Cover image for Venice against the sea : a city besieged
Venice against the sea : a city besieged
Keahey, John.
Personal Author:
First edition.
Publication Information:
New York : T. Dunne Books/St. Martin's Press, [2002]

Physical Description:
xviii, 296 pages, 8 unnumbered pages of plates : illustrations, maps ; 22 cm
Format :


Call Number
Material Type
Home Location
Item Holds
DG672.5 .K43 2002 Adult Non-Fiction Non-Fiction Area

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Venice is sinking - six feet over the past 1,000 years.

The reasons for this are many. Although there is a natural geologic tendency for some sinking, humans have exacerbated the problem by exploiting on a massive scale underground water resources for industrial purposes. Coupled with these events - and perhaps most significant - are climatic changes all over the globe. The heating of the atmosphere after the last ice age, dramatically speeded up by humans, has led to a steady, continuing rise in sea level. This global warming is likely to persist beyond human control for hundreds, if not thousands, of years.

Venetians, other Italians, and many in the world community are locked in debate over Venice's plight. Venice Against the Sea explains how the city and its 177 canals were built and what has led up to this long-foreseen crisis. It explores the various options currently being considered for "solving" this problem and chronicles the ongoing debate among scientists, engineers, and politicians about the pros and cons of each potential solution.

Through extensive research and interviews, award-winning journalist John Keahey has written the definitive book on this fascinating problem. No matter what the experts decide to do, one thing is for certain - Venice's art, its buildings, and its history are too important to the planet's cultural identity to let it slip beneath the rising waters of the Adriatic.

Author Notes

John Keahey , a veteran newspaper journalist, is an Idaho native raised in Nampa, Idaho. He has degrees from the University of Utah, and lives in Salt Lake City with his wife, book designer Connie Disney. He is also the author of A Sweet and Glorious Land .

Reviews 2

Booklist Review

Venice has inspired innumerable authors to praise its cultural treasures; Garry Wills (Venice: Lion City [BKL Jl 01]) continues a line that stretches back to John Ruskin and earlier. But their panegyrics, and the vital tourism industry, will sink if the Venetians can't defend their city against the Adriatic Sea. The problem is hardly a novel one, having existed since the earliest inhabitants found refuge from the disorder of the Dark Ages in tide-washed mudflats. Living on mudflats proved so safe that to preserve the city, Venetians over the centuries have diverted rivers and built dikes to prevent their lagoon from silting up. Thus, the city's environment is largely artificial; ironically enough, environmentalists fulminate, so far successfully, against further artificial measures such as constructing gates and locks. Keahey's informative, readable report is based largely on interviews he conducted in 2000 with the principals--engineers, architecture aficionados, and politicians. The legions of Venice lovers will not want to miss Keahey's reality check on Venice's future. --Gilbert Taylor

Publisher's Weekly Review

Built on a lagoon, Venice is now in constant danger of becoming a new Atlantis, explains journalist Keahey (A Sweet and Glorious Land) in this fascinating look at the ecological disaster facing the city of canals. Not only is sea level "sixteen feet higher than it was six thousand years ago when the lagoon was formed," a situation made increasingly worse by global warming, but the foolish extraction of ground water for industrial uses has accelerated the city's sinking. Indeed, a catastrophic flood in 1966 was a clear warning, and in 1996 there were "ninety-nine tides over thirty-one inches," all of which flooded St. Mark's Square. Keahey writes perceptively of Venice's ecology and history its mythic founding by descendants of Trojan warriors, its involvement with the Crusades and the development of medieval trade routes quoting a wide variety of sources from Livy to Jan Morris to scientists at the 1997 Intergovernmental Panel on Climate Change. While the situation looks dire (malfeasance on the part of the Italian government has only made things worse), Keahey investigates several possible solutions, like a potentially promising plan for barrier gates similar to the ones London uses to control the Thames. This informative book examines an urban environmental crisis in the making. (Feb.) (c) Copyright PWxyz, LLC. All rights reserved

Table of Contents

Chronologyp. xi
Map of Venice and Environsp. xx
Introductionp. 1
1. The Beginningp. 15
2. "Frightened Men"p. 27
3. The Lagoon and the Cityp. 57
4. Tides, Winds, and Global Warmingp. 75
5. Acqua Altap. 91
6. Saving Venicep. 117
7. Saving the Sublimep. 145
8. New Laws and the Consorziop. 155
9. London and the Thames Barrierp. 169
10. Insula--Saving the City from Withinp. 193
11. The Works--Saving the City from Withoutp. 211
12. The Great Debatep. 229
13. Will Venice Survive?p. 261
Epiloguep. 275
Acknowledgmentsp. 281
Selected Bibliographyp. 283
Indexp. 287