The Control of Nature

In “The Control of Nature” writer John McFee turns his attention once more to geology and the human struggle against nature. In one sketch, he explores the U.S. Army Corps of Engineers’ unrealized plan to divert the flow of the Mississippi River into a tributary, the Atchafalaya, for flood control; in another, he looks at the ingenious ways in which an Icelandic engineer saved a southern harbor on that island from being destroyed by a lava flow; in a third, he examines a complex scheme to protect Los Angeles from boulders ejected from mountains by compression and tectonic movement. As always, McPhee combines a deep knowledge of his subject with a narrative approach that is wholly accessible; you may not have thought you were interested in earthquakes and flood control, but he gently leads you to take a passionate concern in such matters.