Saturday, December 8, 2012

Dead Dry by Sarah Andrews - A Review

This is a review of a book written by writer; Sarah Andrews; "Dead Dry"; a mystery featuring forensic geologist, Em Hansen.

As I stated in my previous review of "Killer Dust" by Sarah Andrews, our protagonist Em Hansen is a Forensic Geologist, detective, pilot, and woman after my own heart. 

I love the Earth, Sky, Sea, Space, and Ocean, so having found mystery writer Sarah Andrews, is a gift.

Although "Dead Dry" has a genre listing of mystery and fiction, the story is well written. It is obvious that this is a work of love, and contains the caliber of work, citations, and credits found within a scientific research paper.

Many of you know the saying, "truth is stranger than fiction". If you live to an age where you can observe, and comprehend, the fact that fiction is easier to take and swallow will be proven to a curious mind, many times. "Dead Dry" is a work that tells a real story about the condition of depleted water supplies on our Earth.

Sadly, such occurrences such as the degradation of our only habitat are facts that most people do not want to know. Climate Change, Global Warming, Ocean Acidification, the death of coral reefs, and the loss of water are now a part of our 'modern history'.

The rapid loss of jungles, rain, icebergs, snow, species, cool air, and water are bringing mankind to the brink of a new Geologic Age. 2012 is here, and we have less than a month to go.

During my half century journey through this life, I have witnessed a beautiful, and 'perfect' eco-system turned nearly to dust, salt and ash. 50 years geologically is less than a wink of time. This is not good for any earth inhabitant, it is not good for our solar system, it is terrible for our universe as a whole.

Can we afford to turn our minds off, while turning the lighted box on that destroys our ability to think and see the truth?

Personally, I think we have gone too far, we have passed the tipping point. I think that in order to  save us, we must bring mankind back to sanity when it comes to the way we treat Earth. Our loss of species, and lessening resources are frightening to those who study Earth and Weather Science. It would seem there is no use in caring, no motivation to turn it around, but ever hopeful, I think that it does not hurt to try.

Em Hansen, has matured in the years since "A Fall in Denver", and her evolution is doing a world of good.

"Dead Dry" is another one of Sarah Andrews' books that serve the truth of environmental alarm into bite size pieces, making it possible for even a young reader to digest the story and meaning. Well water corruption in a mystery format is good work, and Ms. Andrews is an amazing writer.

The book, "Dead Dry" begins in Utah, where Em Hansen is working for the Utah Geological Survey. She is called by the Salt Lake City Police to assist law enforcement at a crime scene. The crime scene is at a rock quarry, and since her previous work relating to crime and geology has made her an expert, she is asked to assist.

One of the men who work at the quarry notice a rock fall that has a body part sticking out of it. Em is needed to consult on why the rock fall happened, if the quarry pit is stable enough for body retrieval, and her ideas on how a body ended behind the locked fences of the rock quarry pit.

Once the body is recovered, Em Hansen discovers (via a tattoo on the body's buttocks) at the coroners retrieval that she knows the victim, and the victim is a well known geologist; an Afton McWain.

Em Hansen knew Afton McWain from when she worked in the oilfields in Colorado ("A Fall In Denver" by Sarah Andrews). As the story proceeds, Em travels to Colorado to do the family notification, as she was friends with Afton's wife Julia.

In Colorado, events occur, and clues uncover the reason Afton McWain was killed. It comes down to the battle between greed, and environmental sustainability. Mainly well water depletion.

Due to the over crowding of the larger cities, more people are craving wide open spaces. Many people have more money, and are desiring to have a ranch setting, with all of the bells and whistles of city life. Swimming pools, toilets, washing machines, Jacuzzis, hot tubs, sprinkler systems and so on. The general population is unaware of what a drain on the Earth's water supplies this over use of water is.

Even cities who have waste water systems, and municipal water do not create that water. It is not a commodity that is created. There is a recycling of evaporated water, and water that was frozen eons ago, that are in aquifers. When the water cycle is polluted, the earth is over heated, and the water supply is finite.

In Dead Dry, there is the other faction. Those who own, or are commissioned to sell ranchettes, or ranches to those fleeing the cities. Like any salesman, they will tell a hungry buyer what they want to hear. "All you have to do is drill a well, and you will have all of the water you need." This is the reason why in this mystery, Alton McWain ends up smashed in a rock quarry. He was an expert, and important player in a group who joined with new ranchette owners to prosecute the land brokers that committed fraud in selling land that does not have the water capacity to sustain any ranchette.

Geologist MsWain was helping newcomers who found after spending $10,000.00 to drill a well, tthat he water only lasted long enough for the ink to dry on the Title and / or Mortgages. New home owners found themselves in a real pickle: their choices; 
  • the new owners could either try to sell their dry lands with a disclosure of no well water
  • learn how to live a permaculture lifestyle, and use the little rain water they got, sparingly and frugally.
"Dead Dry" is an important message for today. Each time you take a shower, or flush the commode, or wash 5 loads of clothes, consider that new water cannot be manufactured. This eco-system we were given, came with a container of water.

Sadly, the greed and corruption of corporations and businesses try to pave over the facts of resource availability, and what consequences we face as a globe full of people, with only 1% clean water available.

A good resource for "seeding water" is Brad Lancaster's "Rainwater Harvesting: for Drylands and Beyond I II & III", and his organization's Blog "Drops in a Bucket"

Saturday, December 1, 2012

Killer Dust: by Sarah Andrews - A Review

Book Review of "Killer Dust" by Sarah Andrews: A Mystery Featuring Forensic Geologist Em Hansen.

"Killer Dust" is the seventh book I have read by Author/Professional Geologist/Pilot, Sarah Andrews.

The  protagonist of these series of mystery books, is Em Hansen is a character after my own heart. She comes from an abnormal family, whose formative years, were on a working ranch in Wyoming. It is in the wide open spaces, that Em becomes one with the Earth, and is allowed the freedom of thought. She is a natural detective, asking the right questions, for unanswered questions. This is also a skill of a geologist, or perhaps it is these skill sets that are the making of Geo-scientists.

Em and I have come a long way in a few weeks, from "A Fall In Denver" to "Killer Dust". In "A Fall In Denver", she is a geologist working for the gas & oil industry, and her view of the industry is multiple faceted; 1). Modern society needs fuel and energy to operate machines, 2). Geologists need to work, 3). When geologists are too good at finding oil and gas, eventually the geology jobs play out. 4). Mining and drilling are needed for economic necessity. 5). It is good when the energy interests abide with environmental concern. "A Fall in Denver" was written in 1996.

Sarah Andrews finished "Killer Dust" on September 11, 2002. It was published in 2003. "Killer Dust" covers the topic of bio-terrorism, and male vs. female terrorism parallels this story.

A reader who understands geology and the environment can imagine that "Killer Dust" is talking about particulate matter that is airborne, and causes death, or great harm. It is.

What strikes home with the adventures, and heroism of Em Hansen is that she has had to come to grips with the cavernous problem of the destruction of the Earth that she loves. Within the pages of "Killer Dust", she has come to the realization that U.S. Government entities, our Representatives, Senators, and even past Presidents have gone from representing a human population, to working for the corporate entities.

Earlier in the story, Em had located a buried SAM-7; so she and her retired FBI friend Tom, and some ex Navy Seals unearthed it from a beach at the far end of the Florida Keys. It was pointed toward Cape Canaveral by a psycho stalker. Em was treated the excavation as a crime scene. Because she shared samples with Guffey, and the FBI lab at Quantico, Guffey must have gotten enough information from the soil samples taken from the plastic casings of the SAM-7, to lead him in the direction of the Bahamas.

Tom, her friend and ex-FBI agent, knew when Guffey disappeared from the USGS, that he had enough information to get him to the approximate area where the red dust (anthrax) was being manufactured, but Miles Guffey did not realize he was going into a lawless area, where weapons and terrorists would protect their business. Em used her knowledge of maps, and the help of an ex-Seal, to locate the 'Sea Dingo'; Guffey's boat, and hid away while the craft was uninhabited.

On page 267, of "Killer Dust", there is a scene where Em Hansen had stowed away on the boat of Miles Guffey; (a well respected geologist, gone rouge from the Florida USGS [United States Geological Survey]. Guffey, after offering to run some samples of dust, and other fauna, gotten from Em. He and his lab partner Waltrine, went off seeking to find the source of some red dust, that has helped kill coral reefs in the Florida Keys).

They are awaiting passage through the lock systems, created by the U.S. Government, as a train passes ahead. Em notices that Guffey seems to be annoyed by the wait, and passage of the gondola train cars carrying limestone. Miles Guffey then pulls out a newspaper article, from a drawer on deck. The article was from the Washington Post.

The article reported that "...real-estate developers had bought themselves a huge loophole in the law, thwarting the professed federal plan to 'replumb' the Everglades from a ghostly relic back into a thriving ecosystem. Using a mining law dodge, they were excavating vast quantities of the underlying limestone between Miami and Lake Okeechobee, digging down into the ground water, which created both rubble to sell as concrete aggregate...not only were the aquifers within the limestone thus forever crossed and the vitality of the ecosystem further ruined, but the rock was being sold for seven cents on the dollar." (p 267)

The story gets very exciting, and our protagonist Em Hansen finds courage and fortitude to act in the manner of a warrior, protecting her friends, her Country, and the Eco-system; Mother Earth, she loves so much.

Sarah Andrews includes summation in the Author's Note, at the end of this mystery. Her summary is apropos for 2012, as it was on that fateful day of September 11, 2001. Sarah Andrews credits Gene Shinn (genius geologist), with providing information that drove the helm of this story from personal terrorism suffered my thousands of women, usually from the men they know or love, into a parallel story of terrorism world wide.

Gene Shinn as a lover of the coral reefs, and a student at the University of Miami in the 1950's, began studying and photographing the corals. In the 1970's his life journey led him to the discovery, that the coral reefs in south Florida were dying. Ms. Andrews explains the problems he faced getting funding to find out what was causing this, and how to stop it. Gene could get no funding. Finally, he did get some funding from NASA, in a new public health program they launched. (p.306 - Author's Note)

The final message of environmental concern, for the earth, skies, sea, and all living creatures is that during the Cold War, tons of anthrax was manufactured, and cannot be accounted for.

As our Republican Congress acts in corporate interest in 2012, let me add this passage from "Killer Dust" written in 2002: "...What worries me is the growing trend of scientific research being increasingly predicated and directed by vested interests and the politicians who cater to them. When big money directs research, big money influences and even dictates findings. We live in the age of bean counters, people who confuse the bottom line with the moral line. Corporate culture is quickly becoming human culture, to our peril as a species." (p. 307 - Author's Note - "Killer Dust" by Sarah Andrews