Wednesday, July 13, 2011

Review-Shadows on the Gulf, by Rowan Jacobsen

A Journey Through Our Last Great Wetlands
Rowan Jacobsen
Bloomsbury USA, 2011
204 pages, Hardcover

Book Excerpt
In early April, the Nature Conservancy’s Alabama chapter had established a mile and a half of new oyster reef on Coffee Island, off the Alabama coast. I was the best-oyster-restoration project this country had ever seen. It had seemed like a heartening success until the Macondo well beneath the Deepwater Horizon blew out on April 20 and sent a tidal wave of oil straight toward that reef. I’d been interested in reef restoration for years and decided to visit those oysters a few days before the oil did.” (page 3, Rowen Jacobsen)

Review by Wisteria Leigh

Anyone who thinks the oil spill event last year in the Spring of 2010 is a worry of the past, think again. When you read
SHADOWS ON THE GULF you will indeed worry and should. We all know that our planet suffers from ages of multi-layered abuse generated by human misuse and neglect.  The questions Jacobsen wanted answered and what he learned as he visited the Gulf waters and tributaries that form the Mississippi Delta, the wetlands and essential waterways that branch off the Mississippi River are documented in his engrossing new book. He supports his ideas and writing from the multiple articles and other sources listed by chapter at the end his book. 

If you have ever seen complex domino layouts with intricate patterns set-up for competitive sport, then you will have some idea of how an ecosystem will shatter.  When you bump the starting point, a chain reaction ensues that leads to the breakdown of the entire structure.  So if we look at an ecosystem like a domino layout as it falls apart, we are actually witnessing this same idea in nature. You wouldn’t think that eels, seaweed and a whale’s diet are connected, but they are.  As Jacobsen points out, whether or not you eat Gulf shrimp or any other fish, from the Gulf, even fresh water fish, should concern all Americans.

With numerous examples, the writer details life along the Gulf in the wake of the oil spill. In
SHADOWS ON THE GULF you will read about menhaden, tiny silvery fish that eat plankton.  What is the importance of these tiny little fish to our lives?  The author presents many scenarios for you to think about.  Are chickens on American farms safe from the eco-disaster in the Gulf?  What is a Dead Zone?  Why should we be concerned  if we don’t eat fish?  When will oysters come back to the Gulf?   Why are the cypress trees dying and who cares?  What can the oil companies do to help damage already done? What does the government have to say? What do the residents fear?

Jacobsen’s journey along the rivers, tributaries, swamps and Gulf waters allows the reader to witness the beauty and complex ecosystem that is constantly changing.  At times the change is gradual and other times drastic and dire, but regardless, according to Jacobsen, the change will impact all of us. It has only just begun. He answers his own questions and through his study, offers information that will help bring clarity to the murky miasma that surrounds this catastrophe.

Rowen Jacobsen creates a sense of personal ownership throughout.  He will make you drift in thought upon the precarious future of our frail ecosystem.
SHADOWS ON THE GULF is profoundly sensitive work with unnerving realism and value to all readers. Highly recommended.

Personal Note:
This book was sent to me through the Library Thing Early Reviewer program. I was mesmerized chapter by chapter with deep curiosity.  Events before and after the oil spill on the Deepwater Horizon platform on April 20, 2010 has the author’s chilling perspective.  I felt I learned so much about this catastrophic event and subsequent clean-up efforts. Rowen Jacobsen is critical, yet straightforward and his passionate embrace of the ecosystem and life itself is infectious. 

Want more information?
10-100 Restore Coastal Alabama 
Rowen Jacobsen Website

© [Wisteria Leigh] and [Bookworm's Dinner], [2008-2011]. 

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