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Heather's writing elegantly blends her personal experiences with critically important information about the state of water in the west. As someone who hasn't spent nearly as much time on rivers as she, I find myself thinking about water conservation much more frequently than I once had (since I'm a native New Englander, where water is much more plentiful), and wondering what I can do to make an impact and help in some small way.
This is a must read, especially for those who love the outdoors, those who care about climate change and what it means for our future, or those who worry about ecosystems and the impact humans can have on natural environments. Downriver is the type of book that makes you feel smarter while you read, but is also hard to put down because you are eagerly waiting to find out what happens next on Heather's journey.
Is this book about nature? Western Rivers? Colorado Basin water issues? It's all of this and more. Hansman's odyssey is a journey through our civilization. By way of her shared hopes and fears, her tale of a river journey personifies her narrative. She relates how in the American West people and the environment struggle to accommodate to changes wrought by man in nature. Far more than a linear adventure of rafting down a river with illustrative side excursions, the author brings her unique background and interests to bear as a unifying sub-theme. She compellingly humanizes her tale by weaving it with words of action and emotion; incorporating facts and figures, she brings alive in human scale, complex socioeconomic analyses. She reveals doubts and preconceived notions about Colorado Basin issues, yet escapes biases with honesty when explaining multiple players and their diverse interests. The Colorado River Basin is a region of conflicting perspectives and needs; Hansman demonstrates that by appreciating the needs and concerns of others, way can be found to take steps toward common ground. Hansman tells big truth, not just personal or special-interest truth. She shows that people forced to face nature's vagaries must together pull laboring oars toward conciliation. Facts, figures, fears, hopes, pragmatics, governmental policies, beauty, nature, and more, ...Hansman slips a myriad of considerations into her book while making it engaging, enlightening, and enjoyable to read. In all, she records far more than a history of what was and is; Hansman inspires focus for organizing a vision to prescribe what can be and all too soon must be. Hansman leads toward processes to resolve many competing demands. Many not satisfied with current ad hoc partial plans for the Colorado Basin's future, may be grateful for this. I was looking forward to an update to "Cadillac Desert." I found that update, and as well encountered a voyage through turmoil, conflict, reconciliation, and far more. You'll be glad to read Heather Hansman's "Downriver." Now timely, "Downriver" is also an instant classic.
I have been reading a lot of books on the West and this one is very good,,,I got a lot out of it re water stakeholders, special interests and the complexity of the issue. I was well aware of our water problems in Prescott AZ and AZ in general as well as CA where I use to live. I know how dire things are on the Colorado. I was not aware of how important the Green River was. Author did a great job in sending a warning as to what the future holds.. Like most environmental issues there are not many things to be "upbeat" about...I recommend the book to anyone who has an interest in water in the west. j
The author gives a balanced and often moving account concerning the tensions involving the conflicting uses of the limited, and decreasing, amount of water available to the western states. She explains the bad data and antiquated laws that govern the current distribution of water from the Colorado River, and the dangers to species and the environment posed by increasing demands on that water. A striking narrative of natural beauty, human fears, and a demand for water that may not be possible to meet in the future.
Downriver is the perfect blend of adventure and an education on water use in the west. One of those books you can’t wait to crack open and have trouble putting down.
Heather’s writing does a remarkable job detailing the complexities behind water use in the Colorado River Basin in a methodical yet easy to follow narrative. She couples this with her personal accounts of her solo pack raft down the Green River while exploring the livelihoods along its banks, local water dependent industry, the ecosystems being impacted, and the role climate change is playing.
For someone who thought they knew a fair amount about water conservation and global climate change, this book was an eye opener for me. It peeled back the curtain and humanized the current issues and struggles the west is facing. Makes me want to reduce my footprint and contribute to finding a solution to these problems. If you care about the future of this planet, this page turner should be on your list, you won’t be disappointed. Well done Heather!
This book is a great mix of personal memoir and policy overview. It touches on many facets of Western water issues - never in too much detail to be boring or overwrought - and does a good job of giving those issues a human touch. It's clear that the author has spent a lot of time on rivers, and her descriptions of the river landscape are evocative and interesting. If you are familiar with Marc Reisner's "Cadillac Desert," you will be familiar with much of this book's subject matter. However, to make comparisons, that book is much more dense and difficult to get through than this one. If you are not familiar with the topic, this book makes a great entry point that keeps you hooked right up to the end.
The copyediting in this book is sub-par but the subject she covers is critically important. We here in the American Southwest have to wake up to the critical condition we are in trying to grow endlessly while water resources are not growing and are actually shrinking. As Hansman points out, we may think we can solve any problem with our ingenuity, but there are limits to growth, especially in the increasingly arid Southwest. This is an important book.
Great read! Very enlightening. Water rights and distribution are a big deal in the Southwest. I bought the book thinking it was about a solo raft trip on the Green River, and it is, but there is so much more about water rights in some very arid country.
Couldn’t put it down! Hansman's book is a thorough, engaging read. She insightfully weaves her witty & interesting personal solo adventure down the river with the history of river water in the west and the current viewpoint of all the key players (states, ranchers, farmers, dam controllers, fish & wildlife, recreation...) currently involved in water rights discussions. A must read!