Plugged by no fewer than twenty-five dams, the Colorado is the world’s most regulated river drainage, providing most of the water supply of Las Vegas, Tucson, and San Diego, and much of the power and water of Los Angeles and Phoenix, cities that are home to more than 25 million people. If it ceased flowing, the water held in its reservoirs might hold out for three to four years, but after that it would be necessary to abandon most of southern California and Arizona, and much of Colorado, New Mexico, Utah and Wyoming. For the entire American Southwest the Colorado is indeed the river of life, which makes it all the more tragic and ironic that by the time it approaches its final destination, it has been reduced to a shadow upon the sand, its delta dry and deserted, its flow a toxic trickle seeping into the sea.
In this remarkable blend of history, science, and personal observation, acclaimed author Wade Davis tells the story of America’s Nile, how it once flowed freely and how human intervention has left it near exhaustion, altering the water temperature, volume, local species, and shoreline of the river Theodore Roosevelt once urged us to “leave it as it is.” Yet despite a century of human interference, Davis writes, the splendor of the Colorado lives on in the river’s remaining wild rapids, quiet pools, and sweeping canyons. The story of the Colorado River is the human quest for progress and its inevitable if unintended effects—and an opportunity to learn from past mistakes and foster the rebirth of America’s most iconic waterway.
A beautifully told story of historical adventure and natural beauty, River Notes is a fascinating journey down the river and through mankind’s complicated and destructive relationship with one of its greatest natural resources.
Wade Davis has been called "a rare combination of scientist, scholar, poet and passionate defender of all of life's diversity." In Shadows in the Sun, he brings all of those gifts to bear on a fascinating examination of indigenous cultures and the interactions between human societies and the natural world.
Ranging from the British Columbian wilderness to the jungles of the Amazon and the polar ice of the Arctic Circle, Shadows in the Sun is a testament to a world where spirits still stalk the land and seize the human heart. Its essays and stories, though distilled from travels in widely separated parts of the world, are fundamentally about landscape and character, the wisdom of lives drawn directly from the land, the hunger of those who seek to rediscover such understanding, and the consequences of failure.
As Davis explains, "To know that other, vastly different cultures exist is to remember that our world does not exist in some absolute sense but rather is just one model of reality. The Penan in the forests of Borneo, the Vodoun acolytes in Haiti, the jaguar Shaman of Venezuela, teach us that there are other options, other possibilities, other ways of thinking and interacting with the earth." Shadows in the Sun considers those possibilities, and explores their implications for our world.
When construction of the Madeira-Mamoré Railroad began in 1867, Bolivia had lost its war with Chile, causing it to become landlocked and unable to ship its minerals and other products from the Pacific Coast. Since Bolivia needed to find a way to move products from the Atlantic Coast, the government decided a railroad should be built around the Madeira River—which originates in Bolivia and travels almost 2,000 miles through Brazil to the Amazon—facilitating shipment to foreign markets via the Amazonian waterway. Completion of the railroad was initially stalled by lack of funding, but the project was resurrected in the early twentieth century and completed in 1912. Intended as an integral piece of the rubber export industry, the railroad became unnecessary once the world supply of rubber moved from Brazil to Asia.
Although there have been many brief chronicles and writings about the Madeira-Mamoré Railroad over the years, most barely scratch the surface of this incredible story. Of particular import in Tracks in the Amazon are the photographs—which until now have rarely been seen—taken by Dana Merrill, a New York photographer hired to document the construction of the railroad. It also includes reproductions of the Porto Velho Marconigram, an English-language newspaper written for and by the American expatriates who lived in the construction headquarters at Porto Velho. Because this unique railroad traversed the densest tropical jungle on earth, more than 10,000 workers lost their lives laying the first five miles of track. The images and descriptions of the life of the workers on the railroad illustrate the challenges of working in the jungles—the unforgiving climate, malaria and yellow feverbearing mosquitoes, and the threat of wild animals—which made conditions for the workers next to impossible.
Finalist for the International Latino Book Awards: Best Book in Nonfiction in Portuguese.