the ACA. Ultimately, regardless of the group, the aim was to improve life in the United States.  More often than not, these groups challenged corporate interest and demanded greater government action.  Sound familiar?  I'm tempted to mention history repeating itself, but the truth is repetition is to simplistic a description of debates around environmental regulation.  Indeed, history shows a growth in regulation throughout the 20th century.   Understanding the contours of that debate informs the Future Bear narrative.

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