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A Great Aridness: Climate Change and the…

A Great Aridness: Climate Change and the Future of the American Southwest

by William DeBuys

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An exemplary balance of scholarship and approachability. Wide -ranging topics, from ancient peoples to current quandaries. All very sobering, as it should be. A region that may become the "test case" of how we as a society choose to face some merciless environmental headwinds. ( )
  ThoughtPolice | Aug 10, 2013 |
Well researched and interesting book on the future of the American Southwest in the face of anticipated climate change. William deBuys interviews most of the major players whose decisions will affect the area and considers what the future might hold. Contains the best description yet of the Colorado River Compact that divides Colorado River water between the SW states and Mexico. ( )
  co_coyote | Dec 24, 2012 |
A beautifully written, well-researched account of climate change in the American southwest in the past, present, and future.

Not many environmental writers can be said to write with grace and skill, which is why, despite my deep concerns, I seldom read them. Their books are too full of anger, pain, fear and incomprehensible data to be pleasant reading. William DeBuys is an exception. He offers engaging stories and metaphors along with clear explanations of everything from complex changes in global weather patterns to the ongoing irrationalities of the allocation of water alleged to be in the Colorado River.

Read more on my blog: you, me and books
  mdbrady | Apr 15, 2012 |
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. ( )
  VisibleGhost | Jan 29, 2012 |
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Amazon.com Product Description (ISBN 0199778922, Hardcover)

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 River--upon which nearly 30 million people depend--the author narrates the landscape's history--and 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 worldwide--the Mediterranean Basin, southern Africa, and the Middle East--will 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.

Praise for River of Traps:

"Brims with gifts of language and vision."
--Barbara Kingsolver, The New York Times Book Review

"An irresistibly engaging story...deBuys is a storyteller of poetic breadth with a discerning eye for subtle, sensitive associations."
--The Nation

(retrieved from Amazon Thu, 12 Mar 2015 18:23:25 -0400)

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