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.
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.