With its soaring azure sky and stark landscapes, the American Southwest is one of the most hauntingly beautiful regions on earth. Yet staggering population growth, combined with the intensifying effects of climate change, is driving the oasis-based society close to the brink of a Dust-Bowl-scale catastrophe.
In A Great Aridness, William deBuys paints a compelling picture of what the Southwest might look like when the heat turns up and the water runs out. This semi-arid land, vulnerable to water shortages, rising temperatures, wildfires, and a host of other environmental challenges, is poised to bear the heaviest consequences of global environmental change in the United States. Examining interrelated factors such as vanishing wildlife, forest die backs, and the over-allocation of the already stressed Colorado Riverupon which nearly 30 million people dependthe author narrates the landscape's historyand future. He tells the inspiring stories of the climatologists and others who are helping untangle the complex, interlocking causes and effects of global warming. And while the fate of this region may seem at first blush to be of merely local interest, what happens in the Southwest, deBuys suggests, will provide a glimpse of what other mid-latitude arid lands worldwidethe Mediterranean Basin, southern Africa, and the Middle Eastwill experience in the coming years.
Written with an elegance that recalls the prose of John McPhee and Wallace Stegner, A Great Aridness offers an unflinching look at the dramatic effects of climate change occurring right now in our own backyard.
|Publisher:||Oxford University Press, USA|
|Product dimensions:||5.40(w) x 8.20(h) x 1.10(d)|
About the Author
William deBuys is the author of seven books, including River of Traps: A New Mexico Mountain Life, a New York Times Notable Book of the Year and a finalist for the Pulitzer Prize in general non-fiction in 1991; Enchantment and Exploitation: The Life and Hard Times of a New Mexico Mountain Range; The Walk (an excerpt of which won a Pushcart Prize in 2008), and Salt Dreams: Land and Water in Low-Down California. An active conservationist, deBuys has helped protect more than 150,000 acres in New Mexico, Arizona, and North Carolina. He lives and writes on a small farm in northern New Mexico.
Table of Contents
Introduction: The Tracks at Cedar Springs
Chapter 1: Oracle: Global-Change-Type Drought
Chapter 2: High Blue: the Great Downshift of Dryness
Chapter 3: Sand Canyon: Vanishing Acts
Chapter 4: Janos: A Mirror in Time
Chapter 5: Lava Falls: The Blood of Oasis Civilization
Chapter 6: The Canal at River's End: Thirsty Arizona
Chapter 7: Highway 79 Revisited: "Mega" Trends in the Sun Corridor
Chapter 8: Apache Pass: Crossing the Line
Chapter 9: Mogollon Plateau: Fires Present and Future
Chapter 10: Mount Graham: the Biopolitics of Change
Chapter 11: Hawikku: The End at the Beginning
Most Helpful Customer Reviews
If you have time to read only one book on the probable impact of global warming on the US in general, and the Southwest in particular, this would be a good candidate for that one book. Written much like John McPhees explorations of American geography --- DeBuys travels with scientists, naturalists, urban planners through the areas they work in --- the book looks at the potential for a coming drought in the American Southwest [caused by a return of historic cyclical periods of great drought in the region], how global warming already under way will increase the severity of the drought, , and increase the probable consequences across a variety of topics: impact on desert cities like Phoenix, on agriculture, on forests and fire seasons, and more. A very chewy read that carefully avoids generalizing beyond what the evidence we have at this point will support. If the topic interests you, this one is I think well worth a read. Includes, again much like McPhee's American geography books, looks back into history to describe how the current condition of the South West arose, which snippets are fascinating environmental history in their own right. His chapter on the fire history of the southwest and its relation to the arrival of sheep herds among the Navajos and the relationship between exterminating prairie dog communities and the shifting of grasslands to mesquite shrub lands were I thought especially interesting.
William DeBuys offers an unsettling description of the developing climate crisis in the Southwest. It's especially disturbing as those events are indicators of future crises in other regions. His book is a heartfelt study of a distressing man-made and climate-made downward spiral of this beautiful and fragile land and its inhabitants. It's a poignant plea to take adaptive conservation action in the Southwest now. A must read for those who love the Southwest, and a should read for all others.
William deBuys is a transplant to New Mexico that took to the area like a duck to water. His book, River of Traps: A New Mexico Mountain Life, was a Pulitzer Prize finalist for non-fiction in 1991. His latest book, A Great Aridness: Climate Change and the Future of the American Southwest, is a snapshot of current conditions in the Southwest and some speculations of what the next few decades might bring. His love of the area shines through in an attached way. This isn't written in an unattached scholarly manner. deBuys is not one of those hard-nosed black and white people when it comes to cogitating on the many issues facing the region. He brings out the grays and complexity of trying to address some of these problems. He mainly concentrates on the Colorado Plateau and the Colorado River watershed boundaries- New Mexico, Colorado, Arizona, Southern California, Nevada, Utah, and Northern Mexico. There many areas touched upon, nearly all of them quite interesting. There are glimpses of past, present, and future. The chapter on the Ancestral Puebloans (Anasazi) advances some of the latest theories on the disappearance of these peoples from the areas where they built extensive infrastructure during medieval times. The Sun Corridor in Arizona (roughly from Phoenix to Tucson) has been called one of the least sustainable places in the world, this book brings out some of the reasons why. Another issue is the Beetles and wildfires that have hit hard in the last few years. There are some doubts on total recovery from these disasters. The border fence between Mexico and the US is covered from several angles. Mt. Graham in Arizona has had a controversial last few decades between the astronomers and environmentalists. There was a chapter on the Janos Biosphere Reserve in northern Mexico of which I previously knew very little of. One of the gray areas was fascinating, that of the arguments that have raged over mesquite, prairie dogs, and natural grasses. Some believe that it is not mesquite or grasses that dominate continually, but the area has flip-flopped over the centuries. Neither ranchers nor environmentalists are quite happy with this theory. A Great Aridness was an informative, interesting, and engaging look at the potential problems facing one corner of the world.
This book looks at climate change from another perspective: i.e., water scarcity in the Southwest. Because of this focus in depth on just one aspect, it provides new details to consider. The author ties each chapter to some aspect on Southwest history which, depending upon your particular feelings, can be interesting or odd-putting.