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Once touted as the bright hope for feeding the world's growing population, desert irrigation now threatens to destroy the very prosperity it was meant to create.
Sounding the alarm, Mirage traces the development of desert farming, successfully initiated in British India and the American West, and shows the startling, calamitous results of this shortsighted enterprise. With monumental dams and complex technology we have made the desert bloom, only to see those labors eventually poison the land, ruining it for future cultivation and devastating fragile ecosystems.
Chronicling the history of desert agriculture and irrigation in India and the later application of these techniques in the western United States and elsewhere, Clemings portrays ecosystems assaulted by invasive practices and crop irrigation methods designed without heed to the consequences. From the canal colonies of the Indus River basin to the massive dams of the lower Colorado River, we see the disastrous results of bringing and lands under the agricultural yoke at any cost.
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"The future of our desert gardens might look like the present in southern Iraq, where a vast salt fiat between the Tigris and Euphrates rivers provides the most telling evidence of the environmental costs of poorly managed irrigation projects. For a few centuries, the land gave them ample crops....Then, over-irrigation made their fields waterlogged, and soggy soil drew salt to the surface like a sponge. With that, the place that modern schoolchildren know as the Fertile Crescent began an unrelenting decline."From Library Journal:
In this critique of irrigated desert agriculture, environmental reporter Clemings focuses on the American West, especially California and the Colorado River, while also discussing the experiences of Australia, Pakistan, and Israel. He recounts stories of the enormous waste of water and money, government boondoggles, and the serious environmental consequences of inadequate drainage, polluted rivers, salt build-up in soils, and wildlife kills. Readers may conclude from the title that the author is pessimistic about the future of irrigation, but this is not entirely true. He points out that a third of the world's food is produced by irrigation, and he presents Israel's success with water-conserving drip irrigation and careful management as examples to follow. Given the tremendous food needs of our planet's growing human population, Clemings is hopeful that irrigation will continue to play a major role. Worthwhile related reading includes Philip Fradkin's A River No More (LJ 4/15/81), Marc Reisner's Cadillac Desert (LJ 8/86), and Norris Hundley Jr.'s The Great Thirst (LJ 5/15/92). A clearly written book on a complex subject, Mirage is recommended for both public and academic libraries.
William H. Wiese, Iowa State Univ. Lib., Ames
Copyright 1996 Reed Business Information, Inc.
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Book Description Random House, Inc., 1996. Hardcover. Condition: New. Never used!. Seller Inventory # P110871564165