The Colorado River is an essential resource for a surprisingly large part of the United States, and every gallon that flows down it is owned or claimed by someone. David Owen traces all that water from the Colorado’s headwaters to its parched terminus, once a verdant wetland but now a million-acre desert. He takes readers on an adventure downriver, along a labyrinth of waterways, reservoirs, power plants, farms, fracking sites, ghost towns, and RV parks, to the spot near the U.S.–Mexico border where the river runs dry.
Water problems in the western United States can seem tantalizingly easy to solve: just turn off the fountains at the Bellagio, stop selling hay to China, ban golf, cut down the almond trees, and kill all the lawyers. But a closer look reveals a vast man-made ecosystem that is far more complex and more interesting than the headlines let on.
The story Owen tells in Where the Water Goes is crucial to our future: how a patchwork of engineering marvels, byzantine legal agreements, aging infrastructure, and neighborly cooperation enables life to flourish in the desert —and the disastrous consequences we face when any part of this tenuous system fails.
Forest and wildland fires are growing larger, more numerous, and deadlier every year — record drought conditions, decades of forestry mismanagement, and the increasing encroachment of residential housing into the wilderness have combined to create a powder keg that threatens millions of acres and thousands of lives every year. One select group of men and women are part of America's front-line defense: smokejumpers. The smokejumper program operates through both the U.S. Forest Service and the Bureau of Land Management. Though they are tremendously skilled and only highly experienced and able wildland firefighters are accepted into the training program, being a smokejumper remains an art that can only be learned on the job. Forest fires often behave in unpredictable ways: spreading almost instantaneously, shooting downhill behind a stiff tailwind, or even flowing like a liquid. In this extraordinarily rare memoir by an active-duty jumper, Jason Ramos takes readers into his exhilarating and dangerous world, explores smokejumping’s remarkable history, and explains why their services are more essential than ever before.
Hybrid cars, fast trains, compact florescent light bulbs, solar panels, carbon offsets: Everything you've been told about living green is wrong. The quest for a breakthrough battery or a 100 mpg car are dangerous fantasies. We are consumers, and we like to consume green and efficiently. But David Owen argues that our best intentions are still at cross purposes to our true goal - living sustainably and caring for our environment and the future of the planet. Efficiency, once considered the holy grail of our environmental problems, turns out to be part of the problem. Efforts to improve efficiency and increase sustainable development only exacerbate the problems they are meant to solve, more than negating the environmental gains. We have little trouble turning increases in efficiency into increases in consumption.
David Owen's The Conundrum is an elegant nonfiction narrative filled with fascinating information and anecdotes takes you through the history of energy and the quest for efficiency. This is a book about the environment that will change how you look at the world. We should not be waiting for some geniuses to invent our way out of the energy and economic crisis we're in. We already have the technology and knowledge we need to live sustainably. But will we do it?
That is the conundrum.