As 2011 winds down, the environmental story of the year for Texas is undoubtedly the drought. The last year has seen record heat, record dryness, devastating wildfires, and widespread losses of crops and cattle.
There are two new books on drought and water in the Southwest that may provide some insight as we head into a 2012, where the drought is likely to continue at least until the spring.
The first is “A Great Aridness,” by New Mexico conservationist William deBuys from Oxford University Press. It tells the story of development in the Southwest, a period that coincided with relatively wet weather for the region, and how it will have to deal with the return to “normal” currently under way. Water shortages, wildfires, droughts and extreme heat are just a few of the possible outcomes examined in the book.
The other is “Bird on Fire: Lessons from the World’s Least Sustainable City,” by Andrew Ross, a social scientist at New York University. His book looks at the city of Phoenix, one of the fastest growing cities in the country. It is also one of the most sprawling and one “with a population of four and a half million, minimal rainfall, scorching heat, and an insatiable appetite for unrestrained growth and unrestricted property rights,” the publisher’s description says.
The New York Times reviewed both books Monday.