Saturday, May 28, 2011

Shadows On The Gulf: A Journey Through Our Last Great Wetland / by Rowan Jacobsen

Disaster seems to like the Gulf region these days. Hurricanes, Floods and national emergencies have become part and parcel of the lives of Gulf Coast residents. So when an Oil Rig owned by the Deepwater Horizon company exploded off the coast of Louisiana, sending millions of gallons of petroleum into the Gulf of Mexico, it was just another arrow to the heart of those who make their livelihoods in the swamps and marshy regions at the mouth of the Mississippi River--particularly in Louisiana, particularly in the bayous and fisheries along the coast. But as bad as the oil spill was, it doesn't touch the damage done to the Gulf every year by what one expert in the book calls "a 100-year catastrophe."

Readers who believe they know the story of how the oil spill only compounded the damage done to an already vanishing Louisiana wetlands will find their worst fears more than realized. As author Jacobsen states, the height of the BP spill roughly equaled the amount of dispersant that flows down the Mississippi from the Heartland's dishwashers and washing machines; acres of marsh destroyed by oil slicks can't compare to the amount that disappears in every hurricane and incrementally each year under natural soil erosion. In essence, nothing can stop the coast of Louisiana from disappearing as soon--Jacobsen sets the timetable at 40 years or so--New Orleans and the rest of South Louisiana will be washed away with the tides.

This is a really depressing book. So much so that the author's substantial sympathy and admiration for the Gulf region gets mired in the overwhelming and ongoing tragedy affecting the area. Shadows on the Gulf reveals the BP oil spill in its entirety, explains why it will affect quality of life for us all and then goes on to remonstrate on the further problems compounding the issue. Jacobsen, a longtime journalist and ecological advocate not only explains why the Gulf's wetlands are important, he bolsters his argument for its conservation with the data that the region provides the best oyster reefs and fish nurseries in the world and proves critical habitat to most of America's migratory songbirds and waterfowl as well as a home base for the energy and shipping industries. If the Gulf fails, the drastic effects will ripple across America and ultimately the world. That it will fail is inevitable unless a national effort is made to save it. (508.76 JACOBSEN)

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