March 4, 2013
DALLAS (SMU) – SMU’s Clements Center for Southwest Studies
recently presented its annual book prize to author and conservationist William deBuys
for his book, A Great Aridness: Climate Change and the Future of the American Southwest
(Oxford University Press, 2011). The prize, renamed the David J. Weber-William P. Clements Prize for the Best Non-Fiction Book on Southwestern America honors both the center’s founding director and founding benefactor.
In A Great Aridness, deBuys paints a vivid picture of what the Southwest might look like when the heat turns up and the water runs out. This semi-arid region – vulnerable to water shortages, rising temperatures, wildfires and many other environmental challenges – is poised to bear the heaviest consequences of global environmental change in the United States.
“A Great Aridness is deeply researched, engagingly written, powerful in its arguments, and of urgent importance to anyone interested in the Southwest,” wrote the Weber-Clements Book Prize judging committee upon its selection. “This is clearly the work of a mature scholar and writer at the top of his game, and with a story to tell of critical importance.”
One of deBuys’ six books, Salt Dreams: Land and Water in Low-Down California, won the first Clements Prize in 1999. deBuys was the Carl B. and Florence E. King Senior Fellow in Southwest History at the Clements Center in 1999-2000. Another work, River of Traps: A New Mexico Mountain Life, was a finalist for the 1991 Pulitzer Prize in general nonfiction. He also has written Enchantment and Exploitation: The Life and Hard Times of a New Mexico Mountain Range, The Walk, and Seeing Things Whole: The Essential John Wesley Powell.
“A Great Aridness is easily one of the best books about the single most pressing environmental issue of our time,” said Andrew Graybill, Clements Center director “And it’s written with Bill deBuys’ typical clarity and grace, making it accessible to anyone interested in the future of the American Southwest, and the planet more broadly.”
The award was presented to deBuys during formal ceremonies on February 12 in SMU's Degolyer Library.
The judges also chose two finalists to publicly recognize for the quality of their work:
- Cathleen Cahill, Federal Fathers and Mothers: A Social History of the United States Indian
Service, 1869-1933 (University of North Carolina Press).
- Deborah Cohen, Braceros: Migrant Citizens and Transnational Subjects in the Postwar United
States and Mexico (University of North Carolina Press).
In spring 2012, the Center approached the Western History Association (WHA) about taking over the administration of the prize as a way to honor both former Texas Governor Clements, who died in May 2011, and David J. Weber, the Center’s founding director and past WHA president, who died in August 2010. The renamed Weber-Clements Book Prize is now presented by the WHA Council and the Clements Center and is administered by the WHA.
The $2,500 Weber-Clements Book Prize honors fine writing and original research on the American Southwest. The competition is open to any nonfiction book, including biography, on any aspect of Southwestern life, past or present.
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