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Cadillac Desert: The American West and Its Disappearing Water, Revised Edition Paperback – June 1, 1993
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Reisner captures Western water history in Cinemascope and Technicolor. Cadillac Desert is timely and of national importance. Hurry up and read this book. -- The Washington Post
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Top Customer Reviews
Well, better late than never, and I am pleased to report that it deserves its enduring reputation.
...But let me assume that I am writing this "review" for an audience that is neither familiar with Reisner's book nor aware of the role water development has played in every aspect of the history of the American West, particularly of California.
Briefly, the history of water development contains the whole story of the West, from start to present. Early modern irrigation worked miracles and opened to the plow land previously unavailable for agriculture -- land that now feeds the nation and much of the world. If it were not for these early, massive hydro-projects, not one of the great cities of the West would be even conceivable, millions upon millions of people would and could never have considered settling the western half of the continent. Of course, there was a massive cost accompanying all of these benefits, measurable in human as well as environmental terms, but in those days the cost-benefit analysis was easy.
Building upon early irrigation successes, two government agencies -- the Bureau of Reclamation and the Army Corps of Engineers, may they both live forever in infamy -- garnered unto themselves massive power and independence, which they used to keep on building dam after dam after dam. The problem was not so much (at the time the dams were built) that the environmental costs were higher with every dam, until there now remains no wild river beyond the hundredth meridian of any significance whatsoever, precious little habitat for migratory birds, mass extinctions, etc., etc., tragically etc.Read more ›
There is also an excellent PBS companion 4 video series of the same name which I found available at my library (or sold through Amazon.com packaged with Chinatown) which I would HIGHLY recommend. It adds a lot thorough interviews, footage of a dam failing, and beautiful scenery that lets you appreciate the natural beauty at stake when considering these large water projects.
My reading this book can basically be translated into the author, Marc Reisner, slapping me in the face and chewing me out and me just sitting there unable to defend myself. The book sets forth examples that are virtually impossible to argue against. However, one point Mr. Reisner failed to mention is the importance agriculture plays in our national security and our ability as a nation to sustain ourselves. This point, though, hardly justifies the irrational decisions made buy both the Bureau of Reclamation and the Corps of Engineers. I mention it here as a kind a weak punch from the canvas in an attempt to justify my existence after being so brutally beaten down by facts and the exposure of the blatant hypocrisy perpetuated by so-called "ideological purists" (which come from both sides of the aisle). The author said it best by stating that when it comes to water there are no Republicans and Democrats, and there are no liberals or conservatives.
Most Recent Customer Reviews
Good book if you want to know about all the great American rivers damned up and how farmers and ranchers in the western U.S. are the biggest welfare hogs of all ! Read morePublished 5 days ago by flagboy
Although this book is a bit dated, it is a must read for anyone wanting to understand how water shaped and continues to shape the western United States. Read morePublished 1 month ago by ccisme
I first borrowed this book. then I bough two books because I had to have one in my library and gave one away. Read morePublished 1 month ago by Freia B
A classic. I read this when it was first published in the 1980s, and decided it was time to read it again. Read morePublished 2 months ago by Dingo
It's a great book, but the book I received was missing page 180 and 181.Published 2 months ago by Amazon Customer
An eye-opening must read about the watering of the West--well written by the late Marc Reisner and exhaustively researched. Read morePublished 2 months ago by Jessica G Schreiber