Shadows on the Gulf: A Journey Through Our Last Great Wetland

Shadows on the Gulf: A Journey Through Our Last Great Wetland

by Rowan Jacobsen


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While other books play the blame game of what went wrong on the Deepwater Horizon and who is responsible, Shadows on the Gulf offers a surprising, harder truth: As bad as the oil spill was, it doesn't touch the damage done to the Gulf every year by what one expert in the book calls "a 100-year catastrophe."

Readers who believe they know the story will find their thinking changed by Rowan Jacobsen's surprising perspective: At the height of BP's dispersant madness, the amount sprayed each day merely equaled the amount of dispersant that washes down the Mississippi from the Heartland's dishwashers and washing machines. The Gulf's shrimpers have damaged the region's ecology as much as BP has. The acres of marsh destroyed by oil slicks can't compare to the amount that disappears in every hurricane, thanks to the work of the Army Corp of Engineers. And even if we save every mile of beach and wetland from the oil spill, the entire Mississippi Delta will still be lost in the next forty years, and New Orleans will sink beneath the waves, an American Atlantis.

Shadows on the Gulf reveals the key players in this catastrophe and explains why it will affect quality of life for us all. In doing so, it celebrates the little-recognized global wonder in our backyard. Not only are the Gulf's wetlands the best oyster reefs and fish nurseries in the world, they also provide critical habitat to most of America's migratory songbirds and waterfowl, as well as a home base for the energy and shipping industries. If the Gulf is allowed to fail, the effects will ripple across America. And fail it will, unless a national effort is made to save it.

Product Details

ISBN-13: 9781608195817
Publisher: Bloomsbury USA
Publication date: 04/26/2011
Pages: 240
Product dimensions: 5.56(w) x 8.50(h) x 0.94(d)

About the Author

Rowan Jacobsen is the James Beard Award- winning author of

A Geography of Oysters, Fruitless

Fall, The Living Shore, and

American Terroir. He has written about food,

place, and the natural world for Harper's,

Newsweek, Eating Well, and others, and his commentaries on the Gulf crisis have appeared in

Outside magazine and the New York

Times and on MSNBC. He was raised in Florida and attended school on the Gulf Coast.

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A Shadows on the Gulf: A Journey through Our Last Great Wetland 4.1 out of 5 based on 0 ratings. 11 reviews.
NorthernStar on LibraryThing More than 1 year ago
This is not an area I am familiar with, but this struck me as a well-written, well-researched book on a topic that affects us all, wherever in the world we live. A major industrial accident like the Deepwater Horizon could have long-term or permanent consequences to your coast, ocean ecosystems, or other unspoiled natural areas. The author's passion and concern comes through clearly. Anyone interested in the Gulf coast area or ecological issues in general should read this book.
dchaikin on LibraryThing More than 1 year ago
#55 (from 2011). [Shadows on the Gulf : A Journey Through Our Last Great Wetland] by Rowan Jacobsen (2011, 223 pages, read Dec 16-24)Jacobsen had just finished a book on oysters, a major gulf coast food, when Macondo exploded. This put him in a strong position to pursue the environmental fall out of Macondo and, more importantly, to put it in perspective. Here he covers the cause of the blow-out in some detail and looks into the environmental after affects, as far as seems to be known. But then he goes on the make the point that spill is not the worst thing to happen to the Gulf of Mexico, possibly not even all that significant. What is much more serious is the massive and rapid loss of Louisiana wetlands to open sea water, this being the key nursery for the base of the Gulf food chain. The affects of this are complex, but the causes point largely (but not wholly) toward the oil industry.The book develops into a look at what the oil and gas industry means to the US specifically. What have we compromised and what have we lost for this fuel. Also, how and why we haven¿t put in the slightest effort to do anything about it. And what stands out is how well Jacobsen presents this. Of the five books I¿ve read (plus one I quit reading) about the Macondo oil spill, Jacobsen¿s is only one that doesn¿t reveal its rushed writing. All the other books are flawed on some level in writing quality, structure, completeness, or some other kind of roughness¿things necessary for those authors to get their books out while the information was still relevant. Unique to Jacobsen is the clean structure and completeness. Jacobsen spent time thinking things out and presents his information, observations and ideas coherently. The result is very thought-provoking.
Neverwithoutabook on LibraryThing More than 1 year ago
Thought-provoking and informative. Those are words that come to mind as I consider Shadows on the Gulf. This is about more than an oil spill in the Gulf. Rowan Jacobsen takes us on a journey as the subtitle says, "A Journey Through Our Last Great Wetland". A journey that explores the oil spill and it's causes, it's subsequent effects as far as is known to the time of writing, and the why of how it happened in the first place. I found myself agreeing and nodding my head on occasion while reading this book. Rowan Jacobsen tells us in very clear and understandable language about the issues surrounding the Gulf and the Mississippi delta in particular, and why we should care. For such a small book, 206 pages, he manages to bring home to us very clearly the road taken and the devastation that has happened that brings the Mississippi delta area and northern Gulf coastline to the brink of distruction. He shows us the connections, the delicate ecosystem that depends on conditions that have developed over centuries, and man's dependence on that ecosystem. Not only in that small area, but in a wider sense, this disaster affects us all....all the way up the food chain. The world is losing a valuable natural resource, a habitat for life that may never be reclaimed, a beautiful, wild natural resource that we may never be able to fix. The few pictures included manage to be very graphic when studied along with the writing. The problems that date back to WWII have major consequences today and even the simple fact of man settling in the delta region and attempting to make nature conform to his needs have exacted a terrible toll. I could go on as this is a subject that I feel strongly about, but I'll simply say. Read this book. If you have the opportunity...visit this area. Then you will understand.
kurvanas on LibraryThing More than 1 year ago
This book is devastating, yet mesmerizing; accessible, yet detailed; horrific, yet hopeful. I have to commend Rowan for slogging through mounds of data and wading through the polluted backwaters of our corporate past to reveal exactly how destructive not just this disaster was, but also how blind and greedy our policies have been. There is mighty work to be done to restore our wetlands. Shadows of the Gulf reveals all the damage and thus shows how we can begin to repair it.I would recommend this to anyone interested in the oil spill or related ecological/political matters. As this book reveals, they are all intricately connected. I love the analogy another reviewer used about dominoes. When you knock the first one down, you sometimes cannot fathom how far or extensive the pattern of collapse will be. The ramifications of polluting and destroying our wetlands will have far-reaching, profound effects. We should do everything we can to mitigate these.
Ani36ol on LibraryThing More than 1 year ago
I¿m sure that I¿m not the only one of many who has wondered whatever happened to the horrific oil spill of spring/summer 2010. It seems like as soon as a certain so-called starlet made yet another court appearance, the media stopped informing us about the destruction of the eco-environment due to the BP oil spill and focused on the aforementioned star. Shadows on the Gulf by Rowan Jacobsen is an amazing eye-opener to what really went on during and after the oil spill disaster.Mr. Jacobsen not only sheds light on the BP disaster but on the ecological disasters mankind is creating all over the Gulf.The book is so well written that you don¿t become bogged down with boring statistics. Instead you become witness to the devastation of the wetlands through Jacobsen¿s words and pictures. It is disturbing, especially the harm done to the animals and marine life, but is worth the read for anyone who wants to find out what really happened.
owen1218 on LibraryThing More than 1 year ago
Shadows on the Gulf is an eye-opening look at the devastation this culture has created on the Gulf coast of the United States. Deepwater Horizon has taken a heavy toll on the Southern wetlands, but this book makes it very clear that this was only the latest event in a long history of environmental destruction. If the wetlands are to be saved, it's going to call for some massive action, more massive than the author seems to feel comfortable discussing. My biggest issue with this book is that the author understands the scale of the Gulf's predicament, and he understands the main actors in bringing this predicament about, but he stops short of demanding radical change. He talks, rather, about resource conservation, for instance saying that by simply driving a few miles less a year, Gulf oil production could be cut to zero. But in saying this he denies the reality of the situation. First of all, it's not at all clear that consumer oil reduction would actually result in reduced oil use. In all likelihood it would just mean keeping the cost down a little for military, industry, and those who have no moral scruples about using as much petroleum as they can afford. Second, even if oil reduction did occur, it's hardly realistic to expect that all of those reductions would take place in a single area. Even if they did, the Gulf has become one of the more cost-efficient sources available, and there's no reason to think production there would be cut. What Jacobsen offers us, unfortunately, is a hopelessly romantic solution to a problem in need of a far more radical solution.That said, I do recommend this book to anyone trying to understand the ecology and history of the Gulf Coast, to get a real sense of how the oil industry and the Corps of Engineers has decimated a vital wetland environment, and the lives of local people dependent on it.
LynnCoulter on LibraryThing More than 1 year ago
In the spring of 2010, a BP Oil well blew, sending a tidal wave of slick, black death toward the Alabama coast. As Rowen Jacobsen writes in Shadows on the Gulf, "Alabama has the greatest biodivesity of any state east of the Mississippi...the greatest diversity of crawfish..of freshwater fish and mussels...the greatest concentration of turtle species in the world." While the executives at BP scrambled for ways to contain the blowout and mop up the spill, death spread across the region, into oyster reefs, fish nurseries, and the habitat of migratory songbirds and waterfowl. Eventually, BP acted. Those who suffered economically from the spill were, for the most part, compensated. Affected beaches were cleaned. Wildlife were rescued, as far as possible, and in the wake of the clean-up, new arguments were raised by both sides in this tragedy. Environmental activists called for new laws and restraints regarding drilling; business people demanded the resumption of drilling, stating that our nation and economy are based on oil consumption.Jacobsen concludes that we must reduce our gasoline consumption, because drilling continues to pose a tremendous threat to our wildlife, wetlands, and oceans. He quotes the owner of an eco-tourism business along the Gulf Coast, who said, "We have to look at what we have; we have to appreciate what we have. We have to respect the bounty. We have to conserve it...a failed blowout preventer can change all of it in an instant. It could just be gone." While cleanup crews still scoop up tar balls from once-pristine beaches, progress has been made, and Jacobsen indicates that coastal dwellers' attitudes are changing toward the oil industry and big government. A project called the 100-1000" Restore Coastal Alabama Partnership with the Nature Conservancy, the Alabama Coastal Foundation, and Mobile Baykeeper, among other groups. The groups are raising money to rebuild a hundred miles of oyster reef and a 1000 miles of marsh in Mobile Bay. "If we do this, if we act heroically right now, in ten years we'll be living with a Gulf that is more bountiful--more beautiful!!--than the Gulf we lived with before the spill came," says Bill Finch, a former senior fellow of the Ocean Foundation.Shadows on the Gulf leaves the reader to grieve for what is lost, and to fear that future ecological tragedies lie ahead, but there is hope, as long as we can keep our government and business officials accountable for their actions, and aware that we the people will not settle for less than their best, as they work and legislate in the oil industry.
EMYeak on LibraryThing More than 1 year ago
Rowan Jacobsen went to the Gulf Coast shortly after the Deepwater Horizon blowout. This is his report of his findings of what happened and its effects. But it is much more than that. He spends one chapter explaining what went wrong at the well and what went wrong in the aftermath in trying to stop the oil flow and attempted clean up to minimize the damage.But the Gulf of Mexico is also suffering from damage that has been happening from many other sources for many years. Coastal drilling, roads through the marshes, hurricanes, dispersant carried down the Mississippi daily from thousands of homes are just some of the other culprits. Jacobsen explains the importance of the Gulf to all of us. It contains the best oyster beds and fish nurseries in the world and is an area critical to migratory birds.Jacobsen introduces us to several people who live along the Gulf and tells the story of their way of life and the importance of the Gulf to their livelihood. I found these sections particularly interesting.This book packs a lot of readable information into its approximately 200 pages. I highly recommend it
jbealy on LibraryThing More than 1 year ago
Shadows on the Gulf, A Journey through our Last Great Wetland is a beautifully written, impeccably researched tribute to a part of our world that is fast disappearing due, in large part, to human greed and shortsightedness. Rowan Jacobsen writes with passion and authority about the Gulf of Mexico, not only about BP's 2010 Deepwater Horizon disaster, but how we got there in the first place. He gives us a fascinating read on the history of the area, the Mississippi River, deltas, wetlands, the critical importance of the Gulf to the health of the planet. Jacobsen takes us with him on his journeys, whether sailing on open water among oil rigs or kayaking through swamps. He introduces us to the people who have lived here for generations, who know the area better than the back of their hand. And we see, some of us for the first time, how the failure of this particular coast impacts everything on earth, from the life of an eel in Maine to whether the turkey you eat at Thanksgiving is safe to eat all the way to the very survival of the ocean, and therefore the planet, itself.Ultimately it is a sad state of affairs once you really understand how big the problem is, how even before this particular spill, oil companies have been carving up the Delta for decades, changing the course of the Mississippi, killing wetlands and the diversity of life that thrived there and served the rest of us. But remarkably, Mr. Jacobsen has also found hope. The steps he calls for are simple but it will mean our governments stepping up. And that means really it is up to each of us to hold them accountable.
ktwamba on LibraryThing More than 1 year ago
The Gulf of Mexico oil spill was a horrific, eye-opening experience for the oil industry, regulators, coastal residents and the nation. Even though the headlines about it have largely vanished from the mainstream media, the same problems and issues highlighted by the disaster remain. Shadows on the Gulf poignantly depicts those lingering problems as well as a host of other issues that are affecting the nation's wetlands.It took me a long time to get into this book merely because the subject matter is something near to my heart. But once I did, I devoured it. Rowan Jacobsen has honestly and fairly reported about the challenges facing one of the most beautiful and economically important areas of the country.
Anonymous More than 1 year ago
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