Sunday, October 18, 2009

Field Guide to the Unnatural Captivates and Educates

Ever look at a construction site, a chemical plant, a railroad yard or a quarry and wonder how everything worked?  Or does someone in your household peer at the cables and boxes on utility poles, wondering what each one is for?   If so, here is a book for you. Infrastructure: A Field Guide to the Industrial Landscape by Brian Hayes adopts the point of view of a naturalist observing and explaining an unnatural landscape.
The book is full of revealing--and often beautiful--photographs of ubiquitous but often mysterious features of our industrial landscape.   The text provides thorough, readable explanations about how natural resources become products and services that we rely on daily; how our wastes are processed; how roads and buildings are constructed; and how railroads operate.  Each chapter stands on its own, so readers can pick the topics that interest them most.  There are lists of references for both children and adult infrastructure enthusiasts.
This is a book about infrastructure, not sustainability.  It evokes a sense of wonder about the technologies that underpin our civilization, but does not talk much about the problems that they can cause when unsustainably managed.  However, this book provides a solid introduction for those interested in evaluating or improving the sustainability of our critical industries.

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