LIT: Authors and SFBG talk saving the earth

Pub date January 7, 2009
SectionPixel Vision

by Amanda Witherell


Yes, even careless placement of renewable energy is hurting the land — addressed in chapter five.
Photo courtesy of

This week we reviewed The American West at Risk, a recently-published tome that details how ongoing environmental issues are destroying the general livability of Earth for all species, including humans. In short, this book shouldn’t just be on every wannabe Greenpeace activist’s nightstand. Each of the 13 chapters explore one subject in depth — forestry, mining, military operations, road building, to name a few — and balances science with politics and reality to sharpen the argument for preservation of natural resources.

We spoke with two of the authors, Howard G. Wilshire and Jane E. Nielson, who will be reading and discussing the book with co-author Richard Hazlett on Thursday, Jan. 8 at Books Inc, 601 Van Ness Ave.

SFBG: I’m curious why you wrote this book and who you feel you wrote it for.

Howard G. Wilshire: We wrote it because the three of us, all geologists, have a great deal of experience working on environmental issues in the West and we were concerned about it. We get a lot of inquiries from reporters and lawyers and others about specific issues and we figured that since we’re not going to be around forever we should write down our responses and make them available.
When we began the book we told Oxford University Press that we were writing it for nonscientists as well as for academic use, but they’re pretty fussy and decided they would market it only as an academic book. But we wrote it for people who have a problem in their own backyard and want to get some background information on how to respond to it.

Jane E. Nielson: Or for decision makers and environmental lawyers. Often they are not people trained in science and they may not know all the ramifications. Reporters often don’t know all the questions to ask when presented with some sort of a program that’s going to improve things or they have a hard time figuring out what the answers mean. These are the kinds of people who would call us, as well as people from a citizens group who have some kind of major problem coming up and want to know what they needed to think about and what they should be concerned about. This is really the reason we wrote the book. There’s a lot of expertise here and a lot of consideration of things that most people don’t think about.