Western mega drought – will the southwest ever be the same?
Jun 22, 2021 at 9:38 am #3719558Josh JBPL Member
the midwest may not be in a drought like the west but climate change is hitting here as well like everywhere across the country and world. i feel really bad for my kids when they are adults and i’m an old geezer….
here in northern IN, we are getting over a foot less of snow compared to 30-40yrs ago, hot days are staying longer into the fall, number of below zero nights/days are dropping, and the list continues… finally data is backing up what i’ve been saying for awhile, winters aren’t like they used to be when i was a kid.Jun 22, 2021 at 10:17 am #3719566KarenBPL Member
One of the factors that I think plays into our American wanton destruction of the environment, and lack of regard for climate change, is our constant moving from place to place. Here in Fairbanks, most people come and go; only a tiny minority are born, live and die here. Many of my colleagues couldn’t care less what happens in local politics, because their eventual plan is to move somewhere else after retirement, or even sooner. Moving away from a place with problems reduces the commitment each of us has to a local place. When climate change destroys the ability to live somewhere, the rich move. Or when industry disappears, or a coal mine closes; those who have profited from the destruction simply find another place, while those without means have to deal with the aftermath and find a way to survive.
I understand having itchy feet; I have traveled a lot. But because of my parents, who immersed themselves in their community and invested in making it better in every way, I pay attention to what is happening locally. I try to preserve, reduce, reuse, recycle, or whatever it takes to try to keep the place we live in good condition. I wonder if everyone had the long term view of their local community, if we could see some improvement in people’s commitment to the environment, to education, to neighborhoods. If my local river catches fire due to pollution, I will work hard to get the laws changed. If it’s far away it’s too easy to dismiss it. If I know I’m outta here, maybe I don’t care so much.
It’s not *the* answer, but maybe it’s part of it. Love where you live, and make it great.Jun 23, 2021 at 12:08 pm #3719667
Monte, yes, in one sense the Southwest is going down fast but we could easily rename this thread Climate Change Grief, since what we are talking about applies to all beloved regions where we love to backpack or live. No region will escape changes. Weigh carefully before abandoning places we love to find some eden where things will stay the same. Maybe it’s better to dig in, hold tight to loved ones and neighbors, do the best work you can; your time is short anyway. As Gary Snyder said so aptly, “stay together, learn the flowers, go light.”
Although I agree, some places are simply unlivable (having escaped from LA 40 years ago); Phoenix and Vegas will be life-threatening. And it’s not a good time to live in a pine forest, e.g., Prescott.
Climate change grief is becoming its own special psychological subcategory. We all need to help each other with it, and this thread is part of that grieving. Thank you for being honest with it, Monte. We all need to talk more about this, to clarify our minds and lighten our hearts.
I live near Ground Zero, outside Moab in Grand County, Utah—the county with the second-highest average temperature increase in all of America. We are privileged to live in an oasis with a spring-fed pond. Our spring is the runoff of excess from an aquifer fed by the La Sal Mountains, where the Pack Creek fire is currently burning all the way up beyond timberline in soil and vegetation moisture levels lower than any in recorded history. (Sorry to give you our smoke, John B.) (I was literally packing my backpack to hike the Trans-La Sal Mountain Trail when the fire broke out.) When the aquifer “quits,” we’ll be the first to know, and gradually the cottonwoods will die. Marcus, I don’t know where you live, but sorry to hear about your springs.
Our neighbors, who had been here 40 years, saw the drought and, thinking of real estate ownership as a game of hot potato (no joke intended), cashed out and moved to . . . an island on the coast of Maine. Not only will they experience their own kinds of climate change grief, they are suffering from community loss grief plus homesickness plus a form of ecological zone grief trying to adapt to the change from dry to wet and cold. We’re going to stick it out, because it’s home, no place is more beautiful, it will never become LA, and hey, it’s already a desert.
When I worked for NPS as an interpreter at the Grand Canyon long ago, I used to sometimes talk about the small comforts of the geological perspective. For example, the canyon has already been damed, a long time ago—by a volcano (at Lava Falls), creating a lake 300 miles long. Given time, the dam was removed. Things don’t go back to the same, but neither does life end (life generally). It can just feel that way. Once you take human preferences out of the equation, existentially it’s hard to say that anything is “wrong.” Yet still we must do our good works, fighting climate change, protecting nature etc.—that’s the conundrum. We live on two levels simultaneously.
In what is possibly the most brilliant (and funny) essay I have ever read, on any subject, “Nondual Ecology,” a smart guy named John McClellan clarified that line of thinking for me, to lighten my heart and give me the courage to go on. e.g.,
“There is only One Thing happening, not some things that are good and others that are bad. This Thing includes fragrant ecosystems, fresh and unsullied in wilderness areas on spring mornings, and it includes urban industrial megagrid, ghettos and famine zones, materialistic greed, the extinction of wild animal species, and slavery and torture of “domesticated” ones. Life and death. Even television.”
You won’t find it on the internet. I can send it to you if you send me an address, although I have to say that after giving it to a few devoted environmentalist friends, none yet seems ready to hear what he has to say.
This is all Basic Buddhism 101—all things change, and how we respond will be the measure of how much we have learned in our short lives.
Glad to have you as friends!
p.s. Nextdoor neighbor started a fire with an axe last week—took 5,000 gallons of water to put it out. New fire today up valley in the creek, maybe electrical origins; helicopters and bombers on site. I won’t be leaving for any backpacking until we get a good rain. If we get a good rain.Jun 23, 2021 at 5:17 pm #3719802John BBPL Member
@jnb0216Locale: western Colorado
Randolph, yes we are seeing some of the haze from your fire over here in western colorado–par for the course. Just got back from climbing two peaks near independence pass east of aspen, and definitely saw the haze from the summits. Trying times….Jun 23, 2021 at 5:20 pm #3719804matthew kModerator
How does one start a fire with an axe?Jun 23, 2021 at 9:32 pm #3719844
Strike steel on any silicate rock and you’ll probably get a spark (e.g., flintlock rifles). The cotton that drifts like snow around here from cottonwood trees is probably one of nature’s finest forms of tinder.
Message is, we can no longer do the things we are accustomed to doing at this time of year. Today’s fire here was not electrical, but someone grinding rebar. Last year a neighbor’s mower hit a rock and burned up a bunch of trees. Last year, or was it the year before?, one of those multiple-hundred-thousand-acre, hundreds-of-homes-lost fires in California was started by a rancher driving a spike into the ground.
For us backpackers, we should keep in mind how tenuous things are now and try not to get into an area where we might be trapped by a developing fire. Easier said than done.Jun 23, 2021 at 9:59 pm #3719856
Enjoyed your earlier post Randolph…would be interested in the essay you mention if you wouldn’t mind sending me a PM.Jun 24, 2021 at 9:19 am #3719868rubmybelly!BPL Member
@sleepingLocale: The Cascades
“You won’t find it on the internet.”
Challenge accepted.Jun 24, 2021 at 10:33 am #3719898
Thanks Doug!Jun 24, 2021 at 10:35 am #3719901jscottBPL Member
@bookLocale: Northern California
Randolph, my friend Rani is on the Moab city council. I didn’t know about the recent fire. Ooof!Jun 24, 2021 at 11:05 am #3719907SteveBPL Member
@steve-2Locale: Eastern WashingtonJun 24, 2021 at 12:14 pm #3719917David GardnerBPL Member
@gearmakerLocale: Northern California
@rubmybelly!: I’m told that link is to what appears to be a draft of the final article, which was published later in “Tricycle,” whatever that is.Jun 24, 2021 at 12:21 pm #3719923KarenBPL Member
Ah, I used to read Tricycle! Buddhist rag. Since my community hasn’t had a bookstore for a long time, I had forgotten all about it. I can’t see the link though.Jun 24, 2021 at 12:25 pm #3719930Jun 24, 2021 at 12:31 pm #3719933
Yes, David and rubmybelly found what appears to be a draft of the article I have, which I scanned as a PDF from Tricycle Magazine, a Buddhist magazine. The one from Tricycle is better. I don’t know that it is on the internet. I can send it to anyone who likes it if you can tell me how to do it. Send me your email, or is there a way to send it through this forum? (David: I’m emailing yours now. Look for it.) Thanks for your interest. You will at a minimum find the article stimulating, possibly to some degree “enlightening” or even revolutionary.
I heard that McClellan was most interested in the central section of the article, relating to machines as technobionts, but I find the beginning and later portions of the article to be the most important. See what you think, and write me privately so this thread doesn’t go too far off topic.Jun 24, 2021 at 1:06 pm #3719948rubmybelly!BPL Member
@sleepingLocale: The Cascades
So this one (it seems you get one free article, then must subscribe for more). Interestingly, this is dated before the one at the previous link.Jun 24, 2021 at 3:07 pm #3719952obx hikerBPL Member
Well shoot. Back before @ 12:00 I looked at Doug’s link and decided to print it as a .pdf, export it to word, re-format and then save and offer a link to the re-formatted version. SO I come back to the blog and now there’s a link to a pretty readable version?
You all…. ;)
Looks like a pretty grand manifesto from what I could glean during the re-formatting fiasco.
With maybe a toe in that southwestern pond (driest I’ve seen it in 30 years this early May usually a time of relative water abundance, heck drier than September) and sitting here on the sand bar watching the shoreline recede; Randolph’s and Karen’s philosophical viewpoints are soothing at least.
I guess this business affects us all one way or the other.Jun 24, 2021 at 4:12 pm #3719961
I spend a great deal of time in my local forest, I’ve been watching its rhythms for decades. The changes as of late have been great. Conifer stands lost to fire that will likely never see enough rainfall to return in my lifetime, instead being replaced by chaparral. Fish populations decimated, stream flows dwindling, non-native flora/fauna colonizing at a more rapid pace as a result of the changes. June on the Eastern passes of the High Sierra used to typically mean crampons and an ice axe; I’m lucky to hike on snow now.
Will the Southwest ever be the same?
I don’t think so.
But was it ever the same?
While I haven’t finished the essay linked here, I appreciate it (so far) for touching on this notion.
Perhaps assuming things were meant to be a certain way- a certain way that we recall from some little sliver of time from within our lives…maybe this sort of thinking only sets one up for grief? Establishes the notion that things are supposed to be a certain way?
Not to be dismissive of human-driven factors that are causing/accelerating these changes…but what’s the baseline we yearn to return to? Some mythical (to this 45 year old) time espoused by the septuagenarians I know? 1492? The Last Glacial Maximum?
Will it ever be the same…but compared to what? I only know this. And it’s been changing for as long as I have been watching. And then some.
Buddhism 101 indeed.Jun 24, 2021 at 10:14 pm #3720010
So, thanks, Rubmybelly, you have succeeded finding the real thing. Next time I’ll hire you as my internet sleuth.
I should have prefaced the article by saying though it is from a Buddhist magazine and rhetorically oriented around a Buddhist “thing” (“saving all sentient beings”), you don’t have to know or care anything about Buddhism to get McClellan’s drift. It’s far beyond dogma.Jun 26, 2021 at 2:07 pm #3720165
Monte, sorry to bear bad recent news:
“California deserts have lost nearly 40% of plants to hotter, drier weather, satellite data shows
desert plants . . . are dying at an alarming rate due to the twin threats of even hotter temperatures and less rain, according to new research published this week.
After analyzing more than three decades of satellite data, UC Irvine scientists found a 37% decline in native vegetation across nearly 5,000 square miles of the southern California Sonoran desert, from the Mexican border north across Anza-Borrego Desert State Park to below Palm Springs.
Some scientists, including the study’s lead author, Stijn Hantson, had hoped that hardy desert plants would be able to survive warming temperatures and less rain, but the research definitively shows the opposite.
“They’re already so badly beaten by drought or heat that they’re at the brink of existence. . . .”
Complete story at:
https://www.desertsun.com/story/news/environment/2021/06/22/california-deserts-lost-nearly-40-plants-hotter-drier-weather/5308298001/?campaign_id=49&emc=edit_ca_20210625&instance_id=33862&nl=california-today®i_id=76791482&segment_id=61730&te=1&user_id=7c62a02904d6726d1d2aba76ad1c5432Jun 26, 2021 at 3:50 pm #3720174Monte MastersonBPL Member
@septimiusLocale: Changes Often
Thank you for the very insightful posts Randolph. I enjoyed the essay. I’ve always felt more of a connection to Eastern philosophies, but I have a hard time accepting man’s technological gains as being anything positive for the well being of the planet. Humans are too smart for their own good. Lost Horizon (1933) by Hilton is my favorite novel and it of course introduces the reader to the mythical Shangri-La. Hilton is chilling in how prophetic he is in predicting the horrors that will be unleashed from the air during WWII. I suppose if he could have foreseen atomic bombs he probably would have included that too.
Can’t say I’m really surprised at the UC Irvine findings. It only stands to reason that when you’re in the worst drought for more than a millennia and with 7.4 billion people spewing millions of tons of CO2 into a finite atmosphere every year, there has to be consequences. I remember my first sight of a snow capped Big Bear mountain in June 1980. SoCal was so beautiful then. I was on my way to see a buddy in Redondo Beach and I remember being scared to death when I got on the crowded 20 lane freeways with all the cars going 80 mph (when the the traffic didn’t all of a sudden slow down to a crawl that is). The smog was very bad then, worse than now. Of course it wasn’t hardly noticeable on the beach.
I suppose the other Southwestern states will go much the same way as Southern California. The latest I read this morning is that with Lake Mead getting so low water restrictions will be enacted soon for the 25 million people who rely on the Colorado River watershed. I can see the federal government buying out farmers who raise thirsty crops throughout AZ. I mean if the water is simply no longer available what else can be done?
Sorry for being a Debbie Downer, but I’m really trying to figure out where I’m going to go when I retire. Colorado, Wyoming and Montana are too cold. Washington and Oregon are beautiful, but I get downright suicidal with the countless days of cloudy mist. Arkansas is generally a bummer on many levels, however the Ozark and Ouachita mountains are beautiful and the Northwest corner of the state is very nice. I still have a couple of years to figure it out.
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