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Published July 30, 2009 | public
Journal Article

The Control of Nature

Brown, Mike ORCID icon


After I built a small retaining wall last year to prevent my back yard from tumbling into the canyon below, I reread The Control of Nature, John McPhee's exploration of human attempts and failures to dominate the natural world. Adding to my delight, these engrossing stories about geological catastrophes in distant places can now be transformed into a visceral confrontation with the real world by looking up the locations on Google Earth. You can track the paths of debris flows from the San Gabriel Mountains in Los Angeles, follow the convolutions of the Mississippi River and view the now-hardened Icelandic basalt — making you realize that these things really happened, right here.

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© 2009 Macmillan Publishers Limited. Published online 29 July 2009.

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October 23, 2023