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William KittredgeWhat's important about Vanishing America is its protest against our seeming national willingness to wreck nature and neighborhoods.
—The Washington Post
In these perceptive essays, Conaway (The Far Side of Eden) shows how development and tourism are laying waste to America's natural and cultural landscapes. Entertaining as well as astute, the pieces revolve around his impressions of exceptional places he considers "physical and spiritual barometers" of the country's health, including the Boise River in Idaho (overused and polluted), Napa Valley in California (disfigured by gigantic wineries and McMansions) and national parks (considered "saleable products" by elected officials and adversely affected by too many tourists, toilets, buses, concessionaires and paved highways). On Western communal lands that should be preserved by the Bureau of Land Management, such as New Mexico's Bisti Badlands and Wyoming's Big Piney, energy exploration and extraction, grazing and all-terrain vehicles are taking their toll. On the grounds of Washington, D.C.'s National Cathedral, "development needs" have resulted in new buildings, accommodations for tour buses and a huge gymnasium, so that an institution supposedly dedicated to saving souls has been turned into an "engine of tourism, development, and controversy." Conaway argues persuasively that these irreplaceable landscapes stand for the real America, but because we are sacrificing them to material concerns, we're losing our culture along with the very ground upon which America was built. (Oct.)Copyright 2007 Reed Business Information