The American West at Risk: Science, Myths and Politics of Land Abuse and Recovery
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More than any other single toy [cars] in the playroom of technology, it has enabled us to go completely crazy - and to get there in air conditioned comfort and style!
- Alan Wartes, The Story of Here, 2010

Americans believe that there must be a technological fix. If a problem is not solved, they tend to assume incompetence.
- David Nye, 2010

One should judge a system by what it produces rather than what it says it produces.
- Fundamental Systems Principle

There's nothing all that remarkable about the future ahead of us; it's simply that the unparalleled abundance that our civilization bought by burning through half a billion years of stored sunlight in three short centuries has left most people in the industrial world clueless about the basic realities of human life in more ordinary times.

It's this cluelessness that underlies so many enthusiastic discussions of a green future full of high technology and relative material abundance. Those discussions also rely on one of the dogmas of the modern religion of progress, the article of faith that the accumulation of technical knowledge was what gave the industrial world its three centuries of unparalleled wealth; since technical knowledge is still accumulating, the belief goes, we may expect more of the same in the future. Now in fact the primary factor that drove the rise of industrial civilization, and made possible the lavish lifestyles of the recent past, was the recklessness with which the earth's fossil fuel reserves have been extracted and burnt over the last few centuries. The explosion of technical knowledge was a consequence of that, not a cause.
- John Michael Greer, TOD, 2/18/10

Techno-scientists presently conduct high risk experiments using nuclear energy, genetic engineering, nanotechnology, robotics, in such a manner "to make humans an endangered species," according to Bill Joy, the great American computer scientist.
- Miguel Valencia, December 2009

It is common for scientists and engineers to fail to understand the consequences of our inventions while we are in the rapture of discovery and, as a result we have yet to come to terms with the fact that the most compelling 21st-century technologies - robotics, genetic engineering and nanotechnology - pose a different threat than the technologies that have come before. They are so powerful they can spawn whole new classes of accidents and abuses. [It is] knowledge-enabled mass destruction.
- Bill Joy, a founder of Sun Microsystems

The current American way of life is founded not just on motor transportation, but on the religion of the motorcar; and the sacrifices that people are prepared to make for this religion stand outside the realm of rational criticism.
- Lewis Mumford, comment upon the inauguration of the Interstate Highway System

Will our society ever file for a divorce from our adulterous love affair with personal vehicles?
- Pablo Päster, August 20, 2007

Since the idea of packaging is to protect food from bacteria, wrapping leftovers in plastic that encourages microbes to eat it may not be the smartest thing to do.
- Anthony Andrady, quoted by Alan Weisman, Orion Magazine, May 2007

For a successful technology, reality must take precedence over public relations, for nature cannot be fooled.
- Richard Feynman, report on the space shuttle Challenger disaster

...[I]t is an unsettling story that speaks directly to the limits of technical expertise, the treacherous allure of the grandiose solution, and the consequences that can unfold when the government opens its checkbook and closes its regulation manual.
- Charles F. Wilkinson, Crossing the Next Meridian

Mankind's ingenuity in developing and adroitly applying technology has made concerns of food and material resource availability largely a thing of the past.
- William L. Fisher, Geotimes, November 2000 article on Technology in the Earth Sciences, p. 9


Almighty God, creator of the universe, We praise You for spanning heaven and Earth and holding the plumb line of the cosmos in Your gracious hand. Thank You for past engineers who have served with dedication, gallantry, patriotism, and skill - sometimes at the cost of their mortal lives. Bless today all men and women of the United States Army Corps of Engineers wherever they are stationed around the globe. As we perform our varied tasks, guide us in making rough places smooth, crooked ways straight, and our environment safer. May our minds be keen, our calculations accurate, our myriad projects successful, and our faith in You unending. Enable our topographers to be precise, and our stewards of resources to be steadfast. May our works reflect a degree of Your perfection and bring delight to everyone who benefits from them. Give audacity and courage to our combat elements. May our lead on the battlefield enjoy Your guard as we prepare the way for others who are committed to freedom and justice throughout the world. Open our inner lives to know You better and receive Your gift of deliverance through salvation. Grant us wisdom in our efforts to improve, maintain, protect, and restore Your creation. Inspire us to also treat fairly all You entrust to our care. Help us to conform to Your will and be faithful in all our pursuits. Then may we mirror Your divine order, with leadership in engineering that builds a lasting legacy for every generation.


In Your name we pray, almighty God, engineer of all eternity. Amen.

- Lt. Gen. Joe N. Ballard, Chief of Engineers, accepted this as the official prayer of the U. S. Army Corps of Engineers, effective 1 Sep. 1999. Principal author: Chaplain (Lt. Col.) Harold Timothy Carlson, USACE Chaplain and former Deputy Installation Chaplain of the U. S. Army Engineer Center and Ft. Leonard Wood, Missouri

We're in trouble
Car Trouble
America had a love affair with the automobile
And got knocked up
Now these little metal bastards are everywhere

- Charles Potts, The Temple

The American people have a right to drive a great big road hog SUV if they want to. And I'm gonna get me one.
- Trent Lott, U.S. Senate Majority Leader, Roll Call, March 12, 2001

A major part of the reason we refuse to give up our cars is that we've done such a damn fine job of limiting our options.
- Chris Coursey, From, "Shed No Tears for the Last Freeway", column in Santa Rosa Press-Democrat, August 24, 2001

The inventors of nuclear bombs, space rockets, and computers are the pyramid builders of our own age: psychologically inflated by a similar myth of unqualified power, boasting through their science of their increasing omnipotence, if not omniscience, moved by obsessions and compulsions no less irrational than those of earlier absolute systems: particularly the notion that the system itself must be expanded, at whatever the eventual cost.
- Lewis Mumford quoted in Questioning Technology, edited by Zerzan and Carnes

Recombinant DNA technology [genetic engineering] faces our society with problems unprecedented, not only in the history of science, but of life on the Earth.... Now whole new proteins will be transposed overnight into wholly new associations, with consequences no one can foretell, either for the host organism or their neighbors.... It is all too big and is happening too fast.... For going ahead in this direction may not only be unwise but dangerous. Potentially, it could breed new animal and plant diseases, new sources of cancer, novel epidemics.
- George Wald, "The Case Against Genetic Engineering (essay), in eds. Jackson and Stich, The Recombinant DNA Debate, 127-128 (Reprinted from The Sciences, Sept./Oct. 1976)

It is not too much to expect that our children will enjoy in their homes electrical energy too cheap to meter,--will know of great periodic regional famines only as matters of history,--will travel effortlessly over the seas and under them and through the air with a minimum of danger and at great speeds,--and will experience a lifespan far longer than ours, as disease yields and man comes to understand what causes him to age. This is the forecast for an age of peace.
- Lewis Strauss, Chairman U.S. Atomic Energy Commission, 1954

How much longer will [it take] before the information processing required for shake-and-bake bioengineering starts to become easily within the reach of a bright lunatic?
- John Pike,, quoted by Brad Knickerbocker, The Christian Science Monitor, November 2002

I would describe myself as a recovering energy engineer. Technology has been an integral part of my life. At one time I had viewed advancing technology as the answer to all of our problems and the only tool necessary in improving our relationship with the natural world. My own personal journey over the last several years has changed that.
- Brandon Marshall, The Energy Bulletin, September 2006

If you think trying to wean gun owners from their passion for firearms is a hornet's nest, try talking to the great majority of us about reining in our passion for the automobile. Lordy!
- Jim Minter, Review of James Howard Kunstler's Home From Nowhere, 1996


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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