Monthly Archives: January 2013

The Fall of the House of Dixie: Amending Civil War Narrative

Dixie HCby Bruce Levine, author of The Fall of the House of Dixie (Random House, January 2013).

The first five commenters will receive a free copy of The Fall of the House of Dixie.  Email us at rhacademic@randomhouse.com with your mailing address.

In a recent national survey, nearly half of all those queried denied that slavery was the main cause of the U.S. Civil War. And that view is gaining, not losing, ground. Among younger people polled (those under 30 years of age), fully 60% responded that way. Many university students share that view. Like so many other modern Americans, they have come to regard the Civil War as a dramatic conflict in military terms, one filled with derring-do and pathos, but one without much larger meaning or import. They are therefore surprised to learn not only that slavery brought on the Civil War but also why and how the defense of the national Union led to slavery’s destruction. As we now observe the 150th anniversaries of the Civil War and the Emancipation Proclamation, these questions are in the public view more than at any time in the recent past. I wrote The Fall of the House of Dixie in part to clarify those subjects and to place them where they belong—at the center of the Civil War narrative.

In 1860–61, leaders of both the Union and the Confederacy knew and said that it was precisely the sharpening dispute over slavery’s future that was leading most slave states to try to break from (and so break up) the U.S., initiating the bloodiest war in the nation’s history to accomplish that goal. In his inaugural address, “One section of our country believes slavery is right, and ought to be extended,” Abraham Lincoln noted, “while the other believes it is wrong, and ought not to be extended. This is the only substantial dispute.” The Confederacy’s secretary of state agreed. Southern whites had decided, he wrote, that the swift growth of the anti-slavery Republican Party threatened “to destroy their social system.” “With interests of such overwhelming magnitude imperiled,” Jefferson Davis explained, “the people of the Southern States were driven . . . to the adoption of some course of action to avert the danger.” If the preservation of “those interests” and that “social system” required war, Confederates added, so be it.

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How You as Educators and Consumers Can Help Solve Our Water Problems

Taking On Waterby Wendy Pabich, author of Taking on Water (Sasquatch Books, September 2012)

Water is getting scarce. This year has brought extreme drought, low snow packs, and record low stream flows in a number of river systems. We see Las Vegas waging water war with the open ranch lands to the north, Atlanta in protracted battles with downstream states over its primary water supply at Lake Lanier, and water tables beneath the San Joaquin Valley—the source of 40 percent of the nation’s fruits and vegetables—dropping. A recent study by the Natural Resource Defense Council (NRDC) suggests that by mid-century, half the counties in the U.S. will be facing water scarcity.

For any one of us, these problems can feel overwhelming. We may sense that our own role is negligible, our power to make change inconsequential. And, it’s easy to find fault with government policies, corporate behavior, and farming practices. Yet, taken together, our aggregate behavior is the source of these problems. An individual home can waste 10,000 gallons of water a year to leaking fixtures; as a nation, we lose one trillion gallons of water to leaks. We buy 450 million pair of blue jeans every year, each of which requires about 2,200 gallons of water to produce, mostly to grow cotton for denim. That’s a total of 990 billion gallons of water, or enough to provide copious domestic water supplies to almost 10 billion people. And the list goes on. Continue reading

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