The Control of Nature E–pub Download
Although these three extended essays all ran in the NEW YORKER magazine nearly 30 years ago they retain the power to educate amuse and shock and all show John McPhee master of nonfiction at his best Atchafalaya details the growth of the still little known waterway that runs roughly parallel to the Mississippi and here s the real shock might someday seize the mainstream of the mighty Mississip leaving towns like Baton Rouge and New Orleans high and dry without outlet To mitigate against this the Army Corps of Engineers has built several huge water exchangers that connect the two rivers under the theory that regulating the flow of Mississippi water into the Atchafalaya may forestall grand theft by the latter As always McPhee interviews ust the right officials and employees at Richard Nixon: The Life just the right time and his descriptive similes areewels the spillway that transmits Mississippi water into the Atchafalaya goes sideways like grain suirting out of a burlap bag What do you do when red hot lava from new or recent volcanoes threatens the nearest towns and cities In Iceland you pump literally millions of gallons of cold seawater on the magma hoping it will stall into solid basalt and eventually stop the flow In Hawaii you try channelling playing a dangerous game of curling to make the killer lava go somewhere slightly different than it had intended This section is called Cooling the Lava and it is absolutely enthralling as are the rugged academics military folk and plain old citizens McPhee encounters in both places The third section shows the full power of civilization bureaucracy and high technology against the San Gabriel Mountains in other words Los Angeles Against the Mountains and in spite of millions upon millions spent for retaining walls dry reservoirs to catch rain loosed mud and dislodged bolders it remains to be seen who will eventually win Why oh why do people insist on nesting I Am Cow, Hear Me Moo! just below these flaky mountains One reason is to get above the smog zone making it something that can be seen but not breathed Recalling that Southern California smog has its origin in natural sea fog As you watch it from above through the morning and into the afternoon it turns yellow then ochre then brown and sometimes nearly black like butter darkening in a skillet Verbally McPhee is also no stranger to humor lest I introduce spoilers I won t detail theibes he gets off at one suburban Arby s but watch out for themAll three segments and therefore all of The Control of Nature come highly recommended The actual circumstances may have changed since McPhee first wrote his articles that became this can t put down book the author s richly compelling way with words hasn t McFee looks at three huge public works project the damning and redirectioning of the Mississippi via ongoing construction primarily by the Army Corps of Engineers attempts in Iceland to redirect the flow of large volumes of lava away from a town by spraying massive amounts of water at the flow edges and coping with massive debris flows in Los Angeles as the San Gabriel mountains that abut the city both rise and crumbleInformation here includes some history of the US Army Corps of Engineers an enlightening look at the history of flooding in New Orleans an appreciation for the significance of the Atchafalaya and a look at the geology and natural processes in effect in Los AngelesOverall the information presented in The Control of Nature is very interesting Considering that it was published in 1989 and that I was unaware of the specifics involved it has clearly not become common knowledge and thus retains a bit of freshness It might be nice to see a follow up by the author particularly as applied to the Mississippi and Los Angeles issues in light of events since publication I confess that I did not look for such and it may well be out there While the information in the book was interesting it seemed to me that the writing was less so McPhee offers a host of local personalities to illustrate the impact of these issues on people and generically that approach is sound Yet the impact of that approach was minimal I never felt that his portrayals went beyond what one might find in newspaper reportage of the day One need not make characters come alive as a good novelist might but his portrayals rarely rose above the mundaneI thought the book would have profited from the inclusion of illustrations There is a brief section in which drawings are shown of structures no longer present in Iceland but they added little John McPhee is one of the greatest writers in America today and this is a wonderful introduction to his work The premise humans constantly challenge nature and may hold the upper hand for a while But nature never gets tired and can beat our best in the end Moral trying to control nature is risky business and sometimes
a very bad idea If you asked me a week ago very bad idea If you asked me a week ago before I read this book if I thought this would be a five star book I would have thought you were crazy Her This book I would have probably told you I might never even read this book and that it made me bored to ust read the copy on the back And I can t even tell you why I started to read this I was ust sitting around my apartment reading Ladies and Gentlemen The Bible and I had about thirty pages left and I got restless and it was still light out actually it was about 7 pm and it s summer so that meant I still had an hour or so of light and it was nicer outside than it was in my stuffy apartment so I decided to go outside and read but I got afraid that I d zip through the not so hilarious re tellings of bible stories and after standing in the middle of my apartment looking in every direction trying to figure out which book to read next I ust grabbed this one I don t know why partly because it was on one of my little cardboard shelves and it was easy to see from where I was standing and I thought I m not going to care too much about this I ll be able to give it away when I m done And it s only 272 pages long with sort of big print Let s go read about the control of nature But I was so young and foolish and stupid then a week ago last Sunday This book is so good I can t
do any ustice to the book by trying to explain what it is about If you goto this edition any Swoon: The Heartthrob Activity Book for Good Color-Inners as Well as Beginners justice to the book by trying to explain what it is about If you goto this edition the book you can read a fairly good description of what the book is about hereThe easy response toust about any of the three stories that make up the basis for these essays Man Versus The Mississippi River and it s natural inclination to move to a efficient route to the Gulf of Mexico and it s propensity to flood places like New Orleans which is ust asking for it Man Versus slow moving lava and mountain a fucking mountain New Orleans which is ust asking for it Man Versus slow moving lava and mountain a fucking mountain moving fucking mountain on lava And not an existing mountain but a new mountain that didn t already exist how awe. While John McPhee was working on his previous book Rising from the Plains he happened to walk by the engineering building at the University of Wyoming where words etched in limestone said Strive on the control of Nature is won not given In the morning sunlight that central phrase the control of nature seemed to sparkle with unintended ambiguity Bilateral symmetrical it could with eual speed travel in opposite directions For some years he had been planning a book about places in the world where people have been engaged in all out battles with nature about in the words of the book itself any struggle against natural forces heroic or venal rash or well advised when human beings conscript themselves to fight against the earth to take what is not given to rout the destroying enemy to surround the base of Mt Olympus demanding and expecting the surrender of the gods His interest had first been sparked when he went into the Atchafalaya the largest river swamp in North America and had learned that virtually all of its waters were metered and rationed by a US Army Corps of Engineers' project called Old River ControlIn the natural cycl.
John McPhee í 4 Free readSome twisted mind bending is that A big fissure opens in the ground lava starts seeping out big fire shit shoots into the sky some other geological stuff happens and from the side of a mountain comes another mountain that is moving and some guys with water pumps are trying to stop it that are threatening to destroy a harbor on an Icelandic Island and Man Versus millions of tons of rocks and boulders that come sliding off of mountains on the edge of Los Angeles when the conditions are right and destroy everything in their path as I was saying the easy response to these is well that s what you get for building living there But of course like ust about everything in life when you start to find out about the situation the easy response isn t so easy Yeah people don t need to have million dollar homes on the edge of mountains ust waiting for the right combination of wildfire debris big rains and loose ground from the very active mountains that are still in the process of rising to send rock slides which can easily pull an automobile along with it heading towards the expensive homes and then these people have the gall to try to sue for property damage they suffer and sometimes apparently they even win but sometimes rationality prevails and they don t and they are told well you knew the risks but what do you do now that they are living there And that they are living there and they are uite possibly extremely litigious And then what do you th From time to time all hell will break forth from the mountains To the uestion Why then do people live there the answer seems to be that they would rather defy nature than live without itThis is a very interesting book that looks at three different locations where people have tried to control nature and live where history and perhaps common sense says they probably shouldn t The Mississippi River has an enormous flood plain People have been building levees for at least a couple of centuries but that has the unintended effect of ust sending water to those who live further downriver The Army Corps of Engineers built and maintains a river control structure that particularly protects those living in the Atchafalaya and New Orleans area and keeps the end of the river from moving to another place Atchafalaya The word will now come to mind or less in echo of any struggle against natural forces heroic or venal rash or well advised when human beings conscript themselves to fight against the earth to take what is not given to rout the destroying enemy to surround the base of Mt Olympus demanding and expecting the surrender of the gods I put a green and white sticker that said ATCHAFALAYA in a window of my car It has been there for many years causing drivers on the New Jersey Turnpike to veer in close and crowd my lane while staring at a word that signifies collision When the ground split open and started spewing red hot lava into the sky above Heimaey the largest island of Vestmannaeyjar in Iceland some were worried about protecting the harbor than the homes When the lava flow started getting close they began spraying water on it in an attempt to halt it in its tracks But the lava had to go somewhere Even in something as primal as a volcanic eruption the component of human interference could apparently enter the narrative and in complex and unpredictable geometries alter the shape of succeeding events After the human contribution passed a level higher than trifling the evolution of the new landscape could in no pure sense be natural The event had lost its status as a simple act of God In making war with nature there was risk of loss in winning The San Gabriel Mountains on the east side of Los Angeles are some of the steepest in the world due to plate tectonics But in addition to earthuakes the residents have to deal with fires and floods And not ust floods of water but debris flows full of boulders some larger than cars It s a fantastic place to be in
a storm You hear a sound like giant castanets boulders clicking together They re not pebbles And there is astorm You hear a sound like giant castanets boulders clicking together They re not pebbles And there is a which is absolutely heavenly of the crushed chaparral plants It s so fragrant and beautiful it s eerie to have it associated with something so terrifying And God knows it is terrifying Although the book is a bit dated first published in 1989 it s still a very interesting read John McPhee has a clever way with words and it s kind of a pleasure to read but he s also rather long winded and freuently sarcastic He often seems to disparage people for living in such places even using the word dingbats in a couple of odd places But he also seems to recognize the beauty of these locations Overall the book was an enjoyable read and fascinating to consider the power of nature especially in the face of our hubris to try to modify and control it However throughout the book I couldn t help but think of a uote from Werner Heisenberg one of the founders of uantum theory who reminds us that we are part of nature too In classical physics science started from the belief or should one say from the illusion that we could describe the world or at least parts of the world without any reference to ourselves I don t know if it was a function of the wrong book at the wrong time but I found myself often getting bored with this effort of John McPhee s from the late 80s I always gave McPhee credit for being able to make a wallpaper seminar given in northern England sound like the high point of a trip to Europe but in The Control of Nature
book about things decidedly interesting than wallpaper I found my mind kept wandering It may not have helped that for out of his three subjects I have peripheral experience in Atchafalaya McPhee describes the efforts by the Army Corps of Engineers to keep the Mississippi River contained within its traditional courses and in Los Angeles Against the Mountains the efforts of the LA County Flood Control District to keep the San Gabriel Mountains from suashing Los Angeles into a molehill I don t know whether wor There are three extended essays herein about disparate places where humans insist on settling sometimes oftentimes ust for the view but the land has a different idea Man and his abode face disaster in these stories Man could move of course and some do But others try to control nature As if One real river pilot meaning not Mark Twain is uoted here Mother Nature is patient Mother Nature has time than we doI knew of course that the Mississippi floods that volcanoes bubble and that Los Angeles has random fires and mudslides Yet I didn t know the science of it As he always does John McPhee here blends history science biography anecdote and the occasional personal intrusion to explain it all Man versus Nature Who will win Atchafalaya People settled in New Orleans and Baton Rouge They became thriving ci. Es of the Mississippi's deltaic plain the time had come for the Mississippi to change course to shift its mouth than a hundred miles and go down the Atchafalaya one of its distributary branches The United States could not afford that for New Orleans Baton Rouge and all the industries that lie between would be cut off from river commerce with the rest of the nation At a place called Old River the Corps therefore had built a great fortress part dam part valve to restrain the flow of the Atchafalaya and compel the Mississippi to stay where it isIn Iceland in 1973 an island split open without warning and huge volumes of lava began moving in the direction of a harbor scarcely half a mile away It was not only Iceland's premier fishing port accounting for a large percentage of Iceland's export economy but it was also the only harbor along the nation's southern coast As the lava threatened to fill the harbor and wipe it out a physicist named Thorbjorn Sigurgeirsson suggested a way to fight against the flowing red rock initiating an all out endeavor uniue in human history On the big island of Hawaii one of the world's two must erupti. Ties and important ports well before it became apparent there was a problem The Atchafalaya rhymes with ambalaya runs roughly parallel to the Mississippi It ust lies there uiet and smooth It lies there like a big alligator in a low slough with time on its side waiting waiting to outwit the Corps of Engineers and hunkering down ever lower in its bed and presenting a sort of maw to the Mississippi into which the river could fall It is the Atchafalaya s raison d tre to capture the Mississippi And it would maybe already would have if Nature was allowed to run its course The Mississippi is ust itching to go that way Congress was told in 1928 And if it did well New Orleans and Baton Rouge would be underwater and the Saints would be playing home football games about 150 miles to the westSo they built levees and then ever higher and higher levees But the Atchafalaya is not going away nor is its seeming purpose Stay tunedOne of the reasons I read McPhee is for his humor which can sneak up on you In referencing The War of 1812 McPhee begins a sentence When that unusual year was in its thirty sixth month Cooling the Lava I said above that sometimes people settle in a place for the view and you can see why folks are reluctant to leave Vestmannaeyjar a town and archipelago off the south coast of IcelandUntil of course this happensIceland I learned is volcanic a hot spot Or as McPhee writes Iceland is the geologic chocolate shop of this minor planet But there s that view So some people left but others came back A lot of this section is about how Iceland tries to control the lava flow shooting streams of water at it that works sort of It worked well enough that other countries brought the Icelanders in to see if they could helpThey couldn t help in Hawaii There McPhee went took the obligatory visits to Mauna Kea and Mauna Loa Then he went to Kilauea and after appropriate waivers climbed to the top McPhee wrote Kilauea since 1983 has not been uiet for fifteen minutesI read the section on Kilauea paused for a sip of red wine since it was handy and heard my cellphone buzz with an alert Kilauea had Why Diets Make Us Fat just erupted My reading life gets spookier and spookierAnyhow I also read McPhee because heust writes with a wide angle lens Speaking of Mauna Loa The long mountain is fifty miles long Viewed from the edge of the ocean it is an astonishing trompe l oeil because it is so smoothly constructed that it appears in two dimensions and presents a deceptive depth of field It looks like a low friendly hill a singing dune at worst a bald Scottish brae You think I ll run up there and have a look around before lunch The long mountain is as high as the Alps If it were dissected by streams given promontories and reentrants serrated by canyons invaded by shadows it might look something like the Alps As is it s Dont Hex with Texas (Enchanted, Inc., just a massive shield composed of chilled magma looking the way the Alps would look if a dentist could repair them Los Angeles Against the Mountains Fires and mudslides in Los Angeles are widely reported on Oprah s house being front page news but I never knew the particulars of why they happened It turns out there are many factors not excluding human foible Los Angeles sprawls On one side is the Pacific Ocean and on the other side is the San Gabriel Mountains On these particular mountains is chaparral which will burn in large swaths Humans are often the culprit But when chaparral is consumed by fire it makes the ground essentially waterproof Then it s a matter of waiting for the winter rains Boulders come looseoin with mud and trees and cars and parts of buildings in the way It s not ust the water It s massive debris filling swimming pools garages and houses and really spoiling the viewThis is a story of debris basins and other human attempts to stop the mountains Because the people won t move There s the view and the celebrities the money and sometimes the seeming privacy As one resident said If it gets where I can t pee off my front porch I ll moveOh and another reason I read McPhee is that he will not say smog No Instead he writes this The ascending effluents of the smelters refineries mills and factories added a great burden to the marine fog layer made heavier still as the work force moved about in cars To describe this ochre cumulus the world s shortest portmanteau word which had been coined around 1905 was borrowed from London His account of people living in the San Gabriel canyons above Los Angeles is classic and scary But almost everyone he talked to who lived there found the risks worthwhile Including Caltech geologists who certainly knew what they were getting a real review I liked Will Byrnes I liked the book than he did and found McPhee s portrayals of the geologists engineers accurate and sympathetic These aren t colorful personalities as a rule Definite exceptions for some But I m a McPhee fanboy so YMMV But his description of the Atchafalaya River Control structure vibrating and humming in a flood seemingly on the verge of failure Well all these years later it s still doing its ob are the debris basins above LA which need periodic cleanout And the mudslides still happens sometimes with tragic results So the book is a little out of date but well worth reading Recommended Outstanding vintage information and assessments Top notch explanations of complex and never ending attempts 3 different scenarios to fool Mother Nature This was a 5 star for the complicated science of delta and river system silt constructions for me Knowinga book about things decidedly interesting than wallpaper I found my mind kept wandering It may not have helped that for
the area and the reality I never truly understood major aspects of the Mississippi Riverarea and the reality I never truly understood major aspects of the Mississippi River its lower reaches particularly I do now All 3 posits of peoples will over reality dire physical positions in nature from engineering to the composites of fall out in the land masses themselves are excellent City building on deltas with changing tributary accesses and silt build ups to water flow % of the entire system volcanic hot spots of earth spheres mountainside view buildings on ranges facing a salt sea those 3 exact posits and the engineering used answers here SO farIt only lost a star on the intense engineering particulars and past name drops to all their uses as this can get uite dry after so many pages But their names should be far well known than they are It will be a losing battle Nature has far time on the ob His description of the larger ecosystem is very prescient It was particularly chilling to read his description of the levee system in New Orleans before the Katrina Hurricane and see how precarious our engineering systems are It has only strenghtened my belief that we put way too much faith in technological solutions to forces that humans cannot control It is a humbling book and good reminder that all actions have much larger reverberations than we often acknowledg. Ve hot spots people are not unmindful of the Icelandic example McPhee went to Hawaii to talk with them and to walk beside the edges of a molten lake and incandescent riversSome of the expensive real estate in Los Angeles is up against mountains that are rising and disintegrating as rapidly as any in the world After a complex coincidence of natural events boulders will flow out of these mountains like fish eggs mixed with mud sand and smaller rocks in a cascading mass known as debris flow Plucking up trees fish eggs mixed with mud sand and smaller rocks in a cascading mass known as debris flow Plucking up trees cars bursting through doors and windows filling up houses to their eaves debris flows threaten the lives of people living in and near Los Angeles' famous canyons At extraordinary expense the city has built a hundred and fifty stadium like basins in a daring effort to catch the debrisTaking us deep into these contested territories McPhee details the strategies and tactics through which people attempt to control nature Most striking in his vivid depiction of the main contestants nature in complex and awesome guises and those who would attempt to wrest control from her stubborn often ingenious and always arresting characte.