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Shadows on the Gulf: A Journey through Our Last Great Wetland Hardcover – April 26, 2011
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"A must-read for anyone who cares about the richest estuary on earth, or one of the most endangered land masses." --Huffington Post
“Shadows is not specifically about the Deepwater Horizon blowout and its aftermath―although it plays a central role in the narrative. It's brimming with engaging information about a little-known region and leavened with moments of grace.” ―Wall Street Journal
“Brilliant… The wonderfully vivid descriptions of the landscape will place readers right by Jacobsen's side as he describes the changes to the biodiversity, environment, and culture of the Gulf region.” ―Library Journal
About the Author
Rowan Jacobsen is the James Beard Award- winning author of
A Geography of Oysters, Fruitless
Fall, The Living Shore, and
American Terroir. He has written about food,
place, and the natural world for Harper's,
Newsweek, Eating Well, and
others, and his commentaries on the Gulf crisis have appeared in
Outside magazine and the New York
Times and on MSNBC. He was raised in Florida and attended
school on the Gulf Coast.
Top Customer Reviews
I get it. I don't need to spend a week reading about it.
The only reason I picked up Jacobsen's book is because it doesn't mention the oil spill on the cover - I thought I was just getting a "nature book."
The book is actually a look at the spill, the technology of oil drilling, and the culture and ecology of the Gulf. Each topic is treated with just enough detail, and the portions on the Gulf and its environment are wonderful. I live halfway across the country from the Gulf, but I came away with a better appreciation of its people and its environment and a better understanding of how the oil spill happened. For example, Jacobsen points out that on deep wells, blowout preventers have only been used a few times and have failed about half of the time - so this was not an unforeseeable disaster as often portrayed in the press.
Each chapter in the book reads like a long, extremely well-crafted magazine article on an aspect of the Gulf or of the spill. Jacobsen is an excellent writer, and has a great way of explaining relatively complex topics gracefully and without getting bogged down in details.
One of the better books on any subject I have read this year. In terms of detail, tone, and style it is "just right."
This is the most detailed accounting of the damage done to the Gulf of Mexico (Lousiania) Wetlands by the BP Mercondo Well blow out I have come across. The only thing that is missing is the insider perspective that is also needed in a telling of this story. I worked offshore and for this Company for the last few years of my career in the Gas Industry. Yes, I agree this is a quite important work and certainly the information given by Mr. Jacobsen concerning the proposed recovery undertaken are lacking. The distructive result of the damage to the Gulf wetlands deserve a larger long term assessment by firstly the Regulatory Offices of our Federal overseeres and especially State regulatory agencies that oversee daily activities of the Oil and Gas industries, which the do so poorly and allow the monied interest of the industry do their own policing on the most part of what is done. The Industry Interests call the shots concerning the day to day watchdog activities. There have been many minor spills throughout the history of production and drilling and many have been overlooked by all but the workers out on the rusting and antiquated older production rigs, manned by untrained workers who feel their jobs are in jepardy, with any action they perform in their daily activities which can easily result in spill if equipment and operations of the Rig are aged and not well maintained. I was encouraged by information given in the opening chapters and I do also, as others have stated, believe there is a stubborn resilience in the ecosystem to recover from the effects of these spills flowing through the salt water and eventually coming ashore to coat the marshes the animals, birds and fish estuaries of our wetlands and surely damaging the source of life of the fish and other wetland creatures that populate the Gulf waters, channels and bayous.
The damages continue though, with the daily flow of the Mississippi River into the Gulf carrying Agriculture's runoff of fertilizers and pesticides from upstream users of this wonderful resource. The deregulation of our environmental protections of years past continue with conservative political posturing to all Big Business, Agriculture and Manufacturing to do evermore incrimental damages to the Ecosystem of the Gulf. If we care at all about our ecosystems we will continue to push for enforcement of our regulatory activities, testing of the waters, monitor and control all development in this area to minimize damages that would be done by those who if not regulated will knowingly and intentially cause damage.
This, I think, is quite an important book and certainly the proposals tendered by author Jacobsen on aiding a recovery of sorts to the massively damaged Gulf deserve a large hearing. At first I was encouraged by what he found in his opening chapters, and began to believe there was a promising resilience in the wildlife and ecosystem of our last great wetlands. However; as Rowan Jacobsen continued his tour of the region and more details were revealed, that promise seemed to evaporate. BP's Deepwater Horizon rig blow-out and futilely incompetent efforts to limit the effects of the explosion and subsequent leakage, are, Jacobsen argues, only the latest - and perhaps closing- chapters of a 100 year long disaster, and do not even measure up to be a major significance in the overall rape of the Gulf and the ongoing destruction of the regional ecology by hurricane, seepage, outfall, over-fishing, and erosion - all supported by a massive assist from the Army Corp of Engineering.
The Gulf of Mexico is one of the world's most beautiful bodies of water, anywhere. It is vitally important to the world's interlinked ecosystem and provides significant contribution to the food chain of all sea and many land creatures. The resources are, of course, more than food alone and oil, gas and mineral extraction are significant factors in its overall value to our economy and infrastructure. The Mississippi River and Delta have been a national treasure for centuries. But, as Jacobson demonstrates, may within just one generation, cease to provide for its peoples, and the Delta and City of New Orleans, eroding at a rate of a football field a day, will sink into the Gulf as a `modern day Atlantis'.
My own love affair with the Gulf started at age 16 with a passage of the Florida Keys, sailing through to Lake Charles, Louisiana and deep into the bayous to collect Methane Gas for transport back to England. The Natural Gas well was drilled not only into the Gulf's core, but was located well into the wet-lands and swamp of Louisiana. Later, in another career in electronics I paid a few visits to North Sea and Gulf (Arabia) offshore rigs and had the VIP tours as described in Shadows by Jacobsen. However, despite this perhaps closer than most exposure, I failed to understand the media explanations of why the BP rig blew or how the multiple attempts failed to seal the leaks. Shadows contains a chapter (The Unthinkable has Become the Thinkable) and a diagram that enabled a clarity and a deeper understanding than anything else I had previously watched or read.
Rowan Jacobsen's earlier books on food, the American Terroir and The Geography of Oysters had also clarified delightful details that I devoured with delight. Shadows is more depressing than those works and despite his opening remark that the book is not an eulogy for the Gulf on page 7 by the time you sail, paddle and wade with the author to page 207 it certainly feels that one might be appropriate.
gift for my son, who is spending the week of "his day", canoeing the mighty
Mississippi from Shreveport all the way to the Gulf. Is a must read for anyone
interested in preserving and protecting our precious water ways.