Academic journal article Pennsylvania Literary Journal

A Non-Fiction Mystery about the Water Crisis

Academic journal article Pennsylvania Literary Journal

A Non-Fiction Mystery about the Water Crisis

Article excerpt

A Non-Fiction Mystery About the Water Crisis Seamus McGraw. A Thirsty Land: The Making of an American Water Crisis. Austin: University of Texas Press, 2018. $27.95. ISBN: 978-1-4773-1031-1. 277pp.

A study of the American water crisis with a look at how it has been handled in the past, and potential solutions for the future. I was particularly interested in this project because at its center are the problems Texas has with water, and since it is my home for the foreseeable feature, I need to know as much as I can about this problem in this particular geographic setting. Here in Quanah, where my little house is, there's a drought every winter and crops have difficulty growing. Meanwhile, everybody is familiar with the great flood that drowned Houston last hurricane season. So, water is attacking Texas from all directions, and environmental regulations are particularly loose in this part of the country, so advice is needed to keep the citizens of Texas from drowning themselves. The author, Seamus McGraw, is an award-winning journalist and has published a couple of books on climate change previously. In this project, in addition to standard research methods, McGraw interviewed farmers, ranchers, businesspeople, citizen activists and politicians to gather their opinions and experiences on this issue. The book has suspense written into it, as the narrator prepares readers for a payoff and then goes back and gives historic background, so readers have a reason to read until the end. The payoff in the first chapter is that on August 5, 1969 (in the middle of another drought), Texas voted against a plan that would have re-directed the waters of the Mississippi River into it to satisfy its thirst for water. The rest of the chapter explains how Texas changed from a rural state to one dominated by industry and business around this same time. Most of the chapters have very cryptic names that do not give away their contents easily, like "Dow by Law" and "That's the Kind of Thinking That Will Get Your Land Took from You." The latter sounds very Texan, but it is difficult to imagine what this has to do with water. The chapter starts just as mysteriously with: "Maybe it was the way the summer sun glided through the lush leaves of the white oaks, the pecans, the hickories, and the ash on the far bank" (39). …

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