Scattered thoughts in praise of large-scale engineering projects and programs, or ""macro-engineering""--by a...


MACRO: Neoindustrializing America and the World

Scattered thoughts in praise of large-scale engineering projects and programs, or ""macro-engineering""--by a lawyer/""promoter""/MIT-affiliate whose own experiences, coherently set forth, would have given readers something to chew on. From a remark here and there, we learn that Davidson's father was a Fusion supporter of La Guardia; that, as La Guardia's Commissioner of Water Supply, Gas, and Electricity, he authorized ""the world's longest true tunnel,"" the aqueduct carrying water to Manhattan from the Delaware Water Gap; that he was an early and persistent advocate of the St. Lawrence Seaway and Water Project; that, as president of the Society of Friends of Mexico, he sent collegian Davidson there one summer--where he learned how a noted Mexican archaeologist introduced windows, by example, to the Indians. (Typically, father Maurice Davidson is never identified by name.) Also bearing directly on Davidson's dual enthusiasm for massive, water-related projects (tunnels, canals, hydroelectric and irrigation works), and for small-scale, volunteer initiatives, are: his summer on a Vermont farm; his stint at an experimental CCC camp; his Canadian regiment's postwar construction of a Dutch town park. (No, he doesn't explain that Canadian regiment.) The single greatest outcome of these interests appears to be his involvement, since 1956, with the projected English Channel tunnel; the single scheme he talks up most is supersonic, magnetically levitated subways--which could make the Paris-London trip in an hour, out-race airplanes across the US, and eliminate various environmental ills. Other topics he returns to repeatedly include: the enterprise of Fulton, de Lesseps, and TR in building the Erie, Suez, and Panama canals; the promise of certain visionary projects (Nigel Chattey's artificial, multipurpose island off New York City; Canadian T. W. Kierans' Great Recycling and Northern Development Project); the need for a new kind of interdisciplinary training for engineers; the good of intersectoral, international, interprofessional study groups; the good fortune in having George Schultz, ex-head of Bechtel, to get the US out of its unwise opposition to a Soviet/West European gas pipeline. Not one of these matters, however, is clearly attended to in any single place--and references to them are embedded in sawdust (endless tributes to persons, endless unfocused exhortation). As an ostensible piece of writing, it's a mess.

Pub Date: Nov. 16, 1983


Page Count: -

Publisher: Morrow

Review Posted Online: N/A

Kirkus Reviews Issue: Nov. 1, 1983

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