Cadillac Desert: The American West and Its Disappearing Water

by Marc Reisner

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How are issues of professional ethics exemplified in Cadillac Desert?

Quick answer:

In Cadillac Desert, the author illustrates how a lack of professional ethics amongst political figures and institutions damaged the American West's economy and physical environment.

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To approach this question about Marc Reisner's Cadillac Desert, first identify core principles associated with professional ethics; then, relate those core principles to the issues discussed in the text.

First, it is worth noting that there are several core principles of professional ethics; some notable principles are integrity, responsibility, and accountability. In an ideal professional environment, everyone would embody and enact these principles. They would demonstrate integrity by adhering to the rules and regulations of the institutions they serve. They would take responsibility by agreeing to fulfill any and all tasks associated with their role. Finally, they would display accountability by making sure that they answer for the actions they take.

Second, note that the aforementioned principles of professional ethics relate to the text because many of the key players Reisner describes do not conduct themselves in ways that demonstrate integrity, responsibility, or accountability. Reisner discusses how the American West's precarious relationship with water led to political wars that were filled with corruption, exploitation, and manipulation. He discusses how a rivalry between the Corps
of Engineers and the Bureau of Reclamation generated harmful and superfluous water projects. Based on Reisner's account, think carefully about how certain political figures or organizations failed to adhere to professional ethics. Moreover, how did their failure to do so negatively impact taxpayers and the environment?

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