Weber-Clements Prize celebrates new name, first repeat winner

'A Great Aridness' book coverSMU’s Clements Center for Southwest Studies celebrates the new name – and the first repeat winner – of its prestigious annual book prize with a lecture and booksigning by author and conservationist William deBuys on Tuesday, Feb. 12, 2013 in the University’s DeGolyer Library

DeBuys will discuss A Great Aridness: Climate Change and the Future of the American Southwest as the 2012 winner of the renamed David J. Weber-William P. Clements Prize for the Best Non-Fiction Book on Southwestern America. The evening begins with a 6 p.m. reception and lecture at 6:30 p.m. A book-signing will follow immediately after the lecture.

Learn more about William deBuys

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.

Examining factors such as vanishing wildlife, forest die-backs and the over-allocation of the Colorado River (upon which nearly 30 million people depend for water), the author tells the stories of the climatologists and others who are helping to untangle the causes and effects of global warming. What happens in the Southwest, deBuys suggests, will provide a glimpse of what other mid-latitude arid lands such as the Mediterranean Basin, southern Africa and the Middle East will experience in the coming years. A 2008-09 Guggenheim Fellow, deBuys spent his fellowship year working on the book.

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.”

Clements Center Director Andrew Graybill added: “A Great Aridness is easily one of the best books about the single most pressing environmental issue of our time. 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.”

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 non-fiction. He has also 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.

An active conservationist, deBuys was the founding chairman of the Valles Caldera Trust (2001-04), which manages the 89,000-acre Valles Caldera National Preserve in northern New Mexico. He has helped protect more than 150,000 acres in New Mexico, Arizona and North Carolina. He lives and writes on a small farm in northern New Mexico.

Since 1999, the Clements Center for Southwest Studies has presented the award as the William P. Clements Prize for the Best Non-Fiction Book on Southwestern America. The prize was named for the former Texas governor and the Center’s founding benefactor, who passed away in May 2011.

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 Governor Clements and David J. Weber, the Center’s founding director and past WHA president, who passed away in August 2010. The Weber-Clements Book Prize is now presented by the WHA Council and the Clements Center and is now 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.

> Visit SMU’s Clements Center for Southwest Studies online

About Kathleen Tibbetts

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