If you think preserving natural resources is all about scientific data and arcane legal maneuvers, read Storm Over Mono. In his richly documented account of the battle to save Mono Lake, John Hart focuses on the people who mounted the successful campaign against the Los Angeles Department of Water and Power. Most were ordinary mortals: "longhairs and shorthairs, locals and visitors, biologists, birders, a noted photographer or two." What distinguished them was their outrage over the loss of an entire ecosystem to a city 350 miles away and their determination to stop it.
Hart does not ignore the importance of
science and legal expertise to the fight which ultimately
restricted Los Angeles' use of Mono Lake water. But he spins 20
years of court cases and data collection into an inspiring story
about people and their passion for a place twice as salty as the
Hart himself is as bewitched by the
peculiar, unsettling beauty of the Mono Basin as the people he
calls Monophiles. His descriptions - of ever- changing light, green
algae mats, pale tufa towers and clouds of grebes - make the place
itself one of the book's characters. If you haven't been there,
reading Storm Over Mono makes you want to visit; if you have, you
want to go again.
This is an unapologetically
partisan book. Hart never questions that saving Mono Lake is a just
and righteous cause. But he does not ignore the human frailties of
its participants. David Gaines, the blunt founder of the Mono Lake
Committee, was "no politician," Hart says, and his refusal to
sugarcoat things could "go beyond frankness." Even the sainted Mono
Lake Committee gets his occasional, gentle jab.
But the committee and its cast of supporting characters are the
heroes of this Gulliver-like tale for immobilizing mighty Los
Angeles with thousands of Lilliputian threads. Storm Over Mono
awakens a sense of the power we all nurture in our own communities.
It inspires us to get up and use it.
Jane Braxton Little writes from Plumas County,