Glen M. MacDonald dispels the myth that Los Angeles is a desert city. But he also warns that a desert is what Los Angeles may one day become. After defining what a desert is and then proving that Los Angeles (for now) is not a desert, Macdonald investigates the origins of the “desert city” myth. This myth has thrived despite the evidence that MacDonald culls from various archives: a missionary's diary entries describing Los Angeles in 1769, nineteenth century newspaper reports and photographs, and a very recent MODIS satellite image of the city. If Los Angeles has yet to be described accurately as a desert, the encroachments that the ever-expanding city is making, particularly on the Mojave, along with climate change, threaten to make the desert city myth real. Nevertheless, MacDonald argues, rather than reify this old myth, perhaps it is time we create a new one.
The Myth of a Desert Metropolis: Los Angeles was not built in a desert, but are we making it one?
Glen M. MacDonald is a director of the Institute of the Environment and Sustainability and professor of geography and ecology and evolutionary biology at the University of California, Los Angeles. He is the author of Biogeography: Space, Time and Life. His research focuses on climatic and environmental change.
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Glen M. MacDonald; The Myth of a Desert Metropolis: Los Angeles was not built in a desert, but are we making it one?. Boom 1 September 2013; 3 (3): 86–94. doi: https://doi.org/10.1525/boom.2013.3.3.86
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