Beyond rainmaking: Climate engineering on the nineteenth century Great Plains

Research output: Contribution to journalArticlepeer-review

Abstract / Description of output

Settler colonists in the nineteenth-century American West thought humans could engineer climate change. The supposed method varied: agriculturists and boosters argued that farming moderated climates, arboriculturists that forest belts humidified the air, and popular theorists that shooting the sky with artillery could shock rain out of it. This article shows that these theories gained credibility from the ways they mimicked the language and appearance of science and statistics. Climate counter-experts became famous because they could put on a performance of seeming scientific fluency. These techno-optimists produced theory after theory that remaking western environments to be more humid, green, and cultivable required the extension of American empire and ecologies, and the extirpation of Indigenous peoples and ecologies. Each theory fell in turn after material conditions of drought and catastrophe proved them wrong. But these ideas nevertheless survived into the climate politics of the present day.
Original languageEnglish
Pages (from-to)137-153
Number of pages17
JournalWestern Historical Quarterly
Issue number2
Publication statusPublished - 27 Mar 2023


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