Tag Archives: Climate Emergency

birth of imagination

16,000 years ago homo sapiens arrive

Bluefish Cave in the Yukon, now there was a place you could call home 24,000 years ago. There’s evidence the cave might have been used an ever more distant 40,000 years back in time, North America’s earliest immigrants crossing over from Siberia consolidated their foothold in this North American cave as others began immigrating south.

Use your imagination to play the homo sapiens game. First, remember earth has grown warmer and colder over these many tens of thousands of years. Plant communities advanced and retreated with climate’s variations, what seems like an uninhabitable cave in the frozen north has in certain periods of time provided an ideal environment for hunting and gathering. The advance of the ancients was not linear, ancestors explored and expand their presence across the continent only to retreat or perish because of incessant rain, persistent heat or cold, or unforeseen drought. Even hunter and gatherers are subject to immutable law of scarcity.

Imagine ingesting magic-mushrooms from atop Nevada’s Tohakum Peak then spending the day marveling southward below at the gleaming blue waters of Pyramid Lake. This sacred body of water is part of the Paiute Nation. If we turned back the clock of time 15,000 years, our ancestors had arrived and roamed this region, our ancient ancestors camped on the shores edge of this lake fishing, hunting and gathering edible and medicinal plants. Pyramid Lake is a mere remnant of Lake Lahontan, this larger lake wasn’t five miles in length, Lake Lahontan stretched out hundreds of miles north to south. From the high ground looking out, this is our ancestor’s homeland, from this vantage point the ancient people that arrived here could behold a lake as big as any in North America.

Winnemucca Lake Rock Art

Dominating the view to the west from Tohakum Peak were the Sierra Nevada’s snow and glaciers. At lower elevations occupying suitable habitat were limber pine, bristlecone pine, fox pine, western white pine, and giant sequoias. Lower still was the sagebrush steppe, and juniper trees. Lower still meadows of grass where could be found camels, giant sloth, tapirs, peccaries, bison, horse, donkey, mammoths and mastodon. Lurking in the shrouded bush were now extinct, giant short-faced bears, dire wolves, saber tooth cats, and the American cheetah. This was time of giant condors and saber tooth salmon. Isolated islands dotted the now vanished lake where white pelicans numbering in the millions fledged their chicks. It was from Lake Lahontan breed grounds that the white pelicans on broad powerful wings and soared to fish and explore the furthest regions of the America’s.

Our ancestors standing erect, hands guided by nature’s largest brain, a burdensome heavy high energy experimental organ, a mind able to fashion arrowheads, built fires, each advance in tool and skill increasing the advantaged probability of our species survival-supremacy was still not more than an untested vanity project. Fire, spears, arrows, and knives expanded the terrain suitable for prevailing over their competitors. This was not the Nevada of modern times, the shores of Lake Lahontan, this complex ecosystem was homeland where early man skillfully learned how to feed upon an uncultivated pristine wilderness, a life sustaining variety of indigenous flora and fauna.

Modern Man and Beast at Pyramid Lake

The human mind isn’t a mere mass of brain cells but is more like a complex interconnected information neural highway, each successive generation’s brain ripening into a more and more complex web of linked cognitive pathways. Linking the minds different hemispheres into a wholistic conscious force progressed, nudged ahead by evolution, over tens of thousands of years, this vast web of nerves, this system increasingly more connected, enabled deeper understanding, higher consciousness, and an ever expanding ability to speak. None of man’s competitors had a comparable vocabulary. 

If by some force of time machine magic, we could travel back 15,800 years, standing atop Tohakum Peak we would have been a privileged witness to our ancestor’s earliest demonstration of the ability of man to imagine, to be creative, to think in the abstract, from dreams in our mind to making actual linguistic/symbolic/shambolic patterns in rock. The sentience of the Winnemucca Lake rock art is less about the specific meaning of the symbols etched into stone, but more to do with our ancestors for the first time memorializing the fully realized birth of imagination. Our ancestors were still not more than middle of the food chain pack of tasty morsels; fierce strong jawed, sharp toothed and clawed predators remained the dominant existential force in the world of the hunter and hunted. Like arrow, fire, and speech man’s imagination would be tested, proving over the millennia that intelligence is a formidable adaptive power in the immutable Darwinian law of the survival of the fittest.

Lake Lahontan vanished 10,000 years ago

A journey of a thousand years, then another and another, for much of this time humankind’s advances were incremental, marginal. You know the storyline. Man’s consciousness eventually resulted in formalizing a set of teachable cognitive skills that we know as science. Taking pieces of what we learned from the many disciplines that have been developed empowered homo sapiens to invent, build and then dominate.

Here we are. This is what we have become. Because of our species use of fossil fuels we have arrived at a bend in the road. Our auspicious beginning is memorialized by our ancestors Winnemucca Lake rock art, the other end of this journey is more menacing, as lethal as any beast we have ever faced, it is an unseen phantom stalking the world, we call it by its name- climate emergency. We are racing toward an inflection point, where all of civilization, all of what we hold as irreplaceably sacred is tangled up in the fallibilities of man’s vices and virtues, tossing out the old ways and ever too slowly embracing new ways. The brilliant and clever homo sapiens are struggling to turnback the human experiment of life on earth from a fossil fuel induced collapse of civilization.

Beowawe Geothermal Generating Station

The ancients that inhabited what we now have named Nevada would not have known about the lithium buried in her soils, that a precocious South African would come to North America and build the world’s largest battery manufacturing facility, the paradigm shifting Gigafactory. That here in Nevada’s Great Basin desert there would be experimental geothermal wells drilled, that the power of these six mile deep wells would pull the earth’s molten cores heat up from her depths and will one day demonstrate the potential to provide an inexhaustible source of carbon free electricity, and then this briny water will bring minerals up from deep below and these vital minerals will be laden with more lithium and that emergent technologies, funded by philanthropic men with names such as Gates, Buffet and Bloomberg, will fund teams of scientists to devise a means of separating from the geothermal waters an inexhaustible supply of lithium that can be used to manufacture yet more Gigafactory batteries.

This is not fiction. Winnemucca Lake rock art is an original inflection point, 15,800 years since man arrived here and marked in rock this first moment, when our ancestors etched evidence in stone of mindfulness, to this present moment where humanity’s future now rests upon the fateful scientific engineering success of our cutting through more stone, this time with ever more at stake, with ever more skill, with the entire civilization’s survival quite literally at stake. Every last one of us have skin in this game, this is it, this is for the whole ball of wax, whether we can stay or must go, with the human experiment on the line, we have arrived in of all places back in Nevada searching for our salvation.

the Mcdermitt caldera caper

Cottontail

High desert cottontail irruption of 1981 stretched from horizon to horizon, east to west, north to south, everywhere you looked all you could see were rabbits. Half the early settlers crossing through Nevada figured cottontail to be a staple in their diet the other half reckoned the animal to be emergency food. I was running south out of Boise on Hwy 95 on my way to a cutoff out to White Horse Ranch when I came across my first fifty-mile-long cottontail Malthusian growth crisis.

White Horse Ranch Est. 1867

White Horse Ranch got its start in 1867 running cattle on 65,000 acres of private land. Grazing high desert is workable for a short time but not sustainable for long. Nitrogen accumulates at a rate much too slow and cattle browse off the grasses much too fast. Antelope, deer and elk, the Great Basin’s indigenous species have browsing habits that harmonize with this terrain. Times changed and White Horse Ranch changed too. The outfit is more of a hay growing operation now. Cattle are still grazed out here, but their numbers now much reduced providing modest flow of revenue to this historic working ranch.

Dustiest part of the expeditionary effort needed to make my way to the White Horse Ranch is navigating one of the roughest dirt roads twenty-five miles out to the main gate. If you go just another bit further, and since you are already out there why wouldn’t you, off to the left is another dirt road out to Willow Creek Hot Spring. This is sagebrush soaking country.

Denio, Nevada

Crawling along after a long soak I negotiated the 61 hard miles of dirt road that ended in Denio, Nevada. I rested there for a day getting my hand tools out so I could tighten up all the fasteners that had come loose on my truck. Back in 1981 there was a General Store. The proprietor operated the gas station, had a United States Post Office kiosk on its premises and a functional community hall set up in the basement. You could buy groceries at the store, basics anyway, deliveries came in from Winnemucca. Against another wall they’d set up a bar with stools and two slot machines. This is where most of the drinking, gambling and conversation took place.

Modern day Denio has now got pavement, moved the Post Office into a building all to its own, and miracle of miracles continues to operate the most important institution on the northern frontier of Humboldt County, the venerable Diamond Inn Bar. It is the same building as the General Store, time has passed, names and enterprise has been reconfigured, but the mission is same as ever, there must be some gathering spot where the fever of solitude can be broken. The population of Denio has swelled to 47, by my count none are tongue-tied.

Plenty of Dirt Road

Further south out of Denio on Highway 140 you’ll turn east on Nine Mile Road and travel by pavement to Kings River Valley. Here is located the biggest hay growing region in the state of Nevada. Cold winters, annual measurable precipitation totaling eight inches, with a valley bottom elevation sitting right at 4000 feet, here is pure Great Basin Desert in its most abundant grass growing form. If Denio is too busy for you and if you want to get away from it all, this is your place, there is plenty of opportunity to fix your position completely into what I would describe as self-imposed solitary confinement.

Caldera System Runs From Nevada to Yellowstone National Park

East of Kings River Valley in Nevada’s Montana Mountains you can travel by Highway 192 back over to Orovada at the junction of Hwy 95. Halfway between, up in the high country there is a two-lane road that tracks across a one-of-a-kind geological feature, the McDermitt Caldera. It is on this piece of road that is located the world’s largest unburied lithium deposit. Geologists surveyed the caldera and calculate on over 11,000 acres of lithium ore is just sitting there on the surface ripe and ready to be harvested. Boring test holes geologists calculate the lithium deposit measures 500 feet in depth. Mining the ore would be by open pit method. Draglines, electric rope shovels, and huge wheel loaders are used to move the ore for refining. The battery making metal would be processed on site and then hauled away by truck destined for both domestic and international battery manufacturers.

In September of this year Lithium Nevada, a subsidiary of Lithium Americas notified various agencies of its intention to begin operations. Years of work has gone into preparing an Environmental Impact Statement with the Federal governments Bureau of Land Management’s office in Winnemucca. Issuance of the permit allowing for mining to start is expected to be decided early next year.

Thacker Pass Lithium Mine

Locals in opposition can’t be ignored. There are hay growers, cattle outfits, and Paiute concerned about the environmental impact this mine will have on the land, air and water. Sage grouse range nearby and our endangered. Eagle habitat is here too. Deciding one way or another about approving the operation is not an open and shut case. Open pit mining corporations are prone to filing bankruptcy once they cease operations leaving the taxpayers to foot the cleanup bill. Too often after a mine has closed things ends up in a tangled disputatious legal mess. Citizens opposition is substantial.

Arguments in favor of bringing this lithium ore to market is first and foremost to do with the climate emergency the world now faces. Geologists estimate of all the known marketable lithium ore in the world McDermitt Caldera contains 25% of that total. Tesla’s Gigafactory is 200 miles west in Reno. The Gigafactory manufactured 10 GWh of battery power in 2019 (that’s like 12 million wild horses of power) aiming for 1300 GWh by 2030 (an astronomically huge galloping herd in size and magnitude).

Processed Lithium Ready for Market

Whether or not the civilization collapsing climate catastrophe can be averted turns out to be tangled up with the McDermitt Caldera. The whole seething lot of us is up against the clock, time is not on mankind’s side. This is a consequential decision, figure Kings River Valley hay growers probably wish this whole thing would just go the hell away, leave their beloved Montana Mountains and the McDermitt Caldera right where it is.

Northern Humboldt County, Nevada is a five-hundred-mile drive from San Francisco. Remote, isolated, this is the American West, you had best bring everything you’ll need because there are practically no suppliers or services out here. The Great Basin Desert of Nevada has to be the most improbable place to have been thrust into the biggest most consequential fight man has ever had to wage in the struggle to walk civilization back from the brink. Fateful mashups of such towering consequence possess sturdy bones, circumstances are so serious a sane person would have to laugh, it’s a comedy. I don’t have plot yet, but I can see one, there is near sure to be a story worth telling, I see all kinds of trials and tribulations.

world emergency full catastrophe climate change comedy show

Wildfire Evacuee Worried Look

Showmen turn a buck creating entertainments. Producing a live entertainment, large or small, one man or cast of thousands, in almost all circumstances are based on sustaining an audience’s attention.

Comedy pleases audiences by laugh and wit. Tragedy appeals by illustrating the fault of a character in a story and how their demise becomes an enlightened vehicle to lift the audience’s spirits.

I’m not a scientist, don’t work for the Pentagon, have no specific training in weather forecasting, forest management or background in urban planning. For some years now our climatologists have urged the creative’s in our world to come up with art to help make the climate emergency unfolding before us into a popular attraction.

Intercoastal mountains running 450 miles north to south from Bakersfield to Redding are hot dry and prone to wildfire

Years back the Pentagon warned that the coming climate crisis risked plunging large swaths of the world into crisis and rendering them ungovernable. Prodding an audience’s imagination into conjuring up what an ungovernable piece of shrinking ice for a polar bear might look like isn’t going to get the artists job done.

The magnitude of California’s climate change enhanced wildfires is of such scale and scope that it has now emerged as the preeminent threat to civilization. Governor Gavin Newsom is a gamer in my book, but the mere mortal leader is up against the wall concocting a solution to this monster.

Making our cars all electric by 2035 is a step in the right direction. I have a movie by Busby Berkeley that might help if you find it difficult being kept waiting.

Reality in California includes reading news about wildfires, remaining indoors because of air quality, and then finding out you know someone that has lost their house or been forced to evacuate.

Easy or difficult, tears or laughter, sick or poor, in good health or on our death bed’s chances are we’ll have to mount an earnest effort if we are going to take a shot at solving our planets problems.

I’m imagining solar panel installation gags, more renewable Don Quixote and his loyal servant Sancho Panza tilting at windmill skits, Back to the Future lithium battery Elon Musk in the laboratory sketches. Once you get the hang of it, it’s not so hard.

Wine Country Wildfires since 2015

I’m imagining doors you don’t want to open, characters warning other characters not to open it, don’t go in there, and of course they do, and come out comically transformed. Make it cartoon like, you know, burnt to a crisp like Wiley E Coyote and his nemesis the Road Runner of Merry Melodies and Loony Tunes cartoon fame.

There have been 7,982 fire incidents in California in 2020 with 3,627,010 acres total acres burned. There have been 7,630 structures damaged or destroyed and at least 26 fatalities as of Sept 28. The coronavirus has claimed 16,000 Californian’s. There are an estimated 151,278 homeless living on our streets. That’s a burden on our spirits, terrible losses to tally.

40 million all left to wonder what is to come of California

That’s where we are, this is the fine mess we are in. To my way of thinking, neither plastering optimism or negativity on our challenges, we need to remind ourselves how much better we all do as a people simply helping to build a better future for our world.

So, I started out with the Royal Lichtenstein Quarter-Ring Sidewalk Circus, and at the time this show seemed to speak to the moment and lift the worlds spirits. After five decades chasing audiences around the world, I’m thinking of launching a new show, the current working title is, The World Emergency Full Catastrophe Climate Change Comedy Show.  A good show needs a snappy slogan. How about, “I swear to God, you’ll die laughing!”

Work with me people, these are the jokes.