Publishers Weekly has recently reviewed two Cornell University books:
Under the Surface: Fracking, Fortunes, and the Fate of the Marcellus Shale by Tom Wilber
Few ecological concerns are so controversial as hydraulic fracturing, or “fracking,” the process by which chemicals are pumped deep into the earth to retrieve natural gas from buried shale deposits. Across Pennsylvania, Ohio, and New York, pro- and anti-fracking forces are marshaling their constituencies for a showdown. Opponents argue that the process will ruin major water supplies, while advocates see huge resources of energy and the prospect of dazzling wealth. Wilber, a former environmental reporter who has been covering the fracking debate from the beginning, combines a storyteller’s ear with a journalist’s eye, offering a sensitive and especially timely take on the issue. Here, the villains that emerge include the landmen, buyers of mineral rights who show up on doorsteps throughout the region offering tempting buyouts, while for heroes, we are introduced to neighbors, such as Victoria Switzer and Ken Ely, two very different people thrown together in the fight to save their homes, and others who took the money offered by the developers and moved on. In the most inspiring passages, Wilber tells how the residents of New York’s Southern Tier and Pennsylvania’s Endless Mountains, organized, fought, and participated in countless meetings and government hearings to determine the future of their homes and land. This book will be essential background reading for the still-unfolding fracking drama.
America’s First Great Depression: Economic Crisis and Political Disorder After the Panic of 1837 by Alasdair Roberts
For the first 50 years after achieving independence, Americans had every reason to believe theirs to be the most fortunate of nations. Then came the Panic of 1837, which caused a hopelessness rendered worse by the optimism that had preceded it and resulted in a crisis that lasted until 1848. The analysis by Suffolk University Law School professor Roberts (The Logic of Discipline) reveals how this disaster led to epochal shifts in policy and culture, and his lively narrative and commitment to character ensure that the human cost is never out of sight. Roberts is especially keen to demonstrate how this mid-19th century ordeal relates to America’s current woes. The “hard times” of the 1830s led to financial ruin for state governments, a near-cessation of federal aid, and an outbreak of violent protests in many major cities. For Roberts, though, the most relevant parallel by far is the relationship between the U.S. and its primary foreign creditor: Great Britain. If today’s commentators worry about a growing Chinese threat, during the 19th century British ascension was an established fact; its military had no rival and its investors and industry served as “the real engine of American development.” This timely work suggests that the U.S. has spent more time as a global underdog than as an undisputed hegemon.