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Princeton University Press

Running Out: In Search of Water on the High Plains

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Finalist for the National Book Award
An intimate reckoning with aquifer depletion in America's heartland

The Ogallala aquifer has nourished life on the American Great Plains for millennia. But less than a century of unsustainable irrigation farming has taxed much of the aquifer beyond repair. The imminent depletion of the Ogallala and other aquifers around the world is a defining planetary crisis of our times. Running Out offers a uniquely personal account of aquifer depletion and the deeper layers through which it gains meaning and force.

Anthropologist Lucas Bessire journeyed back to western Kansas, where five generations of his family lived as irrigation farmers and ranchers, to try to make sense of this vital resource and its loss. His search for water across the drying High Plains brings the reader face to face with the stark realities of industrial agriculture, eroding democratic norms, and surreal interpretations of a looming disaster. Yet the destination is far from predictable, as the book seeks to move beyond the words and genres through which destruction is often known. Instead, this journey into the morass of eradication offers a series of unexpected discoveries about what it means to inherit the troubled legacies of the past and how we can take responsibility for a more inclusive, sustainable future.

An urgent and unsettling meditation on environmental change, Running Out is a revelatory account of family, complicity, loss, and what it means to find your way back home.

Author: Lucas Bessire
Publisher: Princeton University Press
Published: 05/18/2021
Pages: 264
Binding Type: Hardcover
Weight: 1.00lbs
Size: 8.40h x 5.70w x 1.20d
ISBN: 9780691212647
Award: National Book Awards - Finalist

About the Author
Lucas Bessire is associate professor of anthropology at the University of Oklahoma and the author of Behold the Black Caiman: A Chronicle of Ayoreo Life.