The American West at Risk: Science, Myths and Politics of Land Abuse and Recovery
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...the mistaken belief that human industrial civilization can survive apart from nature... leads countless well-intentioned people to argue that nature is an amenity, and should be preserved because, basically, it's cute... [When] hard-headed practicality takes precedence over emotional appeals... nature can... be ravaged with impunity.
- John Michael Greer, The Archdruid Report, 2008

We need birth control, not geoengineering.
- Lisa Hymas, April 2010

Do I know you folks well enough to call you fellow plunderers of the earth? As plunderers we are the inter-generational tyrants who are helping to hand an environmentally ravaged planet to our grandchildren.
- Ray Anderson, CEO Interface, in The Corporation, 2004

There is no combination of alternative energies (nor will there ever be) that can possibly sustain the edifice built by oil. In the industrialized world there are ten calories of hydrocarbon energy involved in the production of every calorie of food. Our soils have been little more than infertile sponges onto which we throw massive amounts of chemicals derived from oil and natural gas.
- Michael C. Ruppert, May 2009

It's a dizzying departure from reason to insist that the advantages conferred by the internet mean that the internet must continue to exist. The fact that something is an advantage does not guarantee that it is possible.
- John Michael Greer, The Economics of Decline

I have seen the future, and it won't work.
- Paul Krugman, May 2009

That the alarmists have regularly and mistakenly cried "wolf!" does not a priori imply that the woods are safe.
- E. Neumayer, Scarce or Abundant? The Economics of Natural Resource Availability 2000

Today we have an Obama administration, and other G-20 leaders underlining their solemn engagement, and indulging in extremely massive public borrowing to save the world car industry, the world airline industry, homebuilding and urban construction, and so on, with the sole target of restoring absolutely conventional economic growth!
- Andrew McKillop, May 2009

We make believe that we can have infinite human growth and the age of oil will last forever. We have to make believe that we can kill a planet and still live on it.
- Derrick Jensen, The Culture of Make Believe

Nature doesn't do bailouts.
- Climate advocates' slogan, London, March 2009

We literally cannot restart the growth thing.
- James Howard Kunstler, March 2009

Our technological breakthroughs are indeed miraculous, but mankind still cannot create one of the essentials of life - water - or one of the great luxuries of life: petroleum. There are limits.
- Cynthia Tucker, Baltimore Sun, November 19, 2007

Population predictions for greater metro Albuquerque over the next l8 years seem delusional. If we don't stop wasting public resources on growth that could well end up impoverishing us all, I see a systems breakdown caused by bad water, water shortages and aquifer depletion, traffic congestion, air pollution, astronomical fuel prices, global warming, drought and increasingly expensive trucked-in food.
- V.B. Price, Albuquerque Tribune, October 12, 2007

In response to a question about how the mainstream population might be made aware of the issues of peak oil and climate change, Nate Hagens said it will take young women selecting men for traits that favor sustainability rather than competition, speed, brawn, or whatever traits they select on now
- Nate Hagens, ASPO 6, September, 2007

The Irish Elk, prior to its extinction, had antlers that were 12 feet across. The male Irish Elk had come to depend on the size of his horns for his sexual desirability, and in the end it needed so much phosphorous to sustain these horns, that the entire species died out.
- Nate Hagens, ASPO 6, September 2007

Our national faith so far has been: "There's always more." Our true religion is a sort of autistic industrialism. People of intelligence and ability seem now to be genuinely embarrassed by any solution to any problem that does not involve high technology, a great expenditure of energy, or a big machine. In confronting the phenomenon of "peak oil," we are really confronting the end of our customary delusion of "more." Whichever way we turn, from now on, we are going to find a limit beyond which there will be no more. To hit these limits at top speed is not a rational choice. To start slowing down, with the idea of avoiding catastrophe, is a rational choice, and a viable one if we can recover the necessary political sanity. Of course it makes sense to consider alternative energy sources, provided they make sense. But we will have to re-examine the economic structures of our lives, and conform them to the tolerances and limits of our earthly places. Where there is no more, our one choice is to make the most and the best of what we have.
- Wendell Berry, "Faustian Economics: Hell Hath no Limits",Harpers, May 2008

The rate of soil loss and, hence, fertility, is several times to several orders of magnitude greater than the rate of soil production.
- David R. Montgomery, Is Agriculture Eroding Civilization's Foundation? GSA Today, October 2007

The world's present industrial civilization is handicapped by the coexistence of two universal, overlapping, and incompatible intellectual systems: the accumulated knowledge of the last four centuries of the properties and interrelationships of matter and energy; and the associated monetary culture which has evolved from folkways of prehistoric origin. Despite their inherent incompatibilities, these two systems during the last two centuries have had one fundamental characteristic in common, namely, exponential growth, which has made a reasonably stable coexistence possible. But, for various reasons, it is impossible for the matter-energy system to sustain exponential growth for more than a few tens of doublings, and this phase is by now almost over. The monetary system has no such constraints, and, according to one of its most fundamental rules, it must continue to grow by compound interest. This disparity between a monetary system which continues to grow exponentially and a physical system which is unable to do so leads to an increase with time in the ratio of money to the output of the physical system. This manifests itself as price inflation. A monetary alternative corresponding to a zero physical growth rate would be a zero interest rate. The result in either case would be large-scale financial instability.
- M. King Hubbert

Our bailout of Detroit will be remembered as the equivalent of pouring billions of dollars of taxpayer money into the mail-order-catalogue business on the eve of the birth of eBay. It will be remembered as pouring billions of dollars into the CD music business on the eve of the birth of the iPod and iTunes. It will be remembered as pouring billions of dollars into a book-store chain on the eve of the birth of and the Kindle. It will be remembered as pouring billions of dollars into improving typewriters on the eve of the birth of the PC and the Internet.
- Thomas Friedman, December 2008

The underlying question raised by these reports is this: How can a nation's economy grow when its soil is rapidly eroding and its water is rapidly becoming so polluted that it isn't just unsafe to drink. It's even unsafe for fishing, farming and factory use. In short, how can a nation's economy grow when its ecosystems appear on the verge of collapse?
- The Oil Drum, reports on China, 12/9/2008

Up until now the US road vehicle fleet has had a 15- to 17-year turnover period. That's about to become 25 years to forever.
- Richard Heinberg, December 2008

The quickness of the deterioration in the economy may be a blessing in disguise - more resources left in ground for some better planned use.
- Nate Hagens, October 2008

California has spared no expense to either taxpayers or natural ecosystems to attain its status as the most hydrologically altered landmass on the planet. It would surprise few that California was built on gold, greed, extraction, depletion, extinction, dubiously acquired large-landed semi-desert agricultural empires, well-gifted railroad land grants fueling speculative growth, and highly subsidized stolen water - all comprising a tunnel vision for overextended populations and infinite growth in a world utterly finite.
- Rachel Olivieri, September 2008

In daily life where almost everyone has a mobile phone, television or a car, no one sees the correlation between the product and the raw materials necessary in its fabrication.
- Raymond Beauchemin, The National, August 2008

If an SUV [Sport Utility Vehicle] not long ago exuded affluence, toughness and the ability to mow down lesser vehicles in the way, the message it may send now is more humble: I can't afford a second car. I can't get out of my lease. I can't get rid of this because no one wants to buy it.
- Mireya Navarro, New York Times, July 2008

Phosphorus, which is essential to all living things, is at the heart of modern farming and has no synthetic alternative. [It] is being mined, used and wasted as never before.
- Leo Lewis, The Times [UK], June 23, 2008

We're at the end of the suburban phase of American history. We've invested all our post World War II wealth in an infrastructure of daily life that has no future.
- James Howard Kunstler, June 2008

We are fed a production-line diet that is homogenised and bolted together from standard commodity parts. The parts, many of them created out of American agricultural surpluses, are largely controlled by an oligopoly of US-based trading and processing companies - Cargill, ADM, Bunge - that are little known in the UK. All three companies are now expanding in China and heavily involved in spreading the western industrialised diet, with its unsustainable dependence on fossil fuels and extravagant use of grains. As the Chinese move up this processed-food chain, the diet-related diseases that have afflicted us in the west are growing there too.
- Felicity Lawrence, The Guardian, June 2008

The world keeps turning and the resources get used up. It's really quite simple.
- Kevin Kerr, June 2008

The methods for human population control are enormously controversial. One contraceptive measure seems to be humane and acceptable: If you teach calculus to teenage girls, they go on to have far fewer babies. Calculus is the contraceptive of the future. It doesn't work for boys.
- Kenneth Deffeyes, Beyond Oil: The View from Hubbert's Peak, 2005

The dream is turning into a nightmare. The car, the one mechanical object that offers unlimited personal freedom plus the rapture of ownership, has become a millstone that is dragging us down to despair. There is a classical, Faustian symmetry to the story of Britain's relationship with the car over the past 50 years - how the symbol of universal love and desire became one of near-unanimous loathing and misery.
- Neil Lyndon, Telegraph, May 24, 2008

The power of population is so superior to the power of the Earth to produce subsistence for man, that premature death must in some shape or other visit the human race.
- Thomas Malthus, 1798

If the present growth trends in world population, industrialization, pollution, food production, and resource depletion continue unchanged, the limits to growth on this planet will be reached sometime within the next 100 years.
- The Club of Rome, 1972

Can we rely on it that a 'turning around' will be accomplished by enough people quickly enough to save the modern world? This question is often asked, but whatever answer is given to it will mislead. The answer "yes" would lead to complacency; the answer "no" to despair. It is desirable to leave these perplexities behind us and get down to work.
- E. F. Schumacher, Small is Beautiful

In other words, if we accept the UN's projection, the global population will grow by roughly 50% and then stop. This means it will become 50% harder to stop runaway climate change, 50% harder to feed the world, 50% harder to prevent the overuse of resources. But compare this rate of increase to the rate of economic growth. Many economists predict that, occasional recessions notwithstanding, the global economy will grow by about 3% a year this century. Governments will do all they can to prove them right. A steady growth rate of 3% means a doubling of economic activity every 23 years. By 2100, in other words, global consumption will increase by roughly 1600%. As the equations produced by Professor Roderick Smith of Imperial College have shown, this means that in the 21st Century we will have used 16 times as many economic resources as human beings have consumed since we came down from the trees.
- George Monbiot, The Guardian, 29th January 2008

The dream of Chinese here is much similar to your American Dream, no? It's just the same as anywhere else - you want a car and a bigger house, so you consume and pollute more.
- Li Junhao, Deputy Chief of the Municipal Urban Planning Department, Shanghai, August 2007

[Declining production of] Oil is driving metal theft to new highs, which impacts the viability of electrical grids everywhere. Oil and natural gas prices make it more difficult to maintain fuels for peak-generating capacity. Oil prices breathe life into infrastructure insurgencies everywhere, which repeatedly target electrical grids for their high return on investment.
- Jeff Vail, The Oil Drum, August 10, 2007

We can't possibly produce enough corn [to replace fossil fuel] - but everybody's going to try. We're trying to consume our way out of over-consumption.
- Eric Holt-Giménez, Food First/Institute for Food and Development Policy, July 28, 2007

A world full of desperate and impoverished people is a world emptied of swordfish, rainforests and panda bears.
- Alan AtKisson, WorldChanging, July 2007

Population, when unchecked, increases in a geometrical ratio. But subsistence increases only in an arithmetical ratio.
- Thomnas Malthus, Essay on the Principle of Population, 1798

At either end of any food chain you find a biological system - a patch of soil, a human body - and the health of one is connected - literally - to the health of the other.
- Michael Pollan, The Ominivore's Dilemma, 2006 p. 9

You look at the Amish and you see the past, but you might also be looking at the future.
- Garrison Keillor, Making A Case for Simple Life In A Small Town, June 7, 2007

Denial. A powerful force, that.
- Gregory Jeffers, Mentatt May 2007

To cherish what remains of the Earth and to foster its renewal is our only legitimate hope of survival.
- Wendell Berry

Some business executive argued that "we're not a culture of mandatory," and I said, "Then you're not a culture of sustainability."
- Stephen Schneider, quoted by Marilyn Berlin Snell, Sierra Magazine, 08 May 2007

The First Law of Sustainability: We cannot sustain population growth or growth in the rates of consumption of resources.
- A. A. Bartlett, from: A.A. Bartlett, "Reflections on Sustainability, Population Growth, and the Environment," Population & Environment 16 (1994): 5-35

By pouring increasing quantities of greenhouse gases into the Earth's atmosphere each year, we are embarked on a global experiment whose outcome we don't know.
- A. A. Bartlett, "Is There a Population Problem?" Wild Earth (Fall 1997): 88-90

Can you think of any problem, on any scale, from microscopic to global, whose long-term solution is in any demonstrable way aided, or advanced by having continued population growth at the local level, the state level, the national level or globally? So we can see that Pogo was right: We've met the enemy, and they's us.
- A. A. Bartlett, "Is There a Population Problem?" Wild Earth (Fall 1997): 88-90

Most of the change of the past 300 years has been at the hands of humankind, intentionally or otherwise. Our ever-growing role in this continuing metamorphosis has itself essentially changed. Transformation has escalated through time, and in some instances the scales of change have shifted from the locale and region to the earth as a whole. Whereas humankind once acted primarily upon the visible "faces or "states of the earth, such as forest cover, we are now also altering fundamental flows of chemicals and energy that sustain life on the only inhabited planet we know.
- R. W. Kates et al., "The Great Transformation," from B.L. Turner et al. (eds) The Earth as Transformed by Human Action (Cambridge, Cambridge U. Press 1990).

The first two Laws of Sustainability: In any society, population growth cannot be sustained. The larger the population, the more difficult it will be for the society to achieve sustainability.
- A. A. Bartlett, "Reflections on Sustainability, Population Growth, and the Environment - Revisited," Focus 9 (1999): 49-68

In the beginning, God created Heaven and the Earth, and the Earth has been the same size ever since.
- Eric A. Davidson, You Can't Eat GNP, p. 185

When archaeologists excavated the cities of ancient Mesopotamia, they were amazed not just by what they found but by where they found it: in the middle of an unpopulated desert. In "Ur of the Chaldees," Leonard Woolley asked: "Why, if Ur was an empire's capital, if Sumer was once a vast granary, has the population dwindled to nothing, the very soil lost its virtue?"
- Paul Krugman, "Salt of the Earth," The New York Times, August 8, 2003

Meanwhile, across the countryside, [Kim Il Sung's] unaccountable scheme for bolstering the food supply by growing corn on the terraced slopes of vertiginous valleys was ending in catastrophe, as heavy rains washed the efforts away, clogging streams and rivers with silt, which in turn triggered flooding that wiped out perfectly good croplands.
- Philip Gourevitch from Alone in the Dark, on the 1990s famine in North Korea, The New Yorker, September 8, 2003 (p. 59), 55-75

For a great many species today, "fitness" means the ability to get along in a world in which humankind has become the most powerful evolutionary force.
- Michael Pollan, The Botany of Desire - A Plant's-Eye View of the World (New York, Random House, 2001), xxii-xxiii (271 total p.)

Simply put, the population explosion that agriculture allows creates the need for expansion.
- Richard Manning, Against the Grain - How Agriculture Has Hijacked Civilization (New York, North Point Press, 2004), 71 (total pages 232)

Security is the earth and its care.
- William Kotke, Revolution Arising from the Earth, Part II: The Earth Speaks, January 2007


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.

Purchase Here at Oxford Press



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

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