chapter  10
22 Pages

Watering the deserts

THE DESERT conveys important lessons to "those who see." This message pervades both ancient and modern accounts of desert experience. Current American fascinations with Sunbelt living, "Marlboro" men, and Monkey Wrench activism carry forward the 19th-century lore of irrigators, cowboys, and desert rats. The rhetoric in that lore draws in turn upon biblical images of paradise and prophetic traditions to portray the promise and perils of desert landscapes. In literature these traditions have been enlarged over the years by a rich body of western fiction, history, and nature writing; and in visual terms by western films, art, and photography. Idealizations of the desert have swirled through the national consciousness, influencing public perceptions and policies.