Water, Environmental Justice, and a Just Transition

Matthew S. Henry

232 pages
7 photographs, 4 illustrations, 1 map, index


January 2023


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January 2023


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January 2023


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About the Book

2023 Choice Outstanding Academic Title

The story of water in the United States is one of ecosystemic disruption and social injustice. From the Standing Rock Indian Reservation and Flint, Michigan, to the Appalachian coal and gas fields and the Gulf Coast, low-income communities, Indigenous communities, and communities of color face the disproportionate effects of floods, droughts, sea level rise, and water contamination.

In Hydronarratives Matthew S. Henry examines cultural representations that imagine a just transition, a concept rooted in the U.S. labor and environmental justice movements to describe an alternative economic paradigm predicated on sustainability, economic and social equity, and climate resilience. Focused on regions of water insecurity, from central Arizona to central Appalachia, Henry explores how writers, artists, and activists have creatively responded to intensifying water crises in the United States and argues that narrative and storytelling are critical to environmental and social justice advocacy. By drawing on a wide and comprehensive range of narrative texts, historical documentation, policy papers, and literary and cultural scholarship, Henry presents a timely project that examines the social movement, just transition, and the logic of the Green New Deal, in addition to contemporary visions of environmental justice.

Author Bio

Matthew S. Henry is an assistant instructional professor in the Honors College and an affiliate in the School of Energy Resources at the University of Wyoming.


"Hydronarratives is a teachable, hopeful contemplation of water, the arts, and just futures."—Jane Griffith, Western Historical Quarterly

"These studies should enrich the discussion of how to prepare communities to grapple with energy and climate challenges in an equitable way."—E. Gomezdelcampo, Choice

"Hydronarratives is, above all, an argument for the urgent need to look for, identify, and produce future-looking stories about a just transition as a key metric to calling this future into being."—Anne Stewart, H-Environment

“Original, well researched, and current. Hydronarratives is an important contribution to the field of environmental justice and creates a clear connection between artistic imagination—film, museums, photography, sculpture, and literature—and broad social change. Matthew Henry’s book is broadly and impressively grounded in theoretical, journalistic, and political conversations. He deftly demonstrates the connections between these sources and the vital work of reimagining our future.”—David T. Sumner, professor of English and environmental studies at Linfield University

Hydronarratives is poised to make a valuable contribution to the field—specifically regarding cultural studies—with its inclusion of contemporary politics and hopeful futures. The discussion of racial capitalism in particular is thoroughly detailed as it pertains to water issues in key U.S. cities and regions. Complicated and controversial works are analyzed with elegance and care throughout.”—Kathryn Cornell Dolan, author of Cattle Country: Livestock in the Cultural Imagination

Table of Contents

List of Illustrations
Introduction: Storying Water and Justice
1. Decolonizing Drought: Indigenous Collective Continuance in the Lower Colorado River Basin
2. Freedom Dreams for Flint: Imagining a Just Transition beyond Racial Capitalism
3. Extractive Fictions and Post-Extraction Futurisms: Energy, Water, and Environmental Justice in Appalachia
4. On the Wrong Side of the Levee: Sea Level Rise Narratives in the Decade of the Green New Deal 
Conclusion: Imagining a Community-Driven Just Transition in Wyoming


2023 Choice Outstanding Academic Title

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