just your average week

Turns out Seldom Seen Smith is still with us. Hard to find but those that know claim Moab is an approximate location of this character. Hayduke hasn’t been heard from. His liver had to have given out by now. Doc Sarvis must be dead and gone, Bonnie Abbzug should still be here, he was old she was too young when the Monkey Wrench Gang was setting up shop with plans to destroy the dam at Lake Powell.

Resist!

On December 18, 2020, there must have been a celebration when the smokestacks were felled at the Navajo Generating Station. The coal stacks demolition was in the before-times, before the virus hit. The two-decade long record-breaking mega-drought has state and federal water management agencies bracing for trouble of a size and kind the modern world has not witnessed before.

For the longest time we’ve been expecting that an exchange of nuclear weapons between the former Soviet Union and the United States would bring this experiment in civilization to an end. Nuclear arsenals are only as safe as the men and women who oversee these weapons. Dr. Strangelove’s Jack Ripper the military officer in charge of Alaska’s Strategic Air Command loses his mind and well you know the story of how Slim Pickens slaps the butt end of an atomic weapon as he rides off into oblivion.

This next existential fix we find ourselves in is different. Like tobacco we’ve developed a nasty habit, corporations benefiting from keeping us addicted to their dangerous products are behaving exactly as the tobacco company’s did two decades ago and have once again been slow walking efforts to shut their industry down. This time it isn’t tobacco the attorneys are working for, in this case our talented legal guns are working for the fossil fuel industry. Side note is I was staying at the historic 5-star St. Paul, Hotel in Minnesota when there were gathered the states attorney generals in meetings with tobacco industry lawyers who were putting the final touches on a class action settlement that finally brought this cancer causing industry to heel. The bar reeked of no goods and double dealing.

The Soviet Union was long gone by then and in its place has been stood up a mobbed-up fossil fuel dependent economy run by a former KGB secret agent named Vladimir Putin and he has no intention of halting the business his country is in. Russia can be described as a gas station pretending to be a nation with an organized crime problem.

Dawn on the Alsea River

I went to bed with the Calder Fire threatening South Lake Tahoe. I woke up instead to a Supreme Court burning down a woman’s right to reproductive health care. Louisiana took a category four hurricane hit with electrical lines down and power not expected to return for a month. Then, the tri-state region on the East Coast gets hit with tornadoes and a once in every 500-year flood event, the second 500-year event in just the last couple of weeks. Five hundred years isn’t what it once was it seems.

Polls report Governor Gavin Newsom will not lose the recall. Still I’m kicking in a $100 to help. Peasants in Florida are awakening to the tyrant they sent to Tallahassee. His polls have been stinking and sinking. Not ready to declare the fever haven been broken, too much of the Southeast has been cult captured by the authoritarian end-times sect. It would be funny if I was making this up but sadly I am not.

Our waiting for the climate emergency to commence is officially over. Airnow.gov provides information on air quality. September 2-3 are forecast to be moderately unhealthful. Summers are like that in California. Air quality in the San Francisco Bay Area has been measured to have some of the world’s worst air to breathe. Denver beat out Mumbai for the world’s most polluted air basin last month. Fox Television has been declared a Murdochian cesspool in need of pumping and cleaning.

We installed a monster HEPA filter in our home. It is a beast of a filter. We keep our windows closed and run the filter all day every day. Long term exposure to wildfire smoke is a respiratory illness inducer. If I have any compassion, it is for asthma and emphysema patients flooding emergency rooms unable to function in such a polluted atmosphere.

Um… like smoke filled sky over Idaho

There was a time when your local weather forecaster on your favorite local television station didn’t include air quality predictions. Sports reporters now tell us how good or bad the air will be on game day. Anyone bellyaching about wearing a N-95 to slow the spread of the virus is now wearing their mask to fend off the harm caused by inhaling wildfire choked air.

Small time entertainer friend works a lot of events in private homes now carries a cancellation clause in the event of smoke from wildfire. While I am at it those cabin filters in your car should you get caught in a lot of smoke should be swapped out ASAP.

Surfing over to the Navajo Times you can find out a lot about one of our great indigenous people that live among us. I follow Arlyssa Becenti (@ABecenti) on twitter.  Diné journalist (this is the preferred name for the Pueblo people or Navajo). Ms. Becenti worked formerly at the Navajo Times and Gallup Independent, she’s back at Arizona State University studying investigative journalism. I’d say with her joining the fray to save America and I was a betting man I’d go all in on the moxie of this world class woman.

The Navajo Nation spans parts of Utah, Arizona, and New Mexico. The virus has not been kind to a people that tend to live in large family groups in small homes. The Diné have a total population of 380,000 with 32,650 having become infected with COVID-19 and of those 1,404 have been killed by this deceitful often asymptomatic contagious virus.

Teachings from the elders happens at home. Song, cooking, language and religion depend upon the elders living long enough. Each premature ending of an elder’s life means that their ancient wisdom is not transmitted to the next generation. The ancestral Diné first arrived in North America 20,000 years ago. Current occupants of this continent would be wise to take a lesson on how these first of first nation immigrants have survived here these many thousands of years.

It is not just the Diné, but it is most of the indigenous people across the Americas that teach living in harmony with the earth. A practical pathway of working with the problems we face because of the climate emergency are found in the Diné culture. Water is a living spirit. I’m smoking a big one tonight and rewatching Little Big Man.

A year ago, a young Diné political activist organized a get out the vote on the Navajo Nation. This is a vast geographical area with many of the Diné living in remote rural homes. For many their homes, sometimes a round building called a Hogan have no electricity or refrigeration. Water is hauled in by truck and trailer. To get out the vote the activist organized riders to go by horseback and bring voters to the closest polling places. Political analysts believe the Diné vote tipped the Arizona election to the Democrats.  

If there is good news much of the best headlines can be found in one of our nation’s most important indigenous people. It is our good fortune to have Deb Haaland a member of the Laguna Pueblo people to be appointed the United States Secretary of the Interior. The former House of Representative member is the first Native American to ever be appointed to lead a cabinet level agency. All I can say is we need more Native American women running this show and a hell of a lot less Chuck Grassley’s. Iowa needs to do better.

There is no magical way to put a cork in the bottle of trouble the world has unleashed. We’re burning too much fossil fuel and releasing too much carbon dioxide into the atmosphere. The good news is we don’t have to invent any new technologies. We will continue to deploy more renewable energy systems across the globe. These are the cheapest carbon free technologies in the world. In Cornwall (try to keep up) a team of expert geothermal engineers are scaling up to filter lithium out of hot water used for two reasons, one to spin turbines to make electricity and the other for making batteries for cars.

Self Portrait

To do our part we must continue to support and help elect politicians that will pass meaningful climate emergency legislation. The biggest piece of our problem is all goobered up by just a handful of transnational corporations. We break their hold on our energy system and we are well on our way to fixing the existential crisis our civilization faces. This is good work.

Meaningful legislation is making its way through the House of Representatives today. There are many critical new initiatives that if passed will help us walk civilization back from the brink. Grid redesigns, battery storage, charging stations, basic research, methane gas mitigation, renewable energy subsidies, high speed trains… this list is long, and the circumstances could not be more urgent.

There is a rogues gallery of multinational corporations working to block this legislation, for many selfish reasons, they have oil they want to sell, tax breaks they wish to keep, environmental restrictions they don’t want passed. But here’s the rub the corporate interests are not in the people’s interest.

It all seems too bizarre, unimaginable, none of this can be true, how did we get here? We face our own odd Dr. Strangelove moment, where our world teetering on the brink, where our civilization having flirted with annihilation steps back from the brink and instead of walking past the graveyard seizes the moment and does the right thing for all of life.

Alarming as our climate and political crisis has proven to be this week, we still have time. Demand the politicians we elect act on our behalf for the sake of humanity. Time is of the essence. Enjoy your Labor Day Weekend.

The revenge of hubris

Coming now to the nickels, dimes, and the last dog days of what remains of this 69th August I’ve come to know— I leap like a gazelle, eat like a voracious crocodile as what to make of this corner of creation we find the capitalist system to have worked itself into.

Threshold landings taking shape

Threading the needle of my adulthood through the eye of my extended youth has been a work in progress. I delude myself imagining the unrequited love I’d found cavorting along the surfs edge with the throng of nubile bikini clad wanton darlings of times gone by. I the gallant gentleman volunteering to swab sunscreen onto their shoulders and backs. Trustable, useful and mesmerized. Infatuation needs to come with a better operator’s manual for the next visit should this reincarnation thing in fact be true.

The rules are the rules. Ignoring the rules will place at risk the chances of losing the whole game. Instead of that romp in the midnight sun along the shores edge you are left to eat alone at an open all-night Denny’s. Here is located the starting line in the race to win the purest love, a love like no other, the one that changes the solitude that has been eating away inside since being separated from my mom the first day of kindergarten .

Installation for fitting prior to staining

Landing decks have been fashioned. Ends of fresh cut lumber have been sanded, the planks screwed to the frames, rough edges sanded until they were as smooth as the shoulders in need of sunscreen, then coming back to the task at hand I stood the platform on end to stain the new exterior landing’s then let them dry while I drip with sweat in the late summer sun.

Maestro fully restored ready to sail

How I had steered the ship of my life into a boatyard to restore a wooden sailboat had to do with the hubris, this was the blunder I allowed to tyrannize any chance of my ever being less ambitious. I entertained a doozy, the one I nailed my future to, brash and confident that the restoration would take maybe 3 months tops when in fact it would turn into a 7-year task.

Journeyman pointing to the screw I had to extract

Right off the bat you need to know the odds of making it to the end was near zero. The project’s sole volunteer hadn’t much woodworking experience. The hull required 2500 screws to be fastened to fresh oak ribs that had been sistered into place alongside the existing worn ribs. Those laminated oak frames were steamed until bendable then buttered up with epoxy and slid quick into place before they stiffened. I’m exhausted just remembering how the project had trapped me, how there was no way out, that giving up when you are so close would be something I could not bare to carry in my heart, this the scar I knew would be a fatal wounding ending my best shot at living my best life. Quitting the project was not an option. It would be like giving up on everything I stood for, every ounce of character I’d earned, every bit of progress I had made, my phantom General’s had got me into a quagmire, and I would have to fight my way out against having underestimated the scale and scope entailed in the restoration of a wooden boat.

Every screw is bunged after sinking new fastener into fresh ribs

There were terrifying nights during the years while I was working on the sloop’s restoration. Tormented by my folly I’d awaken in a flop sweat. An all but impossible to remove rotted fastener on more than one occasion required the entire day to extract. The journeymen boatwrights in the yard knowing that they may not interfere, that if they did intercede and extract the screw that it would ruin any chance of my growing into a self-sufficient craftsman. The only way to learn how to stand on my own two feet would by being brought to my knees fighting tooth and nail against a screw. I prevailed only after failing in every other way I could devise. The shamanic confidence of the most able craftsmen in a boatyard is always the same, it is hard won, the success arrives only after all the failures have had their turn. A capable boatwright’s skills once earned are never lost.

I am still refining my talents. Being a husband welded by vowing then practiced each day not just by use of your best pieces but also by revision of your least workable parts is at least as stubborn a task as extracting a screw from the plank of a wooden boat.

Spring 2001-2007 from beginning to end

And then there is the ongoing pleasure of loving my daughter-now an adult-but always in my mind the kid. The unconditional nature of childrearing fuels the will to the lifelong task. Doing my best to improve the kid, the wife doing what she can to improve her husband, the journeymen boatwrights not interfering letting the wooden sloop work its will upon the novice craftsman… these are eternal frictions of nature at work. Endeavoring to unlock the mystery of how fixing a thing has the potential to make a well-lived life possible may not be so easy to explain, but it is true. The trial of restoring a wooden boat will render its verdict by etching to memory how you cannot quit a thing until it is complete, and finally when you arrive both boat and man have been forged by the challenge for the better.

Let the garden speak

August is aching over autumn’s scent. The vegetable patch has gone over to the other side. Sunflowers are on the edge of the dance floor. Romeo’s have all been thunderstruck, the only true optimists, the flitting lizards race from rock to rock. The squirrels only know love by lust of the feline skirt chasers. The neighborhood is haunted by brittle dry Monterey pines.

Hibiscus flowers are a powerful antioxidant

The Chinese mail carrier knows this misfit resident by first name. The Japanese maple in the front yard thinks me to be stingy, whereas in the backyard this red bark maple imagines I am a saint. Crows have been absent leaving me to wonder where they’ve taken off to. Acorn woodpeckers are beside themselves chattering away in the live oaks they are so fond of making home.

My neighbor no longer speaks to us without great discomfort, we planted photinia to remedy the view of his deferred maintenance. One day the photinia willing we will not peer into the disorganized cerebral cortex of our neighbor’s procrastinations. Nothing about his untidiness will change.

Voles are rampaging. Attempts to repel by castor oil have met with better than good results- but still they plunder the landscape like Robinhood’s, the rath of the king is soon. They have fallen all the corn stalks.

Heavy artillery is being brought in. Vegan paradox and Buddhist inspired directive to first do no harm, that it would be best if you do not execute the voles has by unanimous consent been voted down. We march on the voles at daylight.

Just One Fig

Then there is the solitary beauty of the one fig on the new tree. There are the hibiscus flower buds multiplying by the day. There is so much promise and such a paucity of tangible results. Gardens in my delusional blind date with fertilizer stir both feast and famine.

The two are concerned over my reincarnation

Chickens next door, in the back, the fence is wire, we can see each other, agreeing by eyesight there is much to recommend, we have a thing for one another, according to my gypsy king philosopher predictions the roost and will of the flock is on my side. There are lifecycles I hold in awe, this tormenting by egg laying is not on my list of things I would wish to try should I return reincarnated as a hen. Wish me luck. Karma because I’ve worked with chickens suggests my fate might well have already been sealed.

Ants made a dash for water at the kitchen sink. They have been removed. I sent a letter to their agent asking they not return we’re in the middle of a different scene from a different movie and it doesn’t include these rogue invaders.

Pole beans are coming up, the kale is not, the spinach hesitates. I’ve a whole furrow prepared for collard greens.

I’ve a pile of rocks I’ve promised to move on last time, after having moved them the last time on three previous occasions. Seems as if things change and the rocks mark the exact location of where the next changes are located.  I’m trying to imagine changing without having to move a pile of rocks. This appears to be harder to do than simply busting my butt moving a pile of rocks one more time. The house wren in my yard sees the futility in my actions and flitters about experiencing a deep knowing that this rock piler can’t possibly be a more intelligent species.

Our red Mandeville we hope will climb the new lattice work I’ve built. The ferns have been moved and are happy in their new neighborhood beneath the oaks. None of these preferences were known by this novice gardener. I’m getting the hang of understanding that under certain conditions each plant will thrive should their needs be met. Like the pile of rocks, I seem to have a knack for picking the perfect place for many of my plants to struggle.

Montara Manzanita

I have potted a manzanita that I will Banzai. Shears are sterilized. I’m waiting for this native bush to reveal itself further. This manzanita hales from the coastal hills of San Mateo County near Montara. I have taken a stinging bit of criticism for bringing this specimen 20 miles further inland than is native to this plant, but so far the glorious Montara manzanita likes what it sees.

On my short list of indigenous trees to plant are madrone and buckeye. Madrones are notorious for being difficult and this is believed to be a perfect fit since I am so difficult myself. Buckeye grow wild in the neighborhood, but I’ve had no luck sprouting one. This tree blossoms in early spring and loses its leaves by early July. I’ll put it near the Meyer lemon tree that tends to ripen its fruit in the last days of autumn. I think the two trees might appreciate one another for their being so out of sink with most all the other plants in the yard. This is the plant world theory of opposites attract.

I’ve revived much neglected roses that are now scaling new heights on posts and wires I’ve constructed. Raspberries are gaining height and putting on good size. I’ve a thornless marionberry I’m especially pleased with.

Grapevines require proper pruning. I’ve ordered more wire and stakes for the vines to use. Netting will likely be necessary to protect next years fruit.

Density seems to be something I have no knack for. I’d been warned to give my blueberry bushes plenty of space, so they don’t stress each other by being planted too close. The cantaloupe has wanted to do more. The yellow squash has overtaken one of the raised beds and will not concede an inch to its neighboring plants.

By late afternoon the patio umbrella is opened. I sit out of the sun where I’ll read. We’ve had lots of tomatoes, sunburst squash and basil to add to the pasta. I’d prefer whole wheat pasta but use chickpea pasta reasoning there is benefit in it providing my body with a good source of protein. I have no strength of character around whole wheat pasta and will finish off any amount I’ve cooked. I see this as a proxy battle where in my youth I would indulge in all manner of enticements, dancing until sunrise, sleeping until afternoon, kissing my loves until they were convinced, I’d imagined it was my kisses that had provoked their surrender.

Hard won wisdom like my pile of rocks I’m fated to move to make way for change is not all that it’s cracked up to be. Knowing better is not to be confused with authentic goodness. I take the chickpea pasta to be the proxy for knowing better and the authentic goodness to be the whole wheat pasta.

I mean to do good work in my garden but my strawberries know I am weak.

climate’s cosmic joyride

Air quality at my Google disclosed location in the San Francisco Bay Area is safe today. That’s one of the new not normal modes of the climate emergency. We had braced ourselves for our trip north knowing we’d be driving into bad air.

Near Red Bluff we entered wildfire smoke and traveled another 275 miles north beyond Roseburg in the thick of it. After just an hour into the experience smoke grew thicker, the veil of smoke impenetrable. The sky never was clear enough to see Mt. Shasta. Below the highway bridge we could just make out a drought ravaged Lake Shasta. If we’d not traveled the unsettling sights could have been kept out of mind. That’s the illusion of modern plumbing, we are detached from what makes our faucets flow. Who has time to think about reservoir levels?

That haze is smoke,

This summer’s triple digit temperatures have been too frequent. Unwelcomed blazing days and nights hit while traveling in Colorado, Utah, Nevada and California. Adjusting to heatwaves, coming to regard wildfires as commonplace, clinging to the hope the drought will break come early autumn, none of this is usual, none of this is how any of us grew up, nobody expected climate change to get this bad this soon. Too many tipping points have been breeched.

Smoke was so intense this last week, the further north our eyes began to burn, and our throats became scratchy. Windows were kept rolled up, we turned on the recirculating air function in our van.

Actors working in Ashland were scheduled to resume performing on July 31st. Forced to close because of the pandemic and now reopening in midst of such intense smoke must be one more unwelcome obstacle on a global scaled worrying mother of all obstacle courses. Actors trying to breathe the polluted air and speak for two hours on stage is futility fueled by air pollution. The circumstances are anything but business as usual.

Medford, Rogue River, Grants Pass were all covered in thick smoke. There was this bizarre-Apocalypse Now- sense of going upriver hunting for a Brando gone wildfire mad.  

Roadway ahead shouldn’t be so fuzzy-more smoke

We pumped fuel just north of Roseburg. Gas station attendant said the smoke was even worse last summer— that floored us— here was awful, last year was even worse. Checking the temperature, it was 107˚F late in the day. Our trip would take us west to the coast where it was forecast to be in the high 60’s. Air quality was good because there was a breeze pushing the smoke back from the ocean.

Winchester Bay morning walkabout

Our stay at Winchester Bay overnight was a relief. The following day we stayed in Newport, Oregon. Conditions were much the same.

We arrived in Seattle to more smoke and hotter near triple digit weather. Where we were staying, because until now hot weather is so infrequent, there has never been need for air conditioning. We tried but couldn’t sleep with the windows closed. Lucky for us air quality improved through the night so that when we woke in the morning monitoring stations indicated we had been breathing only moderately unhealthful air.

Saturday’s weather was improved from the day before. Smoke was present but in relative terms was tolerable for most of us. At risk populations with respiratory health issues were advised to remain indoors.

Every kind of emergency has been whipped together this summer. News broke arsonists appear to have had a hand in setting off the fires in Northern California. The Dixie Fire is now the largest wildfire ever in California state history.

We are still living behind the mask, racing to get more people vaccinated, trying to keep the economy open while setting up protocols so that customers may have the means of reliably proving they are vaccinated.

Lazy hazy smoke filled skies of summer

I’m not telling you anything you don’t already know, but I might be telling you something you don’t want to think about. Our democracy is under assault from within our own borders by a political party that has lost faith in our government and is now obsessed with an autocratic fetish.

The Afghanistan withdrawal has revealed that our attempt to standup a military force in another country much as we tried in Iraq and Vietnam isn’t working and has never worked. This isn’t a rant about the Pentagon this is to point out that there are problems in the world that are unfixable.

Nothing is simple. Urging the hesitant to get vaccinated will help. Following strict guidelines to get our schools open is our best chance but remains risky. Large businesses demanding mandatory vaccinations for workers is a step in the right direction, but there are still too many millions that will remain unprotected.

Last week’s most recent Intergovernmental Panel on Climate Change (IPCC) was unequivocal about the cause of the problem and what actions need to be taken to solve this crisis. All the world can see with their own eyes how conflicted and uncooperative various factions and interests can be. Action plans to solve the climate emergency requires consensus, this is the kind of international cooperation that has historically eluded humankind.

Returning south yesterday the smoke was gone in Roseburg but still set on Redding. Air quality has been hazardous in this region of Northern California since the still burning Dixie Fire started on July 14th.

It has come as no surprise on August 16th the Bureau of Reclamation has rung the alarm bell over the emergency drought conditions on the Colorado River. Tier 1 rationing will go into effect on January 1, 2022, and if it still hasn’t rained by next spring they expect Tier 2 rationing to go into effect soon after.

Central Arizona’s farmers will take the hardest hit first. Politicians on both sides of the aisle are desperate to help their rural constituents. But, rushing into the crisis trying to protect electoral prospects and not addressing the structural problems is no longer viable, the water shortages in the American West are here to stay.

Instead of thinking of this moment as a crisis we need to think of this as an opportunity to restructure our water system and that is a job that powerful special interests have had little reason to wish solved. Until now we have engineered our way around scarcity, moving water with pumps and aqueducts, building new reservoirs, diverting water from region to another, until there is no more water to use to put off the inevitability of the reality nature demands.

There is no more putting things off, crunch time is here, arriving with the pandemic, wildfires, biblically scaled downpours, melting polar caps and rising sea levels. The good news is that the warning lights on the dashboard have turned red and it is time to roll up our sleeves open that hood and get to work repairing the one world we’ve got to use for going on a civilization sized joy ride across a cosmos scaled by the eons.

You make the popcorn; I’ll bring the beer. Can’t wait to see how this thrill ride ends.

last stop everyone off

Superstition Mountains with Lacey and the Coyotes

For more than a decade every October I was the rarest of birds and traveled to Queen Creek, Arizona for work. Touring by truck and trailer I parked my rig in the field northeast of Rittenhouse and Cloud Road. Most years sheep were grazed adjacent to where I camped under the constant attention of a coyote hating sheepdog.

Mark and Carrie Schnepf run an entertainment farm in the easternmost corner of the Valley of the Sun. I would play my act on a lawn in the shade to family audiences seated on haybales presenting my juggling act and performing dog.

Back in 2000 Queen Creek was the end of the line, you couldn’t go further, Rittenhouse terminated here and all you could do was make a left and head toward the Arizona State Prison in Florence.

Audiences drove in from nearby Mesa, Gilbert, Chandler, Tempe, Phoenix, Scottsdale and even sometimes from Apache Junction. Locals referred to Apache Junction by its initials, and you want to elongate them, stretch them out— real’ good, you say, “A… J…”

Sunrise on Schnepf Farms

Mark Schnepf’s father settled this corner of the valley growing potatoes with groundwater. Other crops were grown too, but potato farming was the key commodity.

The water table began to sink lower, and the cost of electricity made it expensive to pump. Early settlers to this region could punch a well and hit water at 300 feet. By the 1950’s well drillers were having trouble finding water at a thousand feet.

It was 1993 when Queen Creek started getting some limited access to water from the just completed Arizona Central Canal Project. 

In 1990 the population of Queen Creek was 2500, in 2000 the town was twice that, and  is now home to over 51,000.

The explosive growth in this corner of Arizona has transformed a rural village into a traffic clogged suburb. At one point they were throwing up houses on this side of the valley at a clip of 10,000 per month. Then there are all the cars, schools, churches, and shopping centers. Occupants to the new homes arrived with children, if they happened to be members of the Church of Latter-Day Saints they arrived here with lots of children.  

San Tan Mountains for a Hike

By 2010 morning commutes were bumper to bumper, traffic signals were in such short supply they trailered in portable units to help unsnarl the busiest intersections.

Mark Schnepf and his family treated me as one of their very own. I had the run of the place. I could use the machine bays, fix my brakes, change sparkplugs, move around on the property as I needed. His most skilled farmworkers were housed on the land too and worked all year long, many have been with Mark since his childhood. The nanny that had raised Mark was the same nanny that helped raise Mark and Carrie’s children.

Big cotton growers were active just south of the farm. Acreage measured in the thousands. If you drove the area you’d see alfalfa fields, corn and citrus.

Schnepf Farms was a way to add value to what you could grow, and the entertainment programming was an enterprising device to drum up some buyers for what you had to offer that way you could sell for retail and cut that wholesaler out of the process altogether.

My Boss Carrie Schnepf with Lacey the Performing Dog

Most of what Mark Schnepf grows is in support of the entertainment programming. He planted pumpkins for Halloween, peaches for the spring festival, corn for a maze to walk around in, vegetable crops to serve at the farm café and bakery.

Schnepf Farm grows a lot of pumpkins for the October event. Pumpkins became so in demand he’d have extra shipped in from more water abundant farming districts.

Friday nights I’d drive north into Apache Junction to go two-stepping at the local country and western saloon. Dancing was fun, beer was cold, and conversation was colorful.

Monsoons arrived this summer, but the drought is still on. Unless you ranch, farm, or run a water dependent business the water shortage doesn’t occupy the front of your mind.

Just south of Queen Creek the San Tan Valley exploded onto the map going from a population of near zero to 96,000 in just 20 years. Two thirds are white, much of the rest are hispanic. New homebuyers moved here from other parts of the valley to get a newer bigger home for lower prices than are available as you get closer into the valley’s center.

San Tan Valley is inhabited by a people with no living memory of a place that until the new century was essentially an empty and desolate desert. San Tan Valley’s culture is in process, it is undergoing development, shaped by the new social media driven world. Your children may have gone to school here, but you didn’t, your parents didn’t, there was no here to grow up in.

Friction is building between the farms and the residents, the reasons are always the same, it’s because of the water. Some farmers saw the writing on the wall and sold their land off to developers. Get out while the getting was good.

The biggest impact of the climate shifting to being slightly dryer and hotter is that there is less water. Adapting to the shortage is uneven, some are hit harder than others. One farm because of their proximity to the Gila River continues to get their full allotment while another newer farm with subordinated water rights in a dry year is entitled to none.

Special Pyro Picture taken at Night at Schnepf Farms

Plenty of ink has been spilled on the unthinkable immediate impact of wildfire and drought. Much less attention has been given to what will come of the people here in the San Tan Valley should this drought persist. Is such a place able to survive such a crisis? Can the government function? If the drought grinds on access to residential water will become more expensive. If that doesn’t do the trick rationing will be mandated, if you use more than allowed, you’ll be fined, if you still flout the rules your water will be cut off.

If the drought persists water will be cut completely to agriculture. Herds will be auctioned off, farm equipment sold, farms and ranches foreclosed on with banks left to dispose of property certain to be worth much less, solvency issues would sure to take a bite out of the banks equity.  

Paramount to all of this is to do with the climate emergency and whether it could trigger the collapse of civilization. What keeps planners at the Pentagon awake nights has to do with cataclysmic events that trigger mass migrations, trigger skirmishes between factions in a community, the kinds of events not witnessed in North America ever before. Can our social and economic order be sustained by communities struggling through a water crisis? You start off with the given that Arizona’s politics runs hot as molten steel. I don’t know that we can know for sure if Arizona’s politics is configured to withstand such a jolt. Predictions are many, answers are few, your guess is as good as mine.

On the other side of the coin is that I know who these people are, I don’t know them by their political point of view. I know them as an audience, I have entertained these families not once or twice but for a decade. I know their hearts and minds. I know parents that love their children with everything they have. Still, for a place touched by such a crisis it will require truthful leaders, there won’t be any room for scapegoating, no finger pointing will get anyone one more drop of water, no blaming and complaining will fill a reservoir.

Scientists haven’t taken any pleasure in forecasting the impact climate change could make on civilization. Over the past half decade in California drought induced wildfires have erupted and the entire state has suffocated for days under a thick smokey haze. Firefighters struggle for months against these massive wildfires. Citizens have had to flee their homes. Whole towns have been lost. Greenville in the Dixie Fire is just yesterday. If the drought continues crunch time will arrive here in the San Tan Valley. Next year could give Arizona its first glimpse of the consequences of a changing climate. What will we do then?

Lacey retired after 5000 shows this was a good dog

What can we do now? Support climate mitigation efforts. Support expanding renewable energy technologies. Sell your gas-powered vehicle and buy an electric automobile or truck. Fly less. You don’t have to give up meat and dairy but use it wisely, be frugal, remember factory farmed animals are a gateway for zoonotic diseases that can cross over to humans and trigger worldwide pandemics. Urge your representatives to update water laws and land use policy. Perhaps the biggest problem is finding a way to keep the gas, oil and coal in the ground. Deploying regenerative farming practices, making steel with hydrogen powered furnaces, concrete too. The technology already exists, what is lacking is the sheer force of our political will to get the job done like right now, with no turning back. We can do this. The time has come.

quick takes-none fake’s

“My people will be in touch with your people.” I got my ear down to the ground, listening for footsteps.

Reporting from Ft. Collins, Colorado my source informs me that going outside sucks, that air quality from the western wildfire season has been unnerving, “apocalyptic is not too strong a word.” They are all but ready to begin taking antidepressants.

Garage Available

Covid-19 infections have gone back up on the Navajo Nation. My sources tell me they relaxed and let their guard down too soon. Our people of the first nation have been hit hard and too many have died.

Further south in Patagonia my sources report the monsoons have turned the high desert of Santa Cruz County a verdant green, that there is an upswing in hope, but this hamlet of a few thousand people feel that they are getting a little out over their rural anti-venom and ration of whiskey for such hope to be harvested, canned and setup in the pantry for future difficulties.

I note last weekend the annual Buena Vista, Colorado burro race was held. Happy burros trotting along a fourteen-mile course with their ever-faithful partners galloping alongside. Running a half marathon from 7800’ to 11,000’ is what fun looks like up here.

Needs some work

My sources from Amador City (smallest town in California by size-198 acres) reports the turtles down in the creek are getting along, the bocce ball court has been groomed and ready for a tournament to breakout at any moment. It has been hot, dry and that the wasps have been aggressive this summer.

Report from Napa came in triggered by a grassfire that had set off more post traumatic stress disorders in survivors of the numerous larger regional wine country wildfires of the last 5 years.

Hiking out of Afton, Wyoming has been a near religious experience. Recent monsoonal events have turned the Vista Prater Trail muddy but passable with rewarding views not a mile up into the watershed.

An Oregon horse breeder moving a stud on Interstate 5 had a tire on their trailer blow and reported cigarette butts, aluminum cans and improperly disposed facemasks littering the side of the highway where repairs were made. Especially the risk of fire induced by careless cigarette tossed from vehicles provoked breeder to wonder, “What are people thinking?”

Particularly curvaceous Edmonton, Alberta friend has set down into words what concerns her this summer. “You don’t know fear until you tried on a dress too small and thought you were stuck in it forever.”

All roses lead to Georgia O’Keefe

Harstine Island in the Puget Sound suffered from the heatwave until they didn’t. Brave souls are raising a second schipperke and reporting the dog is as disobedient as their former untrainable schipperke and that the cooler weather has been good for the blooming ranunculus. Wildfire smoke has not been too bad… yet.

Pot farming in British Columbia continues. From an undisclosed location somewhere in the interior my source reports a good crop will be ready for harvest by the end of August. No word yet on how morel hunting has gone or if chanterelles are ready just yet. Border between USA and Canada is due to open soon, or was, that may be put off due to the virus.

Call of the Wild with the Wildest of All

While in British Columbia reported all time high temperature of 92.7 degrees Fahrenheit was set on Saltspring Island in July. I am to understand that online poker games were played as scheduled and that the Saltspringers complained but that the grousing changed nothing.

Laurel Canyon, California contacts have moved back aboard their ketch rigged sailboat at Channel Island Harbor. Escaping San Fernando Valley summer heat to idle away the balmy August days along the coast has hopes on high.

Still, it is wildfire season, the summer has been hotter than average, and it appears the delta-variant has muted the luster of better days, that we’d turned the corner on the pandemic and a more normal life was soon in reach is now beyond our fingertips.

A piece of what we are living through has to do with resilience, to do with endurance, and piece to do with our vaccinated population coaxing our unvaccinated resistors to come to their senses and do the right thing and help us bring this pathogenic trail of sickness, hospitalization, and death to an end.

A low-pressure disturbance off the Cape Verde Islands in the Atlantic is being watched carefully as this potential hurricane begins tracking west across the Atlantic toward the Gulf of Mexico.

neptune as timekeeper

Sky full of clouds

Monsoonal weather swept up from the south passing over the San Francisco Bay Tuesday.  Warnings of the potential for lightening storms had been downgraded as the center of the weather system passed further offshore than had been forecast.

Just west of Benicia’s harbor we sailed off our anchorage at Dillion Point. No two days are the same on the water, expectations are traps, best to keep an open mind and ready for anything attitude.

Still after Monday’s return from the delta and then our rites of passage through the Suisun Bay we didn’t have the stomach for another dog’s life sail.

Callouses on our hands were raw from pulling the lines the day before. Our overnight had been a boisterous feast whipped up by the sailboat’s chef. We drank good wine. A quick anchor check to be sure we were holding. Bedtime came early, the anchoring light was switched on, the rest of the lights were turned off.

After coffee and mush we hoisted sails and tacked out of the channel beyond C&H Sugar on the Crocket side of the Carquinez Strait. For a spell we had enough breeze to keep the boat moving. By 10:00 AM the wind dropped then vanished altogether only the ebbing tide kept us headed to home port.

Factory for Sugar

By 1:00 PM we beat bow to wind toward the San Rafael Bridge, the ebb was at its end and the flooding incoming tide began to push against us. We might have used the motor but since Monday we’d been cursed with an odd rattle, thinking it might be the vessel zincs on the propeller shaft, whatever the problem, it had been making an awful racket. The skipper and his crew discussed our options, deciding together that it safer to sail. Even if we would only get what the light winds and strong counter currents would give us, we calculated the snails pace a better bet than becoming impatient.

When we first hoisted sails, we’d thought if we could find the prevailing winds that we would be arriving at home port by now, but the westerly’s never filled in and the mysterious rattle kept us on edge. We continued sailing in mere whisps of breeze. Light air sailing is a much finer circumstance. Over the course of an hour zigzagging southward, the boat clawed its way through the water taking every extra effort and attention to make our way past the bridge, Red Rock and to the approach of the channel into Richmond’s harbor.

Setting up a mark on the global positioning system (GPS) I’d entered the final waypoint, the mark that would take us to our destination, the last leg of our trip. We needed to make good on 8-9 more miles. In a full breeze the last piece of our journey might take a bit more than an hour. Sailing at 2-3 knots these last miles according to the GPS were predicted to take at our current course and speed to require another 4 hours.

I told my first mate that we were due home by the end of this century—that there was plenty of food and water—that for reasons difficult to know these two days have worked according to powers higher than our own—that we were fated to return from the delta to Emeryville by some other set of schedules and expectations—that our well laid plans were not what Neptune had wanted for us—that if there was even one more adverse force unleashed upon our sorry souls—that together we would need to seek the help of a shaman—to cast off the curse that seems to have devoured our luck—our good fortunes had run plum out.

Sailors look for any ripple of wind on the surface of a still body of water. You steer away from the mirror like surface toward these ruffling patterns. We got hold of a better wisp of wind, then set a favorable angle and shaped our course for the end of the Berkeley Pier.

We had no reason to get cocky, the winds had come and gone all day, teasing us for a few minutes then vanishing, that’s how it had been. Another hour had crept by, we were still making some progress, perhaps one mile further by zigzagging two miles back and forth against the current.

Islands in the Stream

By 3:00 PM changes were afoot. Ahead it was sure there was plenty of wind, more than enough, we could see the winds, there were whitecaps, if we could get there before this hope for a shot at getting off the water was gone, if we could get out of this hole, these doldrums, this rare monsoonal depression that had toyed with us for the last two days.

Then, as if by practical joke we found plenty of wind and more and went tearing south screaming along as fast as the boat will sail. I was on the low side steering, Richard my crewman on the high side grabbing hold to the boat while we rocketed toward the Bay Bridge on the east side of Yerba Buena Island. Winds were blowing from the west at 30 knots.

Laughing we hid in the lee of the island and lowered the main and would finish in this teasing maelstrom on headsail alone. Once at the dock we made quick work of putting the boat away. Down below we shared a bit of whiskey and split one can of beer. We laughed about our two days out on the water, the weather fit no pattern, being surprised had cost us, we might have gone about all of this another way, for one thing we might have waited in Owl Harbor, that might be the first thing to have tried before we opened the door to tempt all these flying monkeys to come into our lives.

Fixer of Demons

Postscript… The following day the diver that cleans the boats bottom went over the side and reported he had to use his knife to remove seaweed, netting and fishing line that had gotten tangled around the propeller—there was a stinking mess below we had sailed with for two days—hard to know how we’d even made it back—prevailing as we did against all the stubbornness and expectations.

Suisun Bay’s Flying Monkeys

Owl Harbor the day before

Owl Harbor curves like a crescent moon in the delta off of the San Joaquin River. The entrance to the slough is landmarked by the scuttled remains of a tug and dredging crane abandoned decades ago.

Boats vary in size and type. There are old motorboats, a newer 45’ ocean going catamaran. It wouldn’t be the delta if there were not variously configured houseboats, the most common are constructed with aluminum siding. One in particular featured four potted pomegranate trees, not large but well fruited.

All kinds of boats for all kinds of people. This is the time of year when the playful are jumping off watercraft into the water. Whole swarms of enthusiasts congregate in the water with a favorite floating device and beverage and for hours to idle away the afternoon together with their barking dogs.

Deverey is the harbor master. This is a skilled position. You’ll need to be able to spot a roustabout at first glance, former outlaws and a weak willed man that may soon become a lawbreaker. Since women can go bad too it takes some sixth sense to flush out the soul that may be in a corner of their own making and all too ready to entangle Owl Harbor in their drama.

This is just plain old everyday run of the mill way that the human condition and a boat harbor interact with one another.

I had the pleasure of speaking with Barry aboard a rather out of its place sports fisher, something you might see of Cabo San Lucas, in the Carolinas, maybe Key West. This is a the curviest vessel visiting Owl Harbor, the light green hull has been buffed out, two voracious CAT C18 diesels are resting below in the engine bays. Long of tooth, rascal and renegade, Barry appears to have wrapped his fate around his dreamboat, living the 60 gallons an hour at 20 knots all head full speed dream.

This is how it is here at Owl Harbor. Barry will move to Half Moon Bay in September then cruise south to Catalina Island by the middle of October. No right thinking mariner will linger this far north once the summers over and the first edge of autumn has been spent.

Up with first light and into a monster ebbing tide against a wee bit stronger blow than had been accounted on. This return to San Francisco Bay was harsh pounding against steep chop and a moody gray frothy and foaming sea. We feared the flying monkeys would soon attack, then a bolt of lightening, a refinery explosion could end our journey. We pounded against the Suisun Bay’s unkindness.

My second on this passage has sailed south to ports of call south of San Francisco. We have visited Monterey, Morro Bay and Ventura. Nothing was as belligerent and unwelcoming as yesterdays bashing into what Suisun Bay had on offer.

We redoubled our efforts. Every move, every effort was made to get the boat through and keep crew safe. A few days before sailing into Owl Harbor took all of 4.5 hours time. This return to Benicia extracted 10 hours.

We were concerned about being struck by asteroids, a train derailment and catastrophic crash off a trestle that might sink our boat and end our one chance at this thing called life. What other unanticipated horror might befall the fate of two chastened mariners?

We could be run down by a cargo ship, boarded by pirates, eaten by sharks, drenched head to toe by such a procession of waves as to leave us shivering our timber’s, and indeed the Suisun provided an infinite dousing of our desire for something slightly more gentle than what we were to receive.

With grit and grim dark humor we sailed on into the teeth of this beast of a mere ordinary Monday in late July. It was not hot as was the day before, it was overcast and the sky murky, gloom was hung into the heavens and there to see. Late afternoon we set our anchor in Dillion’s Point. Safe and sheltered now, thirsty and hungry, just another day of playing with boats.

Anchored safe at Dillion’s Point

We both spoke of flying monkeys because our trip out of the delta back to the San Francisco Bay could not have been more frightful. We took a good one yesterday and gave it all we had. You are sure you didn’t want to be there. I promise you the Suisun will give you all the hell you will ever care to take..

I’m a glass half fool

Reclamation as Time Capsule

Every winter, from November until April Earthbound Farms operations move from the Salinas Valley of California to the Sonoran Desert of Arizona. If you are eating a salad in January odds are stacked in your favor that the organic lettuce produced by Earthbound Farms was grown with water from the Colorado River.  

What is described as the lower basin of the Colorado River: New Mexico, Arizona, Utah, Nevada and California, have 186 million acres in agricultural production. Back of the envelop calculations estimate that our agriculture and ranch stakeholders use 80% of our drinking water. The remaining 20% is used for everything else. Agriculture using the lion share of our water returns about 3% to our gross domestic product. By way of comparison Apple Inc. in Cupertino is a $2 trillion enterprise and yes it needs to be noted that we can’t eat our iPhones, iPads and MacBook Pro’s, at least not yet.

Michael Kiparsky writing for the Los Angeles Times said that the relevant water rights records, estimated at more than 10 million pages of paper files, legal rights dating to the 19th century but still binding today are disbursed across 58 county courthouses in California.

Until now, as California is battered by drought, wildfire, and heatwaves there has been little interest in digging into this massive trove of tangled legal decisions. Water users have continued using while regulators have been directed by political leaders to look the other way- when they could- as long as they could. That dog won’t hunt any longer.

University of California at Berkeley School of Law has attempted to digitize a fraction of the relevant water rights documents. Evidence suggests the effort may be useful, that there is some hope the scanning and organizing of the records might be finished in a realistic time horizon and at reasonable cost.

Civilizations Plumbing

Nothing happens in the American Southwest without water. Crossing the Sonoran Desert on foot from the Mexican border to Tucson isn’t survivable without water. Scarcity has been a constant and now with demand outstripping supply the push comes to shove moment is pressing in on the region.

Arizona monsoons last week in Queen Creek, Mesa and Apache Junction dumped almost 1 inch of much needed precipitation. Parts of Scottsdale received about half that amount. Most other Arizona stations reported little to none. Last year’s monsoon season was a no-show. Each year half of all the water that falls in Arizona comes from these summer downpours. Banking on monsoon downpours is like betting the house with a chance of winning chump change. The monsoons are predictably unpredictable as the desert southwest has grown water that falls from the sky will never keep pace with demand.

Aqueducts and Reservoirs

Rebecca Solnit writes in the Guardian that we have reached a climate induced “turning point.” Anxieties about wildfire, drought and heatwaves have increased across the region as one disaster is predictably followed by another. Homes burn to the ground, wine is tainted by wildfire smoke and rendered worthless, exorbitant increases for fire insurance threaten vast regions of Northern California’s property owners caught up in land located in the urban-wildfire interface. Actuaries in the business of spreading risk see no winning hands for insurers and many are no longer writing new policies in California. The knock-on effects of these unanticipated higher costs are a piece of the reckoning climate change is forcing on the region.

As the megadrought bares down upon the Colorado River’s lower basin water managers are going to be forced to order water allocations cut, landowners with subordinated water rights will be forced to take their land out of production first, if that isn’t enough all stakeholders will have their water cut.

Closed forever

Albuquerque, Phoenix, Tucson, Las Vegas, Salt Lake City, San Diego and Los Angeles, our urban population will feel the impact in grocery stores as higher prices. The rural communities will be hit by losses as the farms can’t produce. Then there are all the second order effects, wages lost, seed and fertilizer not sold, crop dusters idled, truck drivers with no load to deliver.

Farmers growing vegetables in the Salinas Valley have optimized their operations. Labor is a key resource. Veteran farm hands returning each year work the same land with the same equipment to produce the same crop. Streamlining operations is a must.

Reconfiguring an operation for a crop that requires less water may be a bridge too far, the transition costs too high, the access to water too uncertain to get a bank to make a loan on a future crop they may never make it to harvest.

If you are driving between San Francisco and Los Angeles, you will drive through the Westland’s Water District. The regions access to water is tentative, only after those groups that possess the most senior water rights, usually dating back to before 1930 may water be made available to the Westland’s water users further downstream.

This is the poster child for a piece of the western regions 184 million acres destined to be removed from production. Water allocations have been over promised and cuts will be needed to bring the system back into balance.

Even if it rains and reservoirs begin to recover the higher temperatures and drier air means our recovery will be glacial, and there is every reason to be concerned that given our increasing population that Lake Powell and Lake Mead will never see enough runoff to be refilled to capacity. Too many stakeholders continue to demand their promised deeded access to too little. Excess heat trapping carbon particles in the atmosphere is the invisible piece of our crisis, the demand for rights to use the last drop of water is the most tangible.

In this modern go-go we can do anything world, without access to a reliable supply of water that can do attitude won’t get the job done. Even if you see the glass as half full there is still another half a glass of water missing.

Historic Building Waiting

Advances in irrigation technology add expense to production, the water scarce west will always be disadvantaged competing with same commodity produced in a more water abundant region.

Efficiencies also include crops that use less water producing food that can feed more people. This more direct use of our land for human consumption I liken to “farm to table,” in this case we rid our food production system of the intermediary, the animal we fatten, slaughter then eat, instead it is a system repurposed, this is the model of field to stomach, that is if you can imagine reprogramming the passionate tastebud driven throng trying to adapt to being satiated and contented eating further down the food chain.

Can’t imagine that? You’re not alone. Like a heart attack on a plate, a cheeseburger, fries and chocolate milkshake consumed over decades by a well-meaning yet sedentary citizen there will be that moment that the cheeseburger eater is flat on their back, then there is the stranger attempting to revive you as you slip away into the vast eternity of the next chapter of your life, this is beyond the body, after it no longer matters what you eat.

At our dinner table there is all kinds of trash talk about wildfire risk. We calculate wind direction, relative humidity, and chance of fire as if this is the normal course of conversation. In our neighborhood the nearby pine trees are no longer regarded as safe. Fire resistant indigenous trees are less of a danger. Our leafy neighborhoods are both possessed of beauty and high dungeon.

Growing organic lettuce in Yuma makes sense. Helping American’s gain access to an abundance of organic dark leafy greens is one of the healthiest vegetables to end up on our supper table. This mighty vegetable holds the key to heart health and a disease-free life. It also rids us of the middleman, fattening animals for slaughter is complicating our fight to fix the climate emergency. If you don’t think of yourself as part of the problem, you haven’t been living quite guilty enough. Feel more passion to change, don’t accept your mindless desires, maybe our stomach is wrong.

Colorado River from Afar in Canyonlands

The Colorado River stretches 1400 miles from headwaters in Rocky Mountain National Park to where the last remnants that empty into Mexico’s Sea of Cortez. From start to end there are a vast complex overlapping community of stakeholders. These are the diverse other spokes in our food system, from fist fighting cowboys to addle appetite driven vegans, from irrational misinformed partisan hotheads to indigenous peoples that can trace their ancestors back to 20,000 years before present.

Abandoning representative government for an autocratic, command and control world where the unchecked power’s pick and choose between the well-connected and not so well connected won’t solve the American West’s water shortages. This anti-science bandwagon isn’t a good fit in civilization threatened by megadrought. We can’t invent water, we can’t imagine our way to abundance, we must learn to make the most of the water we have. Conservation and reclamation will help, and it is part of our mix of adaptations, but we’re heading for a far more consequential crisis, the dimensions and impacts are not going to be easy to come to terms with.

If you live in LA you’re back of your mind worried about wildfire, but more likely you’re real ache in your life has to do with your commute, what time your girlfriend is going to show up, how to get tickets to the Hollywood Bowl, you promised your heart throbs you’d go see Diana Krall.

If you are raising a family in King City in the Salinas Valley it is the high rent, the price of a gallon of gas matters, getting you newborn baptized is everything.

Hills covered in Mustard

Forty million acres will need to be removed from production, and what land remains in production will be refocused.  

None of this will be painless. I didn’t want to switch to a whole food plant-based diet. I didn’t make the change until I had to, and even then, what can I say, much of this path was difficult, I complained plenty, but I put my big boy pants on and did what was required, that my changes increased the odds of my survival, and if I didn’t change and had kept going the same way that there was trouble ahead.

Rural America’s politics has shot off and gone haywire. Our white rural Christians have latched onto the toxic politics of what remains of the Republican Party. If taxes from the urban professional class are to be used to help our agricultural sector through this transition the two America’s will need to sit down and have an honest conversation.

Voting rights should be at the top of that list. Ending income inequality needs to be on that list. If we reach across the isle to help the other side, we’ll want a full-throated affirmation that the best future for our country is a two party self-representative government.

Rural America needs to come to terms with a more emancipated modern woman. We need a less oppressive approach to living with half of our citizens.

Arizona’s Salt River

Rural gun regulations are not a good fit for urban America. Rural and urban America need to fix this problem. Blocking legislation in Washington DC needs to stop.

Adapting our agricultural sector to the realities of climate change will require changes in how and what we farm. There is no better place to fix the lethality of our diet than by changing to crops that will make us healthier and happier.

Expertise matters when sewing seeds or flying a plane. Let’s get the best ideas up to the front of the line and put all this bias and prejudice back on a barstool in a tavern where a customer can have their say but not tip the whole freaking experiment in democracy at risk.

America can do this, but first off, we need to agree to be more agreeable, that the other side has a right to exist, but it doesn’t have the right to grab hold of power and tyrannize everyone and everything that’s not the same as the people you are most familiar with.

Won’t be long now. Citizens living in the rural American West are about to go through some things and if there is any chance of survival it is being willing to cooperate with those more affluent urban citizens that are willing to step up and help. Megadroughts, climate emergencies, wildfires are the warning signs, the flashing red lights on our dashboard that our ecosystem is breaking down, that there is no more time for doing nothing, that for the sake of our survival we are all going to be asked to make some sacrifices as we adapt to this hotter and drier reality. We have to give to get.

the scorching truth arrives

Enter reality on the boil as the consequences of hotter days become an irrefutable fact of a world facing peril. Distant and vague no longer hipsters on Capitol Hill in Seattle are having their own personal polar bear moment.

Canada’s Prime Minister Justine Trudeau facing a ticklish problem continues to voice his support of Alberta’s tar sands extraction. For now, puckish political raconteur can offer support for these life threatening fossil fuels, but there is a global campaign underway to make mass environmental destruction, known as ecocide an international crime similar to genocide and war crimes. The new law would in part make it illegal to commit a crime against nature, not just a crime against people.

The proposal states, “For the purpose of the Statute, “ecocide” means unlawful or wanton acts committed with knowledge that there is a substantial likelihood of sever and either widespread or long-term damage to the environment being caused by those acts.”

Rude awakenings have been the hallmark of the Anthropocene epoch. Crafty political operatives give and receive orders verbally one on one, nothing on paper, no witnesses, leaving no legal trail, no fingerprints, no self-incriminating evidence. Incitement to riot can’t be charged without ironclad evidence of the speaker’s state of mind. Wink-wink-nod-nod…so it goes.

Three weeks ago, I was caught in a heatwave on Interstate 70 in Utah where it was 107˚F. Too exhausted to continue driving but still only 3:00 PM I parked beneath cottonwood trees at the Green River State Park waiting for sunset. It was near the same temperature at 8:00 PM. I’d used damp rags and a spray bottle to relieve myself of the heat. By 10:00 PM I could sleep. Hotels in town had all jacked their rates up above $200. Price gouging in a heatwave isn’t a good look for the national hotel chains.

When setting up our van we’d declined installing a rooftop air conditioner. Until this heatwave hit, we had been a bit high handed and dismissive of the potential for extended days of hot weather.

Then, a week later the heatwave hit the Pacific Northwest. On June 30th Lytton, British Columbia hit an all-time high temperature record of 49.6 °C (121.3 °F). On July 1st this little village north of Vancouver was destroyed by wildfire.

Oregon reported 116 people died from the heatwave, Washington reported 78. In British Columbia officials there estimated as many as 500 died. My liquid dance with a damp cloth and spray bottle in Green River served as a warning.

Then yesterday tropical storm Elsa dumped over New York City flooding portions of Manhattan’s subway system.

More deer in headlights and polar bears swimming in a sea searching for the missing ice their lives depend upon.

Lobbyists for Exxon were caught out boasting about their efforts to block climate change legislation. Keith McCoy, the oil giant’s senior director for federal relations described Senator Joe Manchin was their “kingmaker.” Apparently, the ecocide legislation can’t be put into effect quick enough.

In this digitized go-go ever hotter world, there is this sickening feeling that we simply do not have enough time or enough people willing to step up to the fight to save civilizations incessant march toward self-immolation.

Much of what appears to be the disintegration of the Republican Party is perhaps simply a tantrum thrown by the fossil fuel lobby. This is my theory. It makes some sense. Tax break fanatics and deregulatory addicts realize that the jig is up. Cornered, desperate, masks off and in fully revealed white nationalist mode it may just be that most of the Republican Party’s disenchantment with the two-party system has more to do with Caucasian constituents that would prefer to continue burning natural gas, oil, and coal. Civilization’s self-induced existential threat is a wee bit too thick a plot to interrupt the titans of big business and their marionette controlled double dealing politicians.

Hurricane season portends all manner of chaos, the Left Coast heatwaves have everyone on wildfire watch, the drought that effected half of the American West last year has now got a grip on 98% of this vital agricultural region.

Even Florida’s Surfside condo collapse appears rooted in the twin issues of deregulatory fervor and climate change induced high tides that may have helped undermine the buildings foundation.

I meet more and more millennials born between 1981-1996 forgoing having children. If like my daughter you grew up with a dot-com crash, non-existent weapons of mass destruction Iraq War, global financial crisis and finally a full-on as of now 4 million people killed global pandemic you can sort of see how things don’t seem to be working out quite like the millennials had been promised.

Reality keeps punching the earth in the nose. A pair of jacked-up billionaires are racing each other into suborbital space. More and more of us are learning to grow our own vegetables, we’re busy trying to master the art of permaculture and perfect regenerative farming methods.

Time does not appear to be our friend. The clocks nearly run out on our planet. We’re cutting this chance to do something to save the planet razor thin. Bringing my own grocery bags is quaint, recycling virtuous, while the 10 most carbon polluting multinationals remain defiant.

Everyone has basically run off in every direction seeking a piece of the action on the one hand or trying hard as all hell to put that hot sweet genie back in the bottle.  

I’d been warned by my doctor that if I didn’t straighten out, he’d order me put on statins and if I disobeyed his orders he’d quit me as a patient and go find a more cooperative clientele. I didn’t want to eat whole food plant-based diet but congestive heart failure, stroke and god knows what else might happen persuaded stubborn SOB to change. The first year was difficult learning to cook and prepare food I’d never prepared before. By the end of the second year, I was actually able to feel satiated after supper. Now at the end of 6 years I’m delighted to have escaped from eating factory farmed animals. That includes fish, dairy, and bee’s honey.

Eating lower down on the food chain spares the world so many stresses. Plant based diets use less water and land. By now science has warned that crowding animals into feedlots is a recipe for breeding pathogens that could cross over and trigger another pandemic.

I know, I know, so many of you are not ready, the idea of upending your eating habits is not welcomed.

Most of my career I’ve worked outdoors in the sun for audiences gathering in the fairer seasons of the year. In August of 2009 I worked at the Kentucky State Fair where it became so hot that animal control authorities suspended the exhibition of all performing animals. Humans could continue to perform but they described the hazards faced by performing animals to be so great as to be life risking.

If I were starting out again, I’m not sure a career as an outdoor entertainer would be the best choice. On average we had enough good days to make living with the hottest days a reasonable bet, you could probably get by and likely the weather wouldn’t be too hot, things were still workable.

Then Seattle on June 26-27-28 posts three days of triple digit record breaking high temperatures. The usually benign city along the Puget Sound hit 102°F on June 26th, 104°F on the 27th and a record setting 108°F on the 28th. This high temperature record is hotter than records for New York City, Washington DC, or Atlanta.

This whole doing thing has a nice ring to my ears. We’ll need to sweat the big stuff, saddle up a capable posse and corral some of the miserly miscreants in our midst. Then, all of us pipsqueaks we can do better too, but these Goliaths need a good punch in the kisser. You know everyone acts like they’re going to win a fight until they get socked in the face with a hard right hand.

You’re not alone, this sense of the world going off the rails isn’t your imagination, we’ve got us a pretty good pickle of a problem and we’re all about to find out if mankind can step up and meet the moment. Are you ready, or do you just want to play more pretend, like nothing bad happens here? What will it be?

Author-Entertainer