Jim Casey Casey served as deputy chief of planning for the Bureau of Reclamation in the s; he was also crucial in the Texas Water Plan. Casey realized the danger of overusing the Ogallala Aquifer and recruited Texan bankers to support his conservation efforts. Like his co-conspirators in the plot, he became phenomenally rich. Wilbur Dexheimer Dexheimer, the Bureau Commissioner before Floyd Dominy, is described as "good-natured, somewhat bumbling, uninterested in politics, and therefore inept. He started out as a county agent in Wyoming during the Depression, where he built small dams to save cattle from drought. Arriving at the Bureau in , he quickly achieved the position of chief of Allocation and Repayment.
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Why not a fifth star? The factual reporting and research are impeccable and at this point, this book is famous in its own right and it deserves that. But: 1 The Naturalistic Fallacy. If humans do not belong in Why not a fifth star?
If humans do not belong in California or Arizona, where do they belong? Of course, this is absurd. Very few people could survive in Minnesota without the energy that is produced there from fuel brought from elsewhere without rapidly deforesting it and belching the pollution of numerous wood fires.
So what about further south? Just about everywhere you go, humans are out of their "natural" element—which is some place in Africa. Even where they are in their element, they are there in numbers that are unsustainable based on using only very local resources.
Unless we allow trains, trucks, ships, and planes into our "natural" world. Indeed, most human habitations make little sense in some way, just as Speaker Hastert said of New Orleans. But, yet, there they are. But it was insensitive on another level and he was criticized for it. The irony is that this book was largely written at a time when it was abundantly clear than energy, not water, was the common denominator in resource policy.
A few short years after the oil shocks, the Iranian revolution, during the Iran-Iraq War, and revised months after the First Gulf War, Resiner and other water conservationists must realize they are the junior varsity. This is before all of this activity unleashed the events of the Bush era. The people go where they do and the water must follow. But what about San Francisco?
Not only does San Francisco take water from hundreds of miles away, it takes it from a dam located in Yosemite National Park, the construction of which reportedly caused John Muir to die of a "broken heart. Is Hetch Hetchy a greater sin against the environment than Mono Lake? San Francisco, for all of its radical leftist politics, has done nothing but go apoplectic every time a plan to restore Hetch Hetchy is presented.
Does it make sense for the government to pay large farming corporations in the form of cheap water while it pays other farmers in the east not to grow certain things? Well, no, especially not for someone dedicated to the free market.
But are we? Is Reisner? It seems strange to argue for conservation while arguing against government intervention in the markets. Sure, you can argue that when externalities are factored in, the market can operate. There was graft and bureaucratic manipulation in the Apollo project too. But, when he extends his critique to the issue of the entire settlement of the west, he goes too far afield. As the title of the book implies, this is a central theme of the book.
Even the Native Americans used massive fires to manipulate the landscape for their purposes. We all live in glass houses, not just Southern Californians and Arizonans. The history of the last 30 years is different than the 30 years before it. In the more recent period, we have seen a major American city destroyed by a failure of adequate public works and we have seen the fallout.
In that same period we have seen resource wars where tens of thousands die—for energy. All in all, the western water works seem far less absurd in retrospect. Would all of these people running their fossil fuel furnaces in the east be better for the world? Thank god. Books like it helped move things in a much more sensical direction.
Cadillac Desert: The American West and Its Disappearing Water