I just got through reading the “The Gulf: The Making of American Sea” by Jack E. Davis and the timing turned out great. The book is an environmental history of the Gulf of Mexico starting with the native Americans who lived along the gulf before contact with Europeans and ending with the present heavily polluted Gulf with highly populated and industrialized shores.
The book describes how the present situation came to be from an area that was beautiful and pristine teeming with wildlife and fish.
I learned that the Gulf of Mexico has an annual dead zone of almost 8000 square miles from Spring until Fall where the oxygen level is too low to support life. It comes from the Mississippi River basin where about half of the USA’s rural population and farms are. Phosphorous, nitrogen and other pollutants running off of farms, and maybe my front yard, drain into the Gulf via and use up all the oxygen in the water.
I learned that hundreds of square miles of coastal marsh has been filled in to create marinas and beachfronts for condo development.
I also learned that coastal land is disappearing because of sea level increases caused by man made global change combined with man made modification to the coast that reduces natural barriers to storm surges and flooding.
Davis writes about pollution from industrial activities such as chemical plants and paper mills. He also writes about how with global warming that it is expected that we will have fewer hurricanes per year but they will be of ever increasing power and intensity.
This is a great, well researched, very readable book that is sounding an alarm. Those of us that love the Gulf of Mexico should read it. I love it the Gulf. I spent the early part of my career building pipelines in and around the Gulf. I have fished its waters and love spending time there in the summer.
This country needs to get serious about climate change. it seems like every few years we have an unprecedented hurricane, more powerful than the previous ones. I am the first to say that one hurricane does not prove that global warming is happening but to me it is apparent that the extra energy in the atmosphere is having catastrophic effects already.
Jack E. Davis is a history professor, with an interest in Environmental History, at the University of Florida