408 pages, 20 photos
Daniel McCool not only chronicles the history of water development agencies in America and the way in which special interests have abused rather than preserved the country's rivers. He also narrates the second, brighter act in this ongoing story: the surging, grassroots movement to bring these rivers back to life and ensure they remain pristine for future generations.
The culmination of ten years of research and observation, McCool's book confirms the surprising news that America's rivers are indeed returning to a healthier, free-flowing condition. The politics of river restoration have also brought democratic grassroots activism back to its meaningful roots. Through passion and dedication, ordinary people have reclaimed the American landscape, forming a "river republic" of concerned citizens from all backgrounds and sectors of society. As McCool shows, the history, culture, and fate of America is tied to its rivers, and their restoration is a microcosm mirroring American beliefs, livelihoods, and an increasing awareness of what two hundred years of environmental degradation can do. McCool profiles the individuals he calls "instigators" who initiated the fight for these waterways and, despite enormous odds, have succeeded in the near-impossible task of challenging and changing the status quo.
Part I recounts the history of America's relationship to its rivers; part II describes how and why Americans "parted" them out, destroying their essence and diminishing their value; and part III proves society can live in harmony with its waterways and restore their well-being--and, by extension, the well-being of those who depend on them.
If past is prologue, Dan McCool's eloquent history of river mismanagement in the United States should be required reading for anyone who cares about the future of our rivers. Weaving in stories ranging from how polluted water killed one of Abraham Lincoln's sons to the surprising affinity toward conservationists felt by one of the greatest dam builders of the 20th century, McCool details the multiple ways in which we have dammed, ditched, diverted, and degraded rivers. Ultimately though, this is a hopeful book, illuminating our growing recognition that, like salmon returning to Washington's Elwha River or American shad in Virginia's Rappahannock River, we all need clean water and free-flowing rivers for our very survival.
- Wm. Robert Irvin, President, American Rivers
"After an exhilarating whitewater ride through America's love-hate relationship with its rivers, McCool leaves us inspired and hopeful for a happy ending."
- Michael Brune, Executive Director, Sierra Club
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