Sunday, January 15, 2012

The Orphaned Land, by V.B. Price

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When V. B. Price calls New Mexico an orphaned land, he's hardly kidding -- to its residents, the state often feels ignored or disregarded by the rest of the country, and in my experience that feeling is wrong only because much of the rest of the country doesn't even know it's there.

But Price isn't talking about how the rest of the country views New Mexico. At least, not directly. What he looks at is how many of New Mexico's current environmental issues are rooted in and fueled by its standing as a wasteland desert state, and he takes a heartfelt journalistic look into the problems and concerns facing the region in both an immediate and a long-view context.

This book is the first of its kind, in that no one before Price had so thoroughly gone spelunking into the interactions between modern humans and the New Mexican environment. While it asks for a common-sense approach to providing responsible stewardship to the land -- after all, what we do to our environments we ultimately do to ourselves -- The Orphaned Land is far from a crazed conservationist plea. Price has the science, the history, the sociology, and the politics worked out in his telling. He brings us up to speed on what's happening in New Mexico's environs, and he does it well.

What next, though? Price doesn't make it easy for us. He's done his work, writing a history for New Mexico so that the state may avoid repeating it. The prevention is up to everyone else; no one man can tackle it alone. And the call is not just for New Mexicans, because what happens in the Land of Enchantment will affect the rest of the world, and vice versa, in that lovely interconnected way our planet has of weaving us all together.

Really, I can't say enough about how thorough Price's research is, and how compelling his prose is. He's a master, and his poet's touch dances with his journalist background throughout the book. Whatever your environmental views, this book will get you thinking. It's already influenced my own writing in two separate projects -- neither of which you would expect to be influenced by an environmental history of America's forgotten state. For me, few accomplishments are higher than a book revving up the thinking motor. So thank you, Señor Price.

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