The American West at Risk: Science, Myths and Politics of Land Abuse and Recovery
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About the Book

The American West At Risk summarizes the dominant human-generated environmental challenges in the 11 contiguous arid western United States - America's legendary, even mythical, frontier. When discovered by European explorers and later settlers, the west boasted rich soils, bountiful fisheries, immense, dense forests, sparkling streams, untapped ore deposits, and oil bonanzas. It now faces depletion of many of these resources, and potentially serious threats to its few "renewable" resources.

The importance of this story is that preserving lands has a central role for protecting air and water quality, and water supplies - and all support a healthy living environment. The idea that all life on earth is connected in a great chain of being, and that all life is connected to the physical earth in many obvious and subtle ways, is not some new-age fad, it is scientifically demonstrable. An understanding of earth processes, and the significance of their biological connections, is critical in shaping societal values so that national land use policies will conserve the earth and avoid the worst impacts of natural processes. These connections inevitably lead science into the murkier realms of political controversy and bureaucratic stasis.

Most of the chapters in The American West At Risk focus on a human land use or activity that depletes resources and degrades environmental integrity of this resource-rich, but tender and slow-to-heal, western U.S. The activities include forest clearing for many purposes; farming and grazing; mining for aggregate, metals, and other materials; energy extraction and use; military training and weapons manufacturing and testing; road and utility transmission corridors; recreation; urbanization; and disposing of the wastes generated by everything that we do.

Many chapters are based on our own geologic research in a number of western states, which we have come to love deeply. (Apologies to Alaska and Hawaii, whose environmental stories demand separate books). One chapter is devoted to critical western issues of water availability and degradation, and a final chapter details most of the natural processes that continually come up throughout the book. We also define scientific jargon words and concepts in a glossary. Ten appendices cover diverse topics as shown in the outline. We have incorporated essential information on climate change and genetically modified organisms in appropriate chapters, while complete chapters on these topics will appear only on this website.

The American West At Risk is intended to be understandable by non-scientists, but useful to all in setting out scientific bases for promoting local, national, and world policies that maintain earth's crucial life-support systems. For those who wish to delve more deeply into the issues than provided by our discussions, substantial endnotes give appropriate references to the scientific literature and provide additional details. A complete alphabetical index to all references to the scientific literature are given on this website.

THE BOOK

The American West at Risk: Science, Myths and Politics of Land Abuse and Recovery

The American West At Risk summarizes the dominant human-generated environmental challenges in the 11 contiguous arid western United States - America's legendary, even mythical, frontier.

It now faces depletion of many of these resources, and potentially serious threats to its few "renewable" resources.
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Purchase Here at Oxford Press

   

ABOUT THE AUTHORS

Dr. Howard G. Wilshire, Geologist; Dr. Jane E. Nielson, Geologist; Richard W. Hazlett, Geologist


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