Desert 5, Humans 0
Kate Wheeling writes of five examples—"landmarks," as they're described in the story—of the limits of engineering to control the environment. The story's introduction explains the stakes of the natural and human-built systems in question:
The American West is a testament to hubris. We beat back the desert with a complex plumbing system of dams, canals, and pumps to create a thriving civilization in the hottest and driest region of the country. But today it's becoming clear that many of the structures built to prevent a shortage of water have ultimately contributed to its scarcity. And, now, even as we try to come up with new ways to engineer the environment in our favor, the desert is pushing back into its former territory.
Wheeling lists Glen Canyon Dam, which dams the Colorado River in northern Arizona, the Navajo Generating Station, the Navajo Sand Dunes, Biosphere 2, and the Agua Caliente Solar Facility.
The article is supplemented with striking images by Mark Powers of Magnum Photos.