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Heart of Dryness: How the Last Bushmen Can Help Us Endure the Coming Age of Permanent Drought Hardcover – August 4, 2009

ISBN-13: 978-0802715586 ISBN-10: 0802715583 Edition: First U.S.edition, with full number line
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Editorial Reviews

From Publishers Weekly

Passing references to water woes along the Colorado River and rainfall shortages in the Southeast that have cut hydropower pepper this dramatic report on the looming American (and global) water crisis. Workman filters his apocalyptic forecast through a slice of micro history: the (almost genocidal) 2002 decision of Botswana to force a minute population of Bushmen—inhabitants of the arid Kalahari Desert for tens of thousands of years—off their ancestral lands by sealing the only borehole that provided water to 1,000 desert dwellers and then dumping stored water into the dry sand. The heart of this numbing report on the government's use of water as weapon is Bushman matriarch Qoroxloo, whose ability to wring precious liquid from deep roots and animal carcasses is testament to a wise elder's gritty determination to help her band survive against formidable political and geographic odds. The author's belief that water-starved Western cultures might adapt to a coming age of permanent drought based on pragmatic Bushmen ways posits an unlikely cultural transformation, but his journalistic depiction of a tribal David's triumph over a governmental Goliath is riveting. (Aug.)
Copyright © Reed Business Information, a division of Reed Elsevier Inc. All rights reserved.

About the Author

James G. Workman began his career as a journalist in Washington, D.C., for the New Republic, Washington Monthly, Utne Reader, Orion, and other publications. H e was a speechwriter in the Clinton administration, working closely with Interior Secretary Bruce Babbitt, and steering the "dambuster" campaign to tear down river-killing dams. He helped edit and launch the report of the World Commission on Dams, and spent two years filing monthly dispatches on water scarcity in Africa, work which formed the basis of a National Public Radio show and documentary. He is now a water consultant to politicians, businesses, aid agencies, development institutions, and conservation organizations on four continents. He lives with his wife and children in San Francisco.


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Product Details

  • Hardcover: 336 pages
  • Publisher: Walker & Company; First U.S.edition, with full number line edition (August 4, 2009)
  • Language: English
  • ISBN-10: 0802715583
  • ISBN-13: 978-0802715586
  • Product Dimensions: 6.4 x 1.2 x 9.6 inches
  • Shipping Weight: 1.4 pounds (View shipping rates and policies)
  • Average Customer Review: 4.6 out of 5 stars  See all reviews (25 customer reviews)
  • Amazon Best Sellers Rank: #930,431 in Books (See Top 100 in Books)

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More About the Author

James Workman began his award-winning career as a journalist in Washington, D.C. for The New Republic, Washington Monthly, Utne Reader, Orion, Washington Business Journal, and other publications. In the Clinton administration he served as speechwriter and special assistant to Interior Secretary Bruce Babbitt, releasing wolves back into the wild, restoring the natural role of fire in western forests, and spearheading a national campaign that blew up obsolete dams to replenish dying rivers. For seven years in Africa and Asia he helped forge the landmark report of the World Commission on Dams, filed overseas dispatches on water scarcity, led radio and TV documentary research safaris, spoke at universities, and advised global businesses, aid agencies, and conservation organizations on water policy. Based on his experience with the Kalahari Bushmen, he is pioneering new platforms for trading the human right to water. He lives in San Francisco with his wife Vanessa and their two daughters Camille and Louise. Please visit James Workman's web site, www.heartofdryness.com

Customer Reviews

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Most Helpful Customer Reviews

5 of 5 people found the following review helpful By Gordon L. Brigham on November 7, 2009
Format: Hardcover
Often the most powerful messages come in the simplest form. The messae in "Heart of Dryness" is one of those, but it comes layered. Water is a scarce resource, be smart using and conserving it/We of the developed world may not have all the answers, and we should be humble, thankful and open to the wisdom of those whose "science" is deeper and more personal/The solutions to our problems today might well come in clever, even thoughtful thirty-second soundbites. It may well have to, since that seems increasingy to be the span of attention we have to deal with. However,it is the dedication, patience and persistence required to implement those solutions that is missing.

The author's journey in writing "Heart of Dryness" parallels the longer journey taken by the Bushmen he writes about. There is an instinctive awarensss of the injustices too prevalent in the world, and an understanding that science does not provide the only knowledge that can guide us. The narrative of human struggle is inseparable from the critical issue of water's role in the health and politics of the world.

The book weaves a compelling story that early on begins to raise the central question" "OK, growing water scarcity and waste in its usage is a pervasive issue for out times - but how can we tackle the problem?" The response to that question comes at the end of the book; it is concise and direct - longer than thirty-seconds but with the same impact. But as with the soundbites, the devil is in the details of execution and there is no encouraging indication that there is a growing leadership to move toward the complex steps of implementation.

This book is a must-read, whether you are a scientist concerned with water management, or a humanitarian searching for lessons and experience for others to live by.
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3 of 3 people found the following review helpful By Andrew Rice on October 31, 2009
Format: Hardcover Verified Purchase
In Heart of Dryness, James Workman has shown how the most prosaic of resources--water--can become a flashpoint for far-reaching political conflicts. Botswana is one of the few African nations that can be said to have had a prosperous post-colonial experience, but as Workman demonstrates, its success has been built, at least in part, on manipulation of scarce water resources. The losers have been the Bushmen, an ancient, nomadic tribe that has long lived a low-impact existence in the Kalahari, using age-old conservation methods. At a time when the problem of water scarcity is taking on increasing importance in the environmental debate, Heart of Dryness is not merely another warning--though it is full of alarming portents--but also a fascinating legal drama. The Bushmen end up taking the government to court, asking for an affirmation to the human right to water. Workman spent a great deal of time with the Bushmen during their long fight, and his book bursts with the kind of details and nuances that can only come from lived experience. If you've come to this subject because you're interested in environmental issues, this book will teach you about Africa; if you've picked it up because you're fascinated by Africa, as I am, this book will open your eyes to a budding--but with political will, addressable--world water crisis. And if you are merely a fan of well-told stories, full of vivid characters and surprising insights, Workman's masterful book will not disappoint. There's nothing dry about it.
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3 of 3 people found the following review helpful By Alice G. Thomes on September 9, 2009
Format: Hardcover
This a book that raises conciousness on SO many levels! It is written straight from the heart of a person who has spent his career understanding water on a global level and people need to wake up and listen to his ideas before it is too late! The planet can exist without people just fine, it is people who cannot continue to exist without understanding how to coexist with the planet. Nature is stronger than we are and will not allow us to overtax our resources. We need to live within nature's boundaries or the earth will not be habitable to humans. The story is very well written and intriquing, almost a thriller, it just happens to be very real and on target for today's world. His suggestions on how to help our already very real problems with water are pragmatic and sensible. Everyone should read this book!
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4 of 5 people found the following review helpful By Sterghe VINE VOICE on May 26, 2009
Format: Hardcover Vine Customer Review of Free Product ( What's this? )
This readable, carefully documented little book seems essential reading for anyone not aware of the global water crisis--and important, fascinating reading for anyone who is.

Workman shares the example of the Bushmen, indigenous residents of Africa's dry Kalahari region, to illustrate one way that contemporary governments may cut off access to water in order to control independent-minded people. While he does share many of the Bushmen's strategies for thriving while using very little water themselves, the emphasis is on the role of water in power politics, both within a country and between nations.

For many Americans, this report may seem alarmist and distant. But, with 36 US states predicting water shortages in the very near future, last year's reports of droughts in Atlanta emerge as something more ominous than a freak, one-time occurence. As Workman explains, the warnings of "hand-wringing liberal environmentalists and social activists" are, this time, "amplified by nervous conservative, industrial interests, and development boosters preaching that the end of water [is:] nigh." Africa's Botswana, too, is not the only government willing to weaponize water by beseiging people it wants to move elsewhere. The US did the same thing, historically, to its own indigenous peoples, and has used the tactic in this century in Iraq and Afghanistan.

More essential than oil, more precious than gold or spices, water may be the resource that underlies power struggles in the years to come. That's a dark thought, because bystanders who can live without oil, gold, or spices will die without water.

Well-written, well-informed, and well-referenced, Heart of Dryness is also well worth reading.
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