Cadillac Desert The American West and Its Disappearing Water (KINDLE)
About 60% completedThe problem is that it is relentlessly negative and cynical It s entirely deserved mind you but the sheer and ceaseless inundation of greed corruption and ignorance depicted in the politicians and leaders behind the American southwest s water policy became too hard to swallow I m not naive and I absolutely loathe the phrase ignorance is bliss But honestly ignorance is bliss I eventually realize the value of the nowledge gained was less than what I was losing in disgust and distaste for my fellow human beings I m happy I read what I did for this was a topic on which I was wholly ignorant But I m also uite happy I stopped when I did for the book s themes become entirely repetitive and redundant An amazing book that was too longThe best synopsis I came upon was on page 484 illegal subsidies enrich big farmers whose excess production depresses crop prices nationwide and whose waste of cheap water creates an environmental calamity that could cost billions to solve He goes into copious detail in the 500 pages The political system congress Bureau of Reclamation and Army Corp of Engineers become a vicious cycle that dam and divert rivers as much as they can whether it makes sense or notLots of great stories how Los Angeles got its start and remains dependent on diverted water how western states fight over water the bull headedness of Floyd Dominy an early head of the Bureau how Jimmy Carter got eviscerated by politics trying to shut down bad projects how Lyndon Johnson got his political start by supporting dam projects on and on Also lots of long lists of dams and their capacity projects and their ill fatedness many mentions of millions of acre feetMarc Reisner was director of communications for the Natural Resources Defense Council NRDC so he leans towards preservation of the natural environment ie not dams Here he over communicated I would have loved to read the 200 page version As it is I had to come back to it several times to get through itThe original copyright is 1986 and he added an epilogue in 1992 I believe His book is filled with predictions of disaster Basically we are drawing down groundwater 1000 times faster than nature replenishes it It is 24 years later I d love to see an accounting of how well his predictions have come true Some reuired retroactive expectation management Marc Reisner was a journalist writing for a general audience Much like Charles Mann and Pollan and other pop non fiction writers from the journalistic world he was less concerned with thorough documentation than he was with persuasion and exposition even though few things are persuasive than accurate documentation and logical analysis With that in mind I should not have been so utterly enraged by the nearly complete absence of direct citations in this book despite numerous facts figures and yea uoted dialogue included Reisner was writing without the benefit of Endnote after all and he was a well respected tweedy looking academic so I should just trust him rightSome intriguing propositionsTeddy Roosevelt personally colluded with the city of Los Angles the Reclamation Service and the Forest Service to destroy the irrigated communities in Owens Valley for the sake of LAI guess the fact that TR s brand of environmentalism was way utilitarian than most people think isn t exactly news but the fact that his utilitarianism extended to provisioning a metropolis like LA was a bit surprisingIrrigated agriculture in the American West was is supported by a welfare stateApparently it s ok for the state to pay farmers in Ohio not to farm while practically giving away subsidized water to giant agribusiness conglomerates owned by oil companies in California but universal healthcare is a waste of money and would never work At least I Arise know I m free Just not free to eat wild salmonDamming and hydropower in the Pacific NW was instrumental in WWII bc electricity and lots of it are reuired to produce aluminum for planes and plutonium for A bombsReisner basically asserts that the US might not have defeated the Axis if it weren t for northwestern hydropower which is a pretty amazing idea that would have been even amazing with some supporting evidence showing increasing electricity generation and aluminum production in the US Germany and Japan during the war years Should I read Richard RhodesIn addition to the citation thing there were also these surreal moments of anti Irish racism like this description of William Mullholand His face is supremely Irish belligerence in repose a seductive churlish charm p 58 Seriously find a Japanese farmer who s cunning and inscrutable and you ll just about have me pegged Marc I might have to slam some Jameson andarate chop you to death Maybe it s petty of me to go all ad hominem on a dead environmentalist who clearly despite lack of citation Archies Americana, Vol. 1 knew about the history of water in the West than I ever will and yes the stereotypical Irish American is himself racist and perhaps anti Irish bigotry is so outdated and comical that the Simpsons were able to repeatedly employ it to great comedic effect over a decade ago breathes but c mon thisind of crap isn t appropriate in a respected work of non fiction Even from the 80sOverall if I swallowed my aforementioned misgivings this was a fascinating and engaging history of water in the West I was both intrigued and impressed by Reisner s unwillingness to impose some ind of grand theory on it all The events he depicts seem mostly driven by greed incompetence petty competition and simple climactic contingency I never got the sense that he was driving toward some absurdly reductive single flaw in our culture Water use in the West is messed up and this book is mostly about how it got that way not why For all its reputation as an environmentalist fire starter to mix metaphors uite horrifically though I was surprised at how little doomsaying Reisner indulged in Not until the very end does he start talking about silting reservoirs and salting the earth I should also say that despite the lack of citation the bibliography looks great I wonder if the interviews he conducted have been archived anywhereSome further reading seems like it might be a bit less journalistic scientific article testing some of Reisner s predictions available online but I d love to see it in person That was a slow read Very pretty And the author was very fond of obscure words Obscure words that I refuse to look up and I don t think I would have even with an electronic copy I read this book if this doesn t make you want to take Los Angeles and associated farmland and dump it in the ocean nothing will Great history of water development in the west What a book It s dense and involved and took me forever to read but it has fundamentally changed the way I view the American West And Reisner s writing is entertaining as hell. Bureau of Reclamation and the US Army Corps of Engineers in the competition to transform the WestBased on than a decade of research Cadillac Desert is a stunning expose and a dramatic intriguing history of the creation of an Eden an Eden that may be only a mira.
If you read only one book about the role of water in the west this should be the one Reisner recounts the complex and often violent history of efforts to control water in this dry land Only in the last few years has water been allowed to return into the once verdant Owens Valley of California after it was diverted through subterfuge to supply the needs of southern California There is so much history to tell about the way the huge dams along the Colorado River were sold to the American public based on benefits that never fully materialized It is sobering to think how Reisner s story will play out since written in the late 1980 s with the growing population and increasing droughts from climate change His tale makes one wonder how much we have yet to learn about how to relate to our environment A simply great book about the past present and future of water in the US The focus is on the dry side of America but not just west of the Rockies The High Plains and the Ogalalla Auifer as well as the Upper Missouri get extended treatmentSo too does the fact that rugged Westerners are ultimately usually socialists when it comes to the issue of water and it being supplied to farms at below cost by the federal government and acreage limits then being brokenIt s not just the lack of water and cost of water Reisner covers He also notes that with alkaline soils of much of the West irrigation tends to raise salt levels Yes we may eventually genetically engineer salt tolerant crops but how far can we take thisThe only regret is that Reisner died before being able to pen another issue of this book to take global warming into account fullyAnyway especially on the Colorado as Phoenix and Las Vegas struggle with jobs and diminishing water supplies at the same time this book reminds us of Ed Abbey s phrase The desert always winsI ve re read this than once every few years and get new insights every time A year later I ve given CD a second read and must finally award it the 5th star for whatever that s worth that it so deserves One of the most scathing witty and instructive books of political environmentaleconomic journalism that I ve ever had the pleasure and horror to read I do so wish Reisner was still around to bring us up to date on this most vital and fascinating subject Afterward to revised 1992 edition is as close to contemporary as CD getsBrilliant enough for 5 stars but it caused me a bit of reader fatigue due to its relentless comprehensiveness Impeccably researched Cadillac Desert meets the highest standards of investigative reportage Which is not to say that Reisner is absolutely objective always an illusive goal at best nor sober in his approach At times his tone borders on the sarcastic as if he were saying you are not going to believe exactly how incredibly stupid this idea was His account is apolitical in the sense that he depicts Democrats and Republicans both on the state and national levels as bipartisan in their promotion and funding of the most suspect environmentally socially economicallydams and water projects going back at least as far as the New Deal Reisner takes a close and critical look at the very notion of irrigation farming in a desert its costs benefits and long term conseuences depletion of the Ogallala Auifer deadly salinity levels of land and water the making of wild river an oxymoron etc An apt secondary subtitle for the book might be Water flows uphill toward political power and money An entirely concrete example of this aphorism would be the California Aueduct particularly that section which carries water over the Tehachapis to LA The water is carried across the Tehachapis in five separate stages The final cyclopean one which occurs at the AD Edmonston Pumping Plant raises the water 1926 feet the Eiffel Tower atop the Empire State in a single lift At their peak capacity if it is ever reached the Edmonston pumps will reuire six billion ilowatts of electricity every year Moving water in California reuires electrical energy than is used by several states First published in 1986 and subseuently revised in 1993 Cadillac Desert if less prophetic now than it was 20 25 years ago remains relevant and instructive And if you ever thought there might be a silver lining to pork barrel politics it s a must read In light of the recent financial system bail out and with many touting infrastructure projects as a solution to our current high unemployment and economic malaise reviewing the history of perhaps the greatest public works program ever anywhere will give you pause Dams and water projects California s Central Valley Project and the Central Arizona Project are just two examples can have both intended and unintended conseuences that make them less than great ideas Engineers and experts Bureau of Reclamation Army Corps of Engineers Water Commissioners Resource Specialists etc can be as greedy short sighted and blinded by belief in their own expertise and desire for power as anyone else Reisner s description of the proposed Narrows Dam on the Lower South Platte River in Colorado thankfully a project that was subseuently abandoned though it was all too typical of projects that have been built makes for a good summary Here was a dam that the state engineer said would deliver only a third of the water it promised and could conceivably collapse a project whose official cost estimate would barely suffice to relocate twenty six miles of railroad track a project whose real cost whatever it turned out to be would therefore be written off in substantial measure to recreation though the water would be unsafe to touch a project whose prevailing interest rate was one fifth the rates banks were charging in the late 1970s a project many of whose beneficiaries owned land than the law permitted in order to receive subsidized water a project that might if the state engineer was correct seep enough water to turn the town of Fort Morgan into a marsh a project that would pile debt onto the Bureau s Missouri Basin Project a project that would generate not a single Talk to Me kilowatt of hydroelectric power and would be all but worthless for flood control Why not a fifth starI don tnow That doesn t make sense to me Speaker Dennis Hastert R IL on whether New Orleans should be rebuilt in the wake of Hurricane Katrina Sept 2 2005Because as important and well written as this book is it is pervaded by a few theoretical flaws in its rhetorical portion The factual reporting and research are impeccable and at this point this book is famous in its own right and it deserves that But1 The Naturalistic Fallacy If humans do not belong in California or Arizona where do they belong In Reisner s native Minnesota where there s many lakes Of course this is absurd Very few people could survive in Minnesota without the energy that is produced there from fuel brought from elsewher. The story of the American West is the story of a relentless uest for a precious re water It is a tale of rivers diverted and dammed of political corruption and intrigue of billion dollar battles over water rights of ecologic and economic disaster In Cadillac Des.
E without rapidly deforesting it and belching the pollution of numerous wood fires So what about further south Just about everywhere you go humans are out of their natural element which is some place in Africa Even where they are in their element they are there in numbers that are unsustainable based on using only very local resources Unless we allow trains trucks ships and planes into our natural world Indeed most human habitations make little sense in some way just as Speaker Hastert said of New Orleans But yet there they are Hastert s remark was just one comment made in the wake of terrible suffering and was probably driven by his human sympathy not wanting to see this go on again But it was insensitive on another level and he was criticized for it Reisner s whole book is basically saying the same thing about the entire Southwestern United StatesThe irony is that this book was largely written at a time when it was abundantly clear than energy not water was the common denominator in resource policy A few short years after the oil shocks the Iranian revolution during the Iran Ira War and revised months after the First Gulf War Resiner and other water conservationists must realize they are the junior varsity This is before all of this activity unleashed the events of the Bush era2 A sort of Malthusian bias Policymakers often don t have the luxury of seeing things from lightyears high If population growth really is the problem it s difficult if not impossible for water policymakers alone to do anything about it and probably in a democracy we don t want them to The people go where they do and the water must follow3 Los Angeles and the San Joauin valley get slammed with plenty of heat in this book and it s well deserved But what about San Francisco Not only does San Francisco take water from hundreds of miles away it takes it from a dam located in Yosemite National Park the construction of which reportedly caused John Muir to die of a broken heart The existence of San Francisco and the rapid urbanization of San Jose and the sustainability of the very high property values in these areas thanks to the development in areas inland not just farms are all thanks to diverted water The San Francisco Chronicle can bleat all it wants against Los Angeles s water supply but as it almost found out the hard way in 2012 people have a funny way of believing the principles their editorialist overlords tell them in cases beyond those they were intended for Is Hetch Hetchy a greater sin against the environment than Mono Lake I can t make that judgment for everyone but it s of the same Silver Mortal (The Gracen Chronicles, kind and Los Angeles has mitigated the damage to Mono Lake San Francisco for all of its radical leftist politics has done nothing but go apoplectic every time a plan to restore Hetch Hetchy is presentedThe most compelling part of Reisner s critiue is what you might call the corporate welfare element Does it make sense for the government to pay large farming corporations in the form of cheap water while it pays other farmers in the east not to grow certain things Well no especially not for someone dedicated to the free market But are we Is Reisner It seems strange to argue for conservation while arguing against government intervention in the markets Sure you can argue that when externalities are factored in the market can operate But that sind of bullshit because you have to use the government make those things factored in There was graft and bureaucratic manipulation in the Apollo project tooMeanwhile the focus on water Resiner s critiues are valid to the extent he critiues water policy But when he extends his critiue to the issue of the entire settlement of the west he goes too far afield As the title of the book implies this is a central theme of the book But just like the natural gas pipelines that bring heat to the bone chilling cold of Resiner s native Minnesota or the levies that are supposed to eep New Orleans dry or the gasoline that makes homes affordable to the urban sprawl not just in Los Angeles but in the DC metro the New York area Atlanta Houston etc etc ad nauseam there is man made manipulation of things other than water everywhere you turn Even the Native Americans used massive fires to manipulate the landscape for their purposes We all live in glass houses not just Southern Californians and ArizonansThis is not to say that water shouldn t be conserved that nature shouldn t be a top consideration in water projects but rather that it s not the only thing or even the main limiting factor Indeed if energy literally were not a concern the aueducts wouldn t flow from the Sierra to Southern California they would flow from the coast where one would find numerous desalination plants inland to the deserts But since even as of today it is still far cheaper to build a massive project like the State Water Project than it is to desalinate that much water due to the energy costs much less do so without fossil fuels it isn t doneThe history of the last 30 years is different than the 30 years before it In the recent period we have seen a major American city destroyed by a failure of adeuate public works and we have seen the fallout It s the poor and the elderly and people of color who suffer disproportionately Speaker Hastert wasn t wrong that New Orleans doesn t make sense Maybe Phoenix and Los Angeles don t make sense either But the people who will suffer from such a degree on high aren t the corporate farmers If the taps run dry in the Southwest somehow I don t think it will be the rich who suffer In that same period we have seen resource wars where tens of thousands die for energy All in all the western water works seem far less absurd in retrospect Would all of these people running their fossil fuel furnaces in the east be better for the world In the 30 years before Cadillac Desert was written disasters like Love Canal Three Mile Island the Cuyahoga River LA s air and numerous others showed many people the wisdom and need for strong environmental protection Thank god Books like it helped move things in a much sensical direction We can do that without wiping the west off the map and we ve been proving it for a while now I read this non fiction book after reading the fiction book The Water Knife which mentions Cadillac Desert multiple times Indeed Cadillac Desert clearly served as a major motivator behind Bacigalupi s novel So I figured hey let s do a one two fiction nonfiction comboOkay so this book is about the water works of the Southeast and the cities and organizations that guided them Los Angeles Army Corp of Engineers Bureau of Reclamation etc It is superbly well written with rich detail not just about the projects and politics but the people behind themAnd yet I reached a point that I just couldn t pick it up and read any In fact I m retiring this book at only. Ert Marc Reisner writes of the earliest settlers lured by the promise of paradise and of the ruthless tactics employed by Los Angeles politicians and business interests to ensure the city's growth He documents the bitter rivalry between two government giants the.
Marc Reisner ✓ 7 FREE READ
Cadillac Desert The American West and Its Disappearing Water (KINDLE)
Marc Reisner was an American environmentalist and writer best known for his book Cadillac Desert a history of water management in the American WestHe was born in Minneapolis Minnesota the son of a lawyer and a scriptwriter and graduated from Earlham College in 1971 For a time he was on the staffs of Environmental Action and the Population Institute in Washington DC Starting in 1972 he wo