Tag Archives: Climate Emergency

Tight as a Tick Dry as a Bone

If you are living in San Francisco, don’t have a car, rent an apartment, don’t have a garden, haven’t got out on a road trip, then it is likely the 20-year drought gripping the American West may well have gone unnoticed. If on the other hand you are Max Gomberg the Director over at the California States Water Resources Control Board your time has run out. Gomberg just quit.

Video Credit Alex Arguello CalFire

Lake Shasta was completed in 1945 and filled for the first time in 1948. As of July, this year Lake Shasta is filled to 38% of capacity. The two other lowest measurements occurred in 1992 and 1977. The landmark Northern California reservoir isn’t a stranger to the problem of inadequate rain and snowfall, it is the problem that keeps on keeping on. 

Lake Shasta feeds the Sacramento River, the water appears to the unaided eye to be flowing, but the water is hotter and threatening the salmon runs and by threatening I mean extinction, like you know it’s over. Scientists have responded and have diverted water that would have been used for irrigation to reduce water temperatures in the river so that the salmon may survive. The Federal Bureau of Reclamation because of the drought has had to zero out water deliveries to the agricultural operators all up and down the Central Valley, from Redding to Bakersfield. 

Not doing too well

Governor Gavin Newsom’s administration has just released a scaled back version of a new piece of Sacramento Delta plumbing that is going to go exactly nowhere, I think of this proposal as a way of placating agricultural interests struggling to find water south of the Delta, as the saying goes this tunnel has as much a chance of passing as a snowballs chance in hell. 

Much of what happens to the political careers in Sacramento are the result of keeping key constituencies flush with water. Talk of saving salmon isn’t even half the problem, saltwater intruding up into the Delta risks contaminating the drinking water of millions of Northern Californians. The scale of such a catastrophic drinking water crisis is the King Kong of water disasters, the only special interests pretending that cutting off the drinking water to 4 to 8 million people are a few hundred farmers that stand to profit from such a calamity. The Army Corp of Engineers rates this potential disaster as potentially the worst infrastructure crisis facing the nation. 

Northern Nevada

Here’s the thing Gomberg wants us all to know and no politician dares to say out loud. The days of growing whatever the hell you want are about to come to an end. Millions of acres are going to be fallowed, water thirsty crops are going to go the way of the dodo bird, and if you don’t like it well that’s just too damn bad buckaroo— 

I traveled through New Mexico during April. Historic wildfires intentionally started by the United States Forest Service have burned hundreds of thousands of acres near Santa Fe and Las Vegas. For the first time in decades the Rio Grande is set to completely dry up as it passes through Albuquerque. Further downriver at New Mexico’s Elephant Butte Reservoir this key piece water storage infrastructure is at just 10% of capacity. Veteran high-country hikers are reporting conditions so severe that this spring aspen trees have not leafed out and appear to be dead or dying as the alpine ecosystem is nearing irreversible collapse. 

Great Basin Desert Lake

What individual published pictures do is give us just one piece of a global climate crisis that is overtaking life on earth. From the snow on top of the Rocky Mountains, the runoff we see in the Colorado River, to the missing water that no longer fills Lake Powell— all are part of a complex plumbing system that have run out of time and are about to cause the mother of all water manager problems. 

Utah’s Great Salt Lake has shrunk by 2/3rds exposing its salty sandy lake bottom to winds that threaten to scatter heavy-metal laden dust storms east where local Utah citizens will be at risk of illness and death if exposed to such air pollution. The circumstances are so serious the state legislature has funded a feasibility study to pump Pacific Ocean water from California 600 miles overland where the salt water will be used to restore the Great Salt Lake to its original level. 

Costs Extra if you start doing that

The same multi-billion-dollar emergency efforts are underway in Southern California’s Salton Sea where both the United States and Mexico are studying whether a pipeline from the Sea of Cortez can be built to save Imperial County residents from the same kind of dangerous toxic airborne dust.

The climate crisis is getting hard to ignore, most now say it is impossible. The wildfire in Yosemite, the Oak Fire has already consumed 19,000 acres, forced 3000 to evacuate and destroyed 41 structures. Smoke is moving both north and to the west, the California Air Resources Board has issued warnings to reduce outdoor activities in the San Francisco Bay Area. Pets, children and adults are advised to remain inside. This is now a regular feature of our summers here.

Making matters ever more complicated is the Army Corp of Engineers rushing plans to fortify coastline, skilled scientists at the agency are now recommending regions to prepare to strategically retreat from rising sea levels or in select regions of our coast where urban population is high, they are initiating plans to build multi-billion-dollar sea walls. The costs are staggering. 

About 30 million people are living in Albuquerque, Tucson, Phoenix, Las Vegas, Salt Lake City, Los Angeles, San Diego, and San Francisco. This group of urban and suburban citizens are our residential water users. For the moment the concerns of this group include having access to water for swimming pools, watering lawns and washing dishes, laundry and flushing toilets. 

The same is not true of Rio Verde Foothill residents living near Scottsdale, Arizona. Having opted out of incorporating into the city limits of Scottsdale in the shortsighted effort of keeping their taxes lower the residents have been cut out of access to Scottsdale’s municipal water system. Instead, citizens in Rio Verde have resorted to punching wells nearly 1000 feet deep, at that depth a water well can cost a minimum of $40,000. Now those efforts have turned into a giant crap shoot. It is more common than not to punch a dry hole than to find water, and punching wells isn’t contingent on finding water, you pay to play whether the driller finds water or not. With hat in hand the 2000 plus homeowners have found water 110 miles east in the Harquahala Valley purchasing groundwater that is then hauled at great expense by truck to fill the cisterns in their Rio Verde Foothills homes. As you might imagine this has not done a thing for their property values or politics. Some of Arizona’s most conservative libertarians are mad as Wyatt Earp losing a poker hand to Doc Holiday.

By my count this was about exactly right

If you start sticking your nose around the rural American West, you’ll find some communities that still have access to drinking water. Ajo, Arizona south of Gila Bend and adjacent to the Barry Goldwater Air Force Test Range is one such community. If you live in town on 5 acres or less the local Ajo Water District will hook you up, but there are rules and water is carefully regulated for residential use only. Local farms and ranches enjoy no such access. Some have drilled wells, but water is found deep if found at all and pumping it to the surface can be prohibitively expensive, it’s the equivalent of spending $10 to grow a $1.00 carrot. You get the idea.

Urban and suburban citizens are unaware of the mounting crisis rural farm and ranch operators are facing. Millions of acres that have depended on subsidized Bureau of Reclamation water are being cutoff, there is no water to allocate. Some farmers are trying their best to adapt, other farmers are confronting the reality that the only crop they’ve ever grown is the only crop they know how to grow and at this stage in their lives it is too late to start all over again. The cost of feed has spiked, and livestock operators are hauling their herds to auction zeroing out their operations.  

Was once a time when a farm or ranch operator awarded hard work with a living wage. A farmer could afford a new pickup truck, pay his debts down and put a little something away for the future. Businesses on Main Street in such rural communities could sell seed and feed, tractors and other farm implements and the whole virtuous economic cycle could keep our rural communities afloat. 

Almost Nothing Here Maybe Some Antelope

Because of the megadrought many rural communities are being tipped into recession or worse. In this urban/suburban versus rural drought emergency climate change has brought our farms and ranches to the brink. “There ain’t nothing but no good lousy stinking big rocks and hard times for as far as an eye can see—” 

Olive orchard growers in Northern California once flooded their fields, but scientists cracked the olive tree code and state of the art is now to use drip irrigate, and the olive trees are only watered when a specific moisture content measurement triggers a radio signal to the switching equipment that turns the drip irrigation system on and off. Drought tolerant the olive trees thrive when the miserly drip irrigation technique is utilized. As is true of every kind of enterprise there are winners and losers, good moves and not so good adaptations. We’ve only scratched the surface of agriculture’s reconfiguring production in a water scarce world 

Pecans in New Mexico are a more complicated story. So are the almond, pistachio and walnut crops of California. 

It isn’t just this year’s wildfire, drought or loss of water for agriculture that we fear, it is the possible permanent climate emergency that has our water managers terrified. So far, we’ve set policy by extending and pretending, our stakeholders continue to hope forests will become more resilient and less fire prone, the term of art is thinning and culling. Meteorologists keep hope alive and are desperate to report that the rain will return, that the drought will break, that our farms and ranches will return to business as usual. 

Rare piece of Nevada river

Decommissioning coal, natural gas and nuclear power stations turns out to be harder to do than we might have imagined, many of these legacy industries have organized and are fighting back. Our changing world is colliding with our unchanging minds. We have turned not giving up on its head, and instead of making the necessary changes there are fossil fuel interests that insist there is nothing that any of us can do, that we can’t change, and the world would be foolish to even try. This Gomberg guy from California’s State Water Board has had it with this conspiracy of naysayer’s intransience. 

What is so absurd is that scientists have already invented all the necessary technology to get the world off its carbon addiction. It isn’t like we don’t have the tools so much as we haven’t yet summoned the will to do the hard work. 

Looking for a hopeful sign it might well have happened this week. Democratic Party Majority Leader Chuck Schumer announced that he has secured the vote of Joe Manchin and apparently the United States is on the brink of passing the most ambitious climate emergency bill to ever make its way to this or any President’s desk for his signature. Now that is some serious never give up and not taking no for an answer. When it comes to a brawl this Biden guy can take one hell of a punch, answer the bell and still win the fight. Now come November all we have to do is vote like our lives depend upon it because in fact the whole ball of wax is going to be on that ballot. Friends, this is what flirting with end times looks like. One hell of fix we’re all in. When it’s all said and done, just me I suppose, but I say we’ll make it, just barely, but as the big boss Warren Buffet has said, “It’s never paid to bet against America.”

Dusty Days on the Klamath

North of Yreka the Klamath River passes beneath Interstate 5 while flowing west through the Siskiyou’s to the Pacific Ocean. Over the last two decades the megadrought has pummeled the region. For 13 of the last 20 years the governors of Oregon have declared a drought emergency east of where I am standing in the Klamath Basin. Fish runs are going extinct, farm fields are left fallow, and ranchers livestock have been sold off. Last years fire season was record setting, the Bootleg Fire one of Southern Oregons all time biggest, resulted in the nearby Klamath Basin forests being severely damaged, the intensity of the regional 1 million acres burned leaves one to see the region in an almost Biblical end times sense. Nothing about this new century resembles the serenity, peace and productivity of the last century. The global climate emergency has battered this region with a procession of no rain, low humidity and ever higher temperatures.

This morning I’m looking out upon the Klamath and I see a benign and otherwise unremarkable river— nothing appears amiss. To my eye the water appears neither too high or too low. But, this visual observation does not account for the fallibility of the mind’s inability to size what we see to the scale necessary to arrive at a workable fact. If you’ve ever driven across California’s Mojave Desert while cresting one mountain you’ll see a valley before you then another mountain range in the distance. Guessing how far it is in miles to the crest of the other an observer tends to find their best guess can be off by miles— you’ll guess 20 then discover that next mountain range is 50 miles off in the distance. Scale, time and distance can play tricks on us.

Up and down the Klamath River fishermen, farmers and ranchers attempt to read the river, estimate its resource, try to predict by Farmer’s Almanac the appearance of La Niña, and way too many of the stakeholders misjudge the bounty of the river. That is the nature of a hope and dream, giving up on a life you’ve made, handed down to you by a self sufficient mother and father goes against our own inner nature. People do not give up so easily.

The hard times have come to the Klamath, one piece of the challenge has to do with 200,000 irrigated acres up on the Klamath Basin. These are hard facts to swallow, folk in Southern Oregon have held out hope, if it would only just start to rain again.

Circumstances on the much larger Colorado River touch the lives of 40 million people and as many as 50 million acres of farmland. You’d still need another 800,000 acres to get to your first million acres in the Klamath Basin and you’d still be shy of the unfolding crisis further south on the Colorado River. If you read about the drought that has gripped the American West it is on these smaller watersheds where journalists focus, where the size, scale and scope of the tragedy remains imaginable. The unfolding disaster on the Colorado River, the crisis taking hold on Lake Powell and Lake Mead overwhelm, the immensity of the problem is astronomical. The Klamath River is the same drought driven tragedy scaled to be approached by the concerned mind of a citizen giving the regional crisis thoughtful time and consideration.

A man or woman that works land for hay or row crop will be hard pressed to accept their land being removed from production. Putting aside all the variety of options, to grow a less water thirsty crop, to only grow food destined for the kitchen table, rolling back and then eliminating livestock— these possible solutions are so far inconceivable compromises to the changes this region faces. What the Department of Agriculture and Bureau of Reclamation have been doing is waiting, hoping against hope that it will rain again. Stopgap measures like paying farmers a stipend for a crop they don’t grow, then compensating them for water that is no longer available only kicks the can down the road, puts off for another year the hard decisions, allowing time for reality to sink into the minds of those still desperate to hold on. We’ve done pretty near darn everything but what needs to be done— this first kind of suffering is about trying to survive the next kind is the pain of letting go.

Eats a man or woman’s heart out to near dust in the Klamath Basin remembering the old days, back when irrigation ditches ran full and crops yielded commodities for market measured to the hilt. Some folk drive north to see family or farming friends. They’ll get out of the drought and circumstances faced up there are different, there’s water still, not near enough, but that’s in the educated eye of a scientist, to the Klamath Basin farmer it appears the region north is drowning in water abundance.

Just prior to my arriving at the Klamath River we’d driven past Lake Shasta, the reservoir is 1/3 full, you can see the situation with your own eyes, it’s right there, and hard to take. Most of what is happening in the Klamath Basin happens by no-see-um water, this is groundwater, sometimes they’ll describe the aquifer as a water bank, but that only makes the challenge that much harder— the basin’s water is getting drawn down, the underground water is running out, there is no bank where things are being saved, things are getting close to empty. Sometimes the big operators drill deeper and pump more water with larger pumps, but that only forces the water level lower and smaller operators wells go dry and the misery and bankruptcies only make matters more heartbreaking.

There is no changing minds when a well runs dry. Telling your neighbor there has got to be water same as there ever was, same as there always will be won’t get you one more drop when a drought turns a working farm into a dustbowl. Foreclosures return the waterless land to banks. When money is available the government buys the depleted land back. If you are out hunting for prosperous future for you and yours you’ll want to reconsider if your plan is farming and ranching along the Klamath. Odds have run out up here.

The United States has signed and senate ratified treaty obligations with the tribes that live along the Klamath. The tribal narrative is complex, no two tribes fate is the same. America’s first people live on land that has been reserved for their people for all time. When we entered into these agreements the United States by law transferred water rights to the tribes so that they would have enough water to guarantee their land would be workable. Ninety percent of the tribal lands were surrendered with the promise by the United States that the 10% the Native Americans would be confined to would be by deed and force of law receive enough water to make their ancestral homelands viable. Imagine life 150 years ago and being forced to give up 9 out of every 10 acres of your own land and now all these decades later having some agent from the government deciding that circumstances have changed you can keep the land but they want the water they promised back.

The Klamath Basin and Klamath Falls are distinct tales of two fated pieces of the same place. Oregon Institute of Technology is an important player in this economy. Still, the surrounding agricultural activities have been the most important part of what happens here. Sailing friend has retired here with his wife and family. There is a good hospital here. The drought crisis reverberates up and down Main Street. Retail businesses are all impacted. Klamath Falls won’t collapse but opportunity is hollowed out, there are easier places to build a life, here is going to be defined by hardship until the transition to new economy is complete.

Here is a glimmer of hope and a likely path out of the crisis here in the Klamath Basin. The economy will need to be reimagined and account for every last drop of water allocated to each and every stakeholder. Farmers and ranchers will be fewer, where land can be removed from production agencies will expedite such acquisitions, where crops are grown they’ll need to pass a test to be sure they do not use too much water and that what water is used is delivered with the latest high technology irrigation equipment. Such industries as deep well geothermal power plants need to be considered. More citizens that can work remotely need to be recruited to the region. We’ll want to get the community involved with the development of laboratory meat industry and see if local agencies can attract new industries to the region. What logging that is done should be scaled to pay a living wage and the cutting of logs should be done selectively not by clear cut. I’m especially partial to horse-logging and a team of horses and a skilled woodsman can do wonders for a community both economically and emotionally. Horse-loggers are some of the happiest of all the variety of woodmen I know. Logs shouldn’t be shipped out without milling. Better still would be to have local labor use the lumber to build prefabricated trusses and walls for modular homes. It’s estimated California needs to build between 3 to 5 million new homes to meet the demand of a growing population and it is up here in the Klamath that imagineers, investors and entrepreneurs need to focus their talents. Our climate emergency is moving faster than forecast. Time is of the essence and the scale of these changes touch the lives of all of us.

The fate of every outpost in the American West is bound by water. The Klamath has been a dream killer— an out late with the boys and never came home— a hope for something more than what one river can provide. Here is the searing edge of the limits to what is possible. Mother Nature and human nature have squared off— the limits to what is possible have landed square in the heart of the climate emergency— this painful fate is local the cure for its problems global. Easy answers are none, the hard work to a better world is everything—

What’s Next- Predictions

Time for end of the year predictions. I’d like to jump around and cover as much terrain as I can. Let’s go─

Starting first with microgrids. “A microgrid is a local grid with an independent source of energy capable of disconnecting or “islanding” from the utility grid.” The Department of Energy identifies about 500 microgrids in the United States, there are certainly going to be many more.

Tunnel of Love

One example is Redwood Coast Airport in Humboldt County. Power is generated by solar panels, energy is distributed to the municipal airport just north of Eureka, California. The microgrid uses Tesla batteries for storage. The airport and its assorted buildings and hangars can connect to the grid or disconnect from the grid, and it is this feature, that distinguishes a microgrid. Some renewable powered sites do not connect to the grid and operate as independent standalone systems.

Microgrids─ especially where there are fleets of commercial vehicles parked off hours offer enormous battery storage capacity for state or regional grid operators to utilize by borrowing then returning power back to the fleet before the vehicles return to service the next morning. Expect microgrids to be common across the country by end of this decade. Think about electrified school buses, United States Post Office vehicles, Amazon, FedEx, UPS… all these vehicles networked by computers will give solar and wind energy a place to be stored until power is needed. I’m predicting that by the end of this decade the electric vehicles in your neighborhood will be used as a microgrid.

Ford Motor Company will begin to deliver their first electric pickup trucks early next year. Entry level models will be priced at $40,000. If a customer qualifies there will be up to $12,500 in rebates and credits, that’s a full-size pickup truck for under $30K. My prediction is this truck, based off of the Ford F-150 which has been the most popular pickup truck in America for the past 40 years, and it is this vehicle that is going to shatter sales records, by 2024 expect it to be the America’s top selling electric vehicle. Self-employed business owners that use trucks to haul tools and supplies to job sites will transition to these vehicles writing down their cost as a business expense and instead of purchasing gasoline will recharge at night off a many times less expensive electric grid. Commercial EV’s are going to revolutionize vehicle-based businesses.

Sunrise over Patagonia, Arizona

More to consider as we forecast events ahead with the potential to disrupt our world. Antarctica’s Thwaites Glacier is threatening collapse and scientists are forecasting sea level rise of between 2 to 10 feet, but the new news is that timeline for this sea level rise has been pushed forward. Recent forecasts have sea level rise happening in the next 60 months, and likely even sooner. Of the 7.9 billion people on the planet 680 million of us live on land threatened to be inundated by rising seas. In the national elections of 2024 sea level rise is going to be the mother of all campaign issues. If you don’t have a plan, and basically there is no plan, your candidacy will be rendered irrelevant. If the plan is retreat, that isn’t a plan, and you are going to lose. San Francisco, New York City and Miami are going to attempt building multi-billion-dollar sea walls, less developed communities with smaller populations and less money will have to retreat to higher ground. The Army Corp of Engineers has mapped low lying shoreline that is going to be lost to rising seas.

The drought gripping the American West is a more complicated prediction. Thousands of farms and ranches are vying for the same water as their states metropolitan areas where many millions live and when push comes to shove it’s the people that will end up getting the water. There is San Diego, Los Angeles, San Francisco, Portland, Seattle, Las Vegas, Reno, Salt Lake City, Phoenix, Tucson, Albuquerque, Denver and Boise. With swelling populations across the west and in midst of a changing climate, a place than on average is slightly warmer, slightly drier and because of the shortage of water millions of acres will need to be taken out of production. The structural drought (too much water promised but not enough to go around) is going to pit the western states against one another, it is going to be litigious, and rattle the politics of the American West for most of this century.  

Signs of those losing faith in the system

Bill Gates has been investing in mini-nuclear reactor technology. A demonstration project is going up in Wyoming. There are claims that this technology is cost competitive, but these claims have not been proven and many believe them not to be true. Decommissioning costs are high and the engineering and efficacy of storing spent fuel safely for the next 250,000 years is unsettled science. If this reactor does get built it will fail to prove to be safe, reliable or competitive with other forms of power generation.

The great issues of the day are no longer something happening out there to those people in that country over there faraway from where citizens in the United States, Canada or Europe live. We are all suffering from the effects of climate change. We have all had to cope with a deadly pathogen. We have all had to cope with the digital revolution and the chaos and disinformation social media platforms are infected with. Then there is the crisis in our government, it is no longer a secret, it is a well understood that the Republican Party has broken faith with democracy and is seeking to regain power, form an autocratic government and then never relinquish power to any other party again. The coalition consists of evangelical Christians, nativists, White Nationalists and low tax and less regulation capitalists. It is a painful to witness. Corporations headquartered here in this country have remained on the sidelines and with our democracy at risk with far too many stakeholders fearful of alienating their customers many of our business leaders are opting to remain silent in the hope that the unsettled political crisis will come to some kind of peaceful end.

Our Children-Our Future

 The whole world wants the pandemic to be over. We all want the drought to end. Pick any poll anywhere in the world and the people want the climate fixed, nobody wants to see more super storms, tornadoes or out of control wildfires. It turns out it is easier to tell you what is under the hood of an electric car than what is lurking in the hearts and minds of the voters. I’d prefer we fix our problems not make the error of tossing away our freedom. That’s what we’re working on from this remote outpost here on the edge of Pacific Ocean in a place called California. We are working on making a better world for our children and our future. All of us, together, we’re working on making this a better world─  that’s not a prediction, that’s the truth

 

Clifton Copper Civilization Savers

East of Tucson in high desert 175 miles by road is the copper mine in Morenci, Arizona. This fifty-thousand-acre beast is North America’s largest. Water from Gila River passes through here, then there is the San Francisco River, and Eagle Creek too. The copper mine is by tonnage the world’s third largest. The electrification of our transportation system is going to lean hard on this source of copper.

Clifton is near the Morenci mine, then there is Three Way and Rattlesnake Canyon too. Between Willow Creek and Cold Creek, you’ll find some folks growing hay, not much, but there’s some. The pair of creeks are tributaries to the San Francisco River, the two are intermittent streams and they flow near and next to never. Pioneers gave them names all in the good hope of praying for rain.

Work at the mine pays $25.00 an hour, maybe up to $31.00. That’s a good wage for rural Arizona. If you are an outdoorsman there is plenty to do here. Drive out to Gila Box Canyon for fishing, hunting and whiskey drinking. If you are inclined to continue east to the New Mexico border, you’ll have to drive 93 miles on mountain road until you find Silver City where something like 9000 citizens celebrate an off the beaten path life.

If you go west of Clifton instead of east, you’ll find Safford, Arizona, a town of about the same size as Silver City. The agricultural community is as frisky as a cowboys’ fingers tugging on the latches of a bustle fit snug on a girl that this rodeo roping expert just has to have. There is free love, there is paid love, and then there is love you cannot have at any price. Any unrequited lover knows that hard truth and heartbreak.

Now the mine in Morenci is properly named Freeport-McMoRan Copper & Gold. Nearby Clifton claims 3900 people have come here to live out their hopes and dreams. Like most lunch bucket towns, where men and women work more by physical labor than by toiling at a desk there is a problem with controlled substances. We know booze is popular, opioids come next then methamphetamines.

Trying to make a good life in Clifton is not impossible, but an unmarried buck working at the mine will tend to run their four-wheel drive hard and do as he damn well please. Smuggled drugs cross the Mexican border are disbursed by gangs working in collusion with the Sinaloa crime syndicate─ this is a brutal and murderous gang. So called drug mules cross on foot in the dark of night with pieces of carpet tied to their feet so that their tracks can’t be traced back to their shoes. Most are captured but not before their contraband has been dumped for pickup by couriers working on the American side.

Churches are plentiful and if a man can find a wife and then start a family, he’s on the road to a better fate. Men that keep to themselves are more at risk. Without the salutary influence of a woman in their lives a feral male tends to go find mischief and temptation at the local taverns.

There is a Dollar Store, Clifton Bakery and the Lone Eagle Gun Works in town. In the case of guns, here their purpose is for hunting, sometimes shooting, but this ain’t Tombstone and Wyatt is dead and gone but the deer and elk remain. Filling out your meat locker is found at the end of a barrel. What I mean to say is that Greenlee County is purpose built for sportsmen and long guns.

County courthouse is here along with the city library. Then there is the Hard Hat Bar and Grill, The Miner’s Diner and Bar, and Clifton Hotel and Bar. As best I can tell you cannot find saloons or brew pubs anywhere nearby. Clifton is not putting on no fancy airs, you come here you’ll know you’ve hit plain and simple with no excuses.

What is here in my view is a vital piece of the whole project we refer to as Arizona. The Gila River and her tributaries converge then continue clear across the state until the river meets up with the Colorado River in Yuma. The Morenci Mine has a 50-year lease agreement with the San Carlos Apache Tribe pursuant to the San Carlos Apache Tribe Water Rights Settlement Act of 1992, as amended in 1997, “to lease up to 14,000 acre-feet per annum of its allocation of Central Arizona Project water by means of an exchange at the Black River.” In addition to the surface water, they pump Gila River basin groundwater too. Come January 2022 the Colorado River water allocations are going to be cut due to the ongoing drought. Bureau of Reclamation officials will have to cut water off to a variety of farms and ranches across the entire state, but the strategic importance of keeping Morenci Mine operating is on a list of highest priority water users.

Life for citizens in Clifton could not be more different than the lives people shape for themselves in Scottsdale. Both Arizonan’s dodge the occasional rattlesnake, both know it gets hot and water is scarce, but from there not much is the same. Total population of Greenlee County isn’t even 10,000 where if you live in Scottdale you share this one town with a quarter of a million people. But you just hold your horses because Greenlee County’s mean income is $63,497 compared to Scottsdale’s $47,290. Copper mining has been good to folk making their lives here.

Geronimo was born in Clifton. I’d bet he wasn’t pulling down some great big fat salary back in his day and age. Best as I can tell unless you are working at the Morenci mine you are likely to be living hand to mouth, life is likely touch and go, you might wish to reconsider and put an application in at the mine for steady wages and half a chance.

Heading north from Clifton out Highway 191 is devil of a twister with two lanes and a blacktop. You’ll go a good long slog north toward Apache County while gaining elevation until the high desert gives way to forest and woodland. Ponderosa pine dominates, next most is Douglas fir, then alligator juniper and then best of all the delectable two-needle pinion pine. I’d reckon Clifton isn’t a cup of tea in paradise for everyone, where the Apache-Sitgreaves National Forest is a sight that steals the heart of near every last dang one of us. This is a mashup of ecosystems, partly desert partly forest, then it’s all thick with the plausible—- if you can’t imagine wanting to live here, you can’t imagine wanting to be alive anywhere. Coyotes could care less where I’d reckon the non-coyote eye of the beholder would see into the glory that I am trying to tell you to drive out to see for yourself.

Returning to the banks of the Gila River there is something vital to explain, a piece of what Arizona claims to be is all tangled up in this fated first place where the river enters the state. One colossal fact is I lived on the Verde River, ultimately a tributary that feeds the Gila. Next most important is that the Gila River defines Arizona’s watersheds, this is her bank account, this is without any fancy engineering a primary source of the state’s water inventory.

Clifton is nearest to where this waterway begins its journey. The river cuts like a jagged lightning bolt east to west, from New Mexico to California, where all along the river has grown up a thousand and another thousand more interests that use what allotment they have been able to secure.

Lucid Motors the new electric car company manufactures near Casa Grande, then there is the Morenci copper mine, both fundamental building blocks to our world’s future energy system.

I would add one more advanced technology, a disruptive technology, and that would be the development of laboratory meat. What we know so far is that it is real, that researchers are racing full steam ahead, in fact a San Francisco startup has won approval to sell sushi grade laboratory grown salmon beginning early next year. There are many intricacies involved in the development of lab meat but there is every reason to believe it can be scaled and provide a commercially viable product to consumers.

All along the Gila River farms and ranches are going to be forced out of business, water allotments and groundwater will dry up. Where there is opportunity, this is in my mind a near perfect idea, is to build out facilities that will produce laboratory meat. It uses 95% less water than conventional meat producers use. Laboratory meat uses a fraction of the land too. There are no pesticides, no antibiotics, and no animals to face slaughter. Laboratory grown meat does use electricity and with plenty of sunshine solar would pencil out as competitors worked to bring down costs. Like anything that is living lab meat uses grains grown on farms and happens to convert the grain to meat at a much higher efficiency than cattle, pigs or chickens. Researchers are still working to artificially synthesize various pieces of the process, that’s a longer conversation, and they are not tampering with the genetics of the various meats they are growing. What this emerging industry is trying to do is grow the same tissue cells all of us have been eating at the dinner table since the beginning of time. In 2010 the electric car was regarded as a long shot, that it had limited appeal, and in 2021 it is all the rage. Laboratory meat is in the same spot, but I’m betting it can scale and play a role in our world’s race to fix the climate emergency we find ourselves being overwhelmed by.

Our climate emergency continues to worsen. This week British Columbia was hit with record floods. Climate events touch us all. Millions of us on the west coast have lived for months in smoke choked air. Heatwaves have been relentless. Still, we can see the outline of the new technologies that the world is going to use to fight back. Renewable energy, battery storage, non-carbon-based aviation fuel, residential heat pumps, non-carbon-based manufacturing of concrete and steel, regenerative farming, laser leveled row crops and digitized drip irrigation. The list is long, and hope is too. Doom, doom, and more doom won’t get the job done, and proponents of using more coal, natural gas, oil and nuclear power count on people being discouraged, people just throwing in the towel, people giving up.

My advice to you─ support the change you can believe in, face each obstacle with good cheer, buy an electric car, trick out your outdoor lighting with LED’s, vote for leadership that supports the deployment of a new energy system for a new century. We can do this

Arizona River Cheat Sheet

The era of blasting billionaires by rocket ship into orbit is only the latest wrinkle in our jam-packed events calendar. This summer’s Southwestern monsoons were much less stingy than the previous below average years, but even still it wasn’t enough. Billionaires I wouldn’t describe so much as tightwads as finicky and prone to developing an aversion to taxes. The billionaire’s suffer mood swings, too much attention from honey-pots and an overinflated sense of entitlement. Maybe that’s just me, or have I missed those duty to country jumbo tax payments? I don’t think so.

Home along the Verde River

If you didn’t know that China burns half of all the coal in the world well now you do. Getting our Asian economic powerhouse to stop releasing these heat trapping greenhouse gases isn’t going to be a walk in the park or a night on the town. I mention this for a reason I will come back to. Before heading off might as well mention Fukushima and the stinking pile of rubble that mess continues to threaten all of humanity with and how just because you can do something doesn’t mean you should. This is a no brainer. Put the stinking Genii back in the bottle.

I hiked along the San Francisco River in New Mexico. Outside Glenwood after a mile and a half on a dusty trail you’ll discover the San Francisco Hot Spring beckoning you to remove you clothes and hop on in for a good long soak. The 157-mile river is the largest tributary to the Gila River. You wanted to know this right?

The mighty 648-mile Gila River cuts a path right through the heart of Arizona ending west in Yuma. Wait, you mean Arizona has a heart? Plenty and a big one too. What water remains at its confluence with the Colorado River, this gets a little complicated due to salting from irrigation, but what is left flows into the Colorado then meanders south into Mexico before emptying into the Sea of Cortez.

North of Silver City, in this other newfangled New Mexico the headwaters are fed from runoff from the Pinos Altos Range. We are talking Continental Divide alpine peak stuff here people; some water is destined for the Pacific, some travels east joins up with the Rio Grande emptying into the Gulf of Mexico on the Atlantic Ocean.

Wayfarers running the Verde

Let’s do some mansplaining about this river. On the brighter side of life is the glory of civilization that has grown up along the river’s banks. There are cowboys and cowboy hats, there are barrel racers and barrel racing loving cowboy hatted skirt chasers. All along the Gila River, up and down her banks there is a thriving farm and ranch culture. If you didn’t know and why should you, this important riparian habitat is in stress brought on by drought and under threat by changing times.

Our climate emergency has put most all of this ecosystem into hardship, and like I said or didn’t say, and I am saying now the revolution will not be televised because who in the hell is going to drive all the way out to this dusty corner of nowhere and report on a few thousand disaffected souls finding out that there is not a drop of water remaining to farm by. By the way─ that is one hell of a long sentence.

What I know about Arizona’s waterways comes from my living two years on the banks of the Verde River. In 1993-1994 with my wife and then 2-year-old daughter we moved from San Francisco to live along this watercourse. Our property was covered in mesquite, cottonwood and sycamore trees. Coyote, bobcat and javelina were common sights. Bald eagles, great horned owls and scarlet tanagers were regular visitors. Wolf spiders the size of raven’s hunt for supper here. You’ll discover you are sharing a very sentient world with the black shiny Arizona carpenter bees. At dusk you’ll see wood duck chicks follow mom up to nest safe from predators in the hollow of the tree trunk. You can pretty much get stung, stuck or made miserable by every form of thorn and sticker known to creation. Wild pig can be trouble and mountain lion once the first shot of a rifle goes off will be long gone soon thereafter.

Verde peekaboo view from deck

Verde Valley in Yavapai County cultivates hay and alfalfa. The Sinagua─ ancient’s first people, having lived here for thousands of years have been switching to growing Malt barley for beer brewers. Local corn is cultivated here. You’ll find some pecan orchards too. Over near Cornville there are enterprising winemakers making rustic Italian reds from grapes grown out of rock.

The river can go up and down, more down than up, and still the river does persist. I was living there when a 500-year flood came within an inch of our front door sill. We’d been warned to move our cars to high ground. We lollygagged imagining we’d have time, then all hell broke loose and after moving our cars we ran door to door to help neighbors who same as everyone was caught asleep at the switch. Not a soul alive could ever remember the river ever getting so high. On average the river flows at fifty feet wide maybe at best measures 600 cubic feet per second, what we saw was the granddaddy of gully washers, a river nearly one quarter mile wide river flow measured at 100,000 cubic feet per second, and well to a soul everyone felt that they were lucky just to be alive to tell what there is to tell about such an impactful flash flood. Unless you are a good audience these stories and photographs mostly illicit a shrug. Fine.

Native Agave also known as a Century Plant

My wife’s family has lived in the Verde Valley since 1969 when they pulled up stakes in Fairfax, California and struck out for a new rural high desert life. Hard to explain what kind of economy you’d find here. My brother-in-law made his living as a land surveyor. I worked events in Phoenix, got hired on at the Arizona Renaissance Festival, and traveled to Laughlin to work at the Flamingo as an opening act.

Being so close to the river our water well was not drilled deep. To avoid kidney stones, it was advisable to filter your water to remove the dissolved limestone. Casey my mother-in-law thought that was nonsense and took her chances. I was instructed in how to build a proper mesquite coal fire to use for barbecuing. In 1993 AT&T still had consumers by the throat and a call routed just 15 miles away cost $1.75 for a mere 3 minutes. Walmart had come to Cottonwood and most ordinary native citizens point to that event as the beginning of the end of a small business owner having even half a chance at scraping up a living.

The wife bought a thoroughbred named Maggie. I liked Maggie just fine, but this was not any ordinary kind of horse. Maggie knocked down fences as a regular reaction to her jumpy moods she’d fall into. Made the mistake of tying her up to a fence rail while saddling her up. Jerked the rail right off the posts and fell over backwards and made a mess of the saddle that had just been synched tight.

My mesquite wood fire cooking instructor

Sunday’s my mother-in-law and I would watch football from the colossal satellite dish array that had been setup between the mesquites. We both liked Joe Montana and football was fun in this era with all the winning all the time. Casey complained about cooking but most of all she believed it important to keep the men in her life fed. She had two sons, two sons-in-law, and one ex-husband who lived one block away, and they were maybe some kinds of best friends by now, hard to know what to call them, there existed a fondness for sure, but it was not any kind of endearment most people would understand.

By my reckoning the same quirky fated culture along the Verde River is much the same for the Arizonan’s living along the Gila River. There are more curmudgeons than most other places. Every kind of pickup truck known to mankind has come here. Paint fades, upholstery rots from the beating given  by the sun, but trucks here live-in suspended animation and hardly any rust out, there isn’t enough humidity, hardly any water at all. Turns out an arid climate is rust’s mortal enemy.

People build Earthships here. You’ll find adobe and strawbale construction. There are a lot of off grid types here. With this crowd you’ll find solar and wind turbines with battery storage. Slow pumps are used with solar panels to pump well water up for residential purposes. Satellite television remains common out here, but jumbo dishes are now gone and in their place, there are these demure setups. Four-wheel-driving is practically the only real fun you’ll find to do out here. Half the nutjobs arrive as birders the other half as militia members of one kind of fraternal order or another. Arizona’s rural farms and ranches are in for one hell of a drought beating. Just as everything else has changed, if you haven’t noticed things are changing plenty fast now, and a lot of the people living out in the furthest reaches of the Arizona desert are struggling to keep up with all that’s getting thrown at them. Electronic-computer controlled internal combustion engine powered pickup trucks are one thing but a fully electric powered work truck is almost unbearably odd. Chewing tobacco is still popular and now everyone is pumping on these personal computing devices they got stuffed in their shirt pocket. Pornography and titty bars are mortal sin and the high desert house of worship.

I’m plenty worried about these fragile riparian ecosystems. Worried what fate awaits this drought ravaged region. When it gets much hotter out here you won’t have to worry about growing crops, because crops won’t grow in such high heat. Maybe Miami, Florida will be overrun by the rising waters of the Atlantic Ocean, maybe some of us will see that day come, but by my mind and best estimate the climate emergency has already arrived full steam ahead in Arizona. Wildfires, drought and heatwaves have already provided all the evidence anyone needs to know that a very difficult set of decisions are ahead, unavoidable hard choices will need to be made, and how it was when your grandmother or grandfather first arrived here in the Southwest is nothing at all like is now. We just have to start reacting, put two and two together and come up with a plan. So far nobody has been thinking there was much to do.

The Verde River

Come January 2022 Arizona’s relationship with water is going to change. Water from the Colorado River will be shut down. That’s going to be the shock of this new century. I’m worried for folk down here, worried by a lot. I care about these parts. I do not wish to see the hard-working stiffs going bankrupt. The end of the line isn’t where the passengers get off, not in a pandemic, not in a mega-drought, not in the last chapter of a family’s hold on land they’ve worked for near a century or more. This is what a climate emergency means. It means you can’t keep doing what you’ve been doing, you have to come up with a plan that no longer includes using all this water that no longer exists.

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.

Frying Pan Mania

Heat is Hot

Sweltering in 118*F isn’t what any of us had expected, (we’re in an emergency, wake up people, time to do something) at least not so soon. Our grandchildren, our grandchildren’s children, they’d take the hit, but by then we’d have figured it out, in 2010 there was no reason to get hysterical, there’s no reason to panic.

Summer of 2021in the American West is already off the charts. Up and down the entire continent including Canada is in the grip of an extended record breaking heatwave.

Earth’s Smoking Problem

The new normal is a mix of wildfires, heatwaves, droughts and thick unbreathable smoke filled skies. Planning for a weekend in the mountains? Now we have to check for safe roads in and out of United States National Forests. We carry extra water. Days are so hot most hiking is done at dawn or dusk. A trip to Death Valley? Who needs to drive to Furnace Creek to experience what is now happening almost everywhere you go?

The bikini clad waterski culture is the mirror image of the winter ski culture, there’s never enough snow in the mountains or enough water in the lakes. Even if you do hit the slopes after a fresh dusting, or if you do launch your ski boat and get out for weekend, even if you pull all that off you are left to wonder how much longer this can last? What the hell is going on?

Low Water Lake Shasta Marina

Once we all cut playing the denial game, once we all recognize all hell has broken loose, that the climate we grew up in is no longer the climate we are living in, once we just admit we’re in for a real fight for the survival of civilization, once we have cast ourselves in our favorite role in our modern day Doctor Strangelove we can roll up our sleeves and get down to the business of saving our species from a potential out of control climate driven chain reaction that sends us packing into the permanent fossil record.

Climate driven atmospheric chain reactions that might spiral temperatures beyond our wildest estimates is a knickers in a knot real risk. This is the one more cigarette won’t hurt me mentality of human thinking. One more bizarre year of releasing megatons of carbon into our atmosphere may be one cigarette too many. You got a smoking problem? You ever try quitting?

Shutting down Intermountain Power Station, Delta Utah

Quick list of to do’s. Try saddling up posse and ride on the Top 10 carbon belching industries in the world. All our self sacrifice aside the main thing is that there are some very large oil companies, some nationally owned some are corporations and they need to slow down and then stop, and like you know as soon as possible. Putin and MBS are not going to cooperate but we’ll get to the scoundrels in due course.

Agriculture needs a revolution. Regenerative farming is a piece of the puzzle. Consumers need a come to Jesus moment, human beings definitely need to eat less meat, if still insist on eating meat the spoiled and stubborn might try decreasing the amount of meat they eat, you know for a while, you know, for a change, maybe like a smoker it might do your body and the earth some breathing room.

Throw them all back, go full throwback, for change

Ocean needs healing so let’s give the fish a few years off from our factory fishing fleets, they could use a breather.

I’m negotiable on dairy, but could we just do the value added thing, you know artisanal cheeses perhaps, put Ben and Jerry in charge of making all the world’s ice cream. Yeah its expensive but so are iPhones and everybody has one of those.

Helping Farmers Transition to Regenerative Growing Technique

The Department of Agriculture is a complete tangled policy mess. Politics has incentivized farmers to grow the wrong crops with the wrong technologies using way more of our water than we can afford to waste any longer. The red blooded American diet is causing epidemic level heart disease, hypertension, stroke and diabetes. If we could take any policy back it would be our going full factory farming on an industrial scale in 1960.

Electrify our transportation system. Deploy more renewables and build grid scale sized batteries to store energy for use when wind and sun don’t blow or shine. Heat pumps in and old gas powered furnaces are out.

Live closer to work. Try taking vacations closer to home. Stop take frivolous jaunts on jets to exotic globalized tourist destinations. Love your children, walk your dog, take yoga classes, do more with less, recycle your stuff and go to garage sales and buy your neighbors unwanted stuff, relieving others of their unwanted stuff is loving kindness in stuff action.

Putting in a Vegetable Garden

If you own your own home and have some dirt plant trees that fruit and then eat what you can and give the abundance out to those in your neighborhood. If you are really a sensational fruit and vegetable grower call yourself a farmer and sell into the local Co-op, sell your carefully grown organic crop and then turn around and go home and grow more.

If you are older, I’ll let you decide what that looks like, if you’ve had children and your children are pretty sure they don’t want to have any children then maybe consider building a family planning plan to honor their plan. Maybe you donate time to help other children, lost children, abandoned children, hungry children, any children that may benefit from your helping them.

You really want to see quantitative easing in action offer to take care of your single mother neighbors kid to help keep that woman’s childcare costs down. Pick them up from school, take them to soccer, bring them home make them a snack, help them with their homework. Keep them safe, treat them like the most valuable renewable resource that they are. Help

All of these strategies are in many parts not only practical but also are good for your health and the earth’s health. You’ll feel better, you’ll become part of the solution instead of being part of the ongoing Lamborghini internal combustion engine problem. Choose non motorized sports. Badminton is good, croquet tournaments are fun, tennis anyone?

Use your handsaw when you can. Get rid of your sprinklers install drip irrigators, put your garden on a timer and dial your use of water in. Learn how to catch water. When it gets super hot put some water out for the birds, squirrels, possum and raccoons. They’ll drop by, they appreciate the help.

My wife and I take walks to fortify our health. We try bringing our own bags to the grocery store, sometimes I forget. We shop bulk and bring our own containers. For sport and recreation we sail. Our boat is nearby. A day off away is 20 minute drive and then wherever the wind blows.

All Vegetables and All Good

One of the trickiest tricks is eating a simpler diet, down the food chain, where what is grown goes directly into this animals mouth. When cooking at home, away on the boat, further afield traveling in our van we can control what we eat preparing desirable dishes that we both find appetizing.

To be sure we have days of pure sloth, we can be part of the problem, we are weak and impulsive creatures. We can get stuck in traffic with the best of you.

Here we are all now firmly in the grip of the long predicted to climate emergency. It’s no longer far away, might happen one day, could be coming, nobody is sure. It’s happening. There is a lot to do, much to take time to be concerned about, but it isn’t hopeless, it isn’t all lost, and we can each act individually and collectively to turn the bow of this ponderous vessel filled with humanity and make our course to a better day. Try doing what is possible, what you can, we’ll all try, a little at a time, then more and more, until we’re all taking the best possible course of action. It is fun to try new things.

Just a little loving early in the morning

I know you’re all feeling better now. You have powers you didn’t know you had. You can do something and it beats doing nothing. Try one or three…you’ll be happier for it.

American West Trickle Down

Dead Horse Point, Utah

Colorado River runoff is in climate change induced decline, Lake Powell is at 38% of capacity. Here is what is at risk. “Spanning parts of the seven states of Arizona, California, Colorado, New Mexico, Nevada, Utah, and Wyoming (Basin States), the Colorado River Basin (Basin) is one of the most critical sources of water in the West. The Colorado River and its tributaries provide water to nearly 40 million people for municipal use, supply water to irrigate nearly 5.5 million acres of land, and is the lifeblood for at least 22 federally recognized tribes (tribes), 7 National Wildlife Refuges, 4 National Recreation Areas, and 11 National Parks.” All of the water allocations are regulated by the Law of the River.

Up in the Klamath River Basin there is a different drought dynamic. Both the Klamath and Colorado rivers because of the megadrought have allocation agreements that are impossible to meet. There has long been tension on the Klamath, this latest drought is just the most recent trouble. Because of the much more complex water law on the Colorado it is difficult for a disgruntled water user to put a face on their water crisis.

In Klamath Falls there are several convenient faces pointed out for blame. Top of the list are the U.S. Bureau of Reclamation and Oregon Water Resources Board. Then predictably there are the indigenous people that have long lived in this basin, the tribes consist of the Modoc and the Yahooskin-Paiute people, known as the mukluks and numu. Non-indigenous citizens frustrations boil over, local sovereignty movements emerge, states rights advocates get their dander up, and talk of secession is floated in community meetups.

Molten Salt Towers Aglow

The problems on both river systems are identical, but on the Colorado River friction is spread out among 40 million. On the Klamath River basin the official population is 114,000, this is one quarter of one percent compared to the Colorado basin.The colossal Colorado’s economic impact on the region is enormous but it is this smaller river system the Klamath where matters other than economic may go off the rails with a bullhorn.

Here is the Law of the River on the Colorado. “The treaties, compacts, decrees, statutes, regulations, contracts and other legal documents and agreements applicable to the The Law of the River consists of allocation, appropriation, development, exportation and management of the waters of the Colorado River Basin are often collectively referred to as the Law of the River. There is no single, universally agreed upon definition of the Law of the River, but it is useful as a shorthand reference to describe this longstanding and complex body of legal agreements governing the Colorado River.”

Water activists on the Klamath who have had all of this years water cut to zero, with roots in ranching and farming need to put a face on their problems. Governors are picked on, Secretary of the Interior is hit, scientists from various agencies, to gain any traction the farmers and ranchers need a target for their frustrations.

The insurrection of January 6th has only cemented the impression something has gone haywire in our country. A few years ago the survival of our democracy wasn’t even on anyone’s radar screen.

What we know with some degree of certainty is that there is enough water out here in the American West for residential use. It is the commercial use of the water, it is the farmers and ranchers that will struggle to thrive and expand as water allocations are reduced year by year, some years by drought, other years by the swelling population.

Demographic projections in decades ahead warn the Colorado River basin population will grow to 79 million by 2070. If you are from Denver, Phoenix, Salt Lake City or Las Vegas firsthand experience with explosive growth tells you this trains coming, no cow- all bull full steam ahead.

What can we done? Laws will need to rewritten. We’re going to need to get with the Department of Agriculture and rejigger crop subsidies, and that’s going to trigger a wave of tantrums. The titans of agriculture will resist but there are no easy outs, this David and Goliath story is an epidemic in our country and time has come to slay the beast. Our century old water laws are outdated, drought and the climate emergency have rendered these rules unworkable. You want a tip? Get a degree in water law.

Where water has been over promised we’ll want to pull acreage out of production. We’ll want federal dollars used to buy back land. We’ll want to rationalize what crops we plant and decrease the total number of acres planted. Regenerative farming methods will become common. Water intensive crops like almonds, alfalfa, and dairy will be relocated to water abundant regions of the United States. Grazing cattle will become impractical as summer temperatures soar. Last weeks heatwave was recording setting. In the Mojave I was driving between Las Vegas and Barstow in 118*F.

June 16, 2021 hotter than blazes

Funding for programs can be solved by use of a carbon tax. Where a rural community has been hit by the decline in fossil fuels we’ll want to develop programs that diversify the economies of these communities.

Differences have grown between urban and rural regions of the American West. Since the pandemic spawned the work from home movement we need to incentivize our digital workers to be sprinkled out across the countryside. Corporations should support their workers spreading out. Pressure on housing would decrease in our urban zones and perhaps prices in our rural communities would benefit from a more robust growing population.

Many pieces of what I am proposing are in the hands of Biden’s Build Back Better infrastructure bill now working its way through Congress.

Factions that move populations by emotion, by fiery rhetoric, by putting an innocent face on this gigantic existential problem only slow down our ability to set our course for survival.

Sunrise over Searchlight, Nevada- Harry Reid’s hometown

I’ve been touring this region of the country since 1974. I’ve lived in the Verde Valley and farmed land in the Willamette Valley. I have hayed my own fields and loaded my own horse into my own trailer. I don’t take no backseat to anyone claiming they’ve earned some special rights or claim to be free to do whatever the hell they want to do. Frontier times are over and we will make do by cooperation and following rules.

My eyes have seen sunrises and sunsets that my camera can’t capture and my novels seldom do justice to, but I’m out here, constantly talking to folk, the janitors, teachers and horse whisperers. I get a fresh faced yo-yo champion to laugh at a trick dog’s stunt. I make camp in the loneliest corners of the Great Basin. I know hay farmers, barrel racers and organic strawberry growers. Much is unsettled and more turbulence is likely than less. Join with constructive groups, urge your political representatives to speak up about these matters, we can do this but not by tempest and tantrum. We’ll get by hard work and compassion. Saddle up partners we have a country to save.

 

Quarreling for a Water Fight

Irrigation water isn’t available in Southern Oregon this year. Klamath County’s farmers rolled the meteorological dice and won a drought. On the California side of the border on the easternmost edge of Siskiyou County matters are the same. Each state operates under a different set of rules, then you layer in the federal government and the mashup leads to farmers and ranchers using heads on pikes rhetoric.

The Klamath River flows west to Del Norte County where the last drops empty into the Pacific. As is true of every river along the west coast of North America migratory fish, (salmon and steelhead) enter and exit the rivers to reproduce and return to the ocean. Been here doing this thing for 5 million years, that’s all, what’s not to like, what’s the problem, “what in the hell do those fish have to do with my hayfield here in Klamath Falls?”

At the mouth of the river on the California coast the indigenous Yurok tribe and their ancestors have lived off salmon for many thousands of years. It is worth understanding that North American’s have been here 17,000 years before present, (in spite of Rick Santorum’s Christianity centric eruptions) and science suspects longer, many thousands of years, but science can’t prove it yet so they can’t say it until the facts are proven, but we can speculate because evidence is mounting that our first people have been on this continent for much longer than we know. May I tempt you with the possibility of 24 thousand year, likely even longer. So, yes the Yurok are important stakeholders and deserve recognition to what does and doesn’t happen on the Klamath. The courts agree.

Rural life along the Klamath’s easternmost region, on the east slope of the Siskiyou and Cascade Mountain’s was already drier and hotter in summers and colder and impossible to farm in winters, and now it’s only getting that much more difficult ground to work. Evaporation rates are up, and soil moisture is down. The drought only makes matters that much worse. Drought will beat the hope out of a tribal rug without using a broom. You want heartbreak? I’ll show you a roadhouse, two-steppers and beat up pickup trucks waiting to be repossessed in the hard times parking lot near the end of your best hopes for a better life.

I’ve been pouring over Klamath and Siskiyou County commodity reports. There are about 7000 acres of potatoes planted as compared to 75,000 acres of alfalfa and hay grass. There are another 8000 acres planted with vegetable crops as compared to another 75,000 acres used for livestock. All in with everything that is agriculture and ranching this two state region cultivates if there is enough water the land under production tally’s up to about 210,000 acres, and most of it goes for livestock production.

Monterey County by comparison farms 400,000 acres. Monterey’s commodities are almost all destined for your kitchen table and almost none for livestock. Think of the region between Salinas to King City as America’s salad bowl. Everywhere you look there are farmworkers hunched over in fields cultivating and harvesting what America eats. The mild climate means Monterey County has a longer more productive growing season. More important is that this is a diverse population not a bunch of angry entitled white Americans riding around on tractors with placards denouncing the government.

Problems, you want problems, I’ll give you problems, there was never enough water up in the Klamath Basin, not now, not ever, never mind all that, plenty before us pretended otherwise and here we are, a bunch of stinking quarreling for a fight farmer’s that can’t afford a used new tire, prom dress for their kid, or a billy goat to chew down the blackberry out back. You want hard times, I’ll give you hard times, “we got a mortgage to pay, kids to feed, and a goddamn health insurance premium to pay.” Did I tell you Hoss is in his late 50’s perhaps early 60’s and he is getting picked apart, spleen, kidney, and high blood pressure by all those so-called benefit providers.

Gavin and Nancy want nothing to do with all this remake of the famous Oklahoma Dust Bowl times waiting dead ahead.

Same as the local shoot and ask questions later police departments the Department of Agriculture is not constituted to unknot this challenge.

I want to say this out loud, as loud, and as clear as can be. Ready… here we go. There are 44 million people in Oregon and California and no more than 2 thousand farms and ranches facing tough times up here. Not none, but not many farm and ranch operations have even half a mind to switch up how they’ve been doing things, won’t do it, no thank you, next question, would someone please strap that questioner to a Brama bull and call a ambulance.

I get that hard sweat and fool youth has been busting ass and raising hogs out here but we are in the midst of climate change and stubborn fools are plenty and level headed pragmatists are too few.

There are some plenty pissed off men and women fishing off the coast near the Klamath River that own boats, pay insurance, and are licensed to commercially catch salmon in years when there are any to be found. Like folk out east near Klamath Falls they have mortgages to pay, mouths to feed and lives to live. In our cowboy culture centric world order salmon fishermen are not nearly as coddled a culture as the spur booted Marlboro wranglers of yesteryear.

More and more of what grows in Monterey County is on drip irrigation. Let’s take that to be a sign of enlightenment. Up in the Klamath Basin most farmers are going to need to receive subsidies to reconfigure their operations. Alfalfa and haying operations need to transition to growing crops destined for our kitchen tables. They’ll need many more people to help and those people will come from south of our border, and let’s call them out for who they are, they are human beings. Price supports from the Department of Agriculture will incentivize farmers to produce less water intensive commodities and will allow more land to remain in production. Obsolete equipment will be sold for a profit to growers in more water abundant regions of our nation.

Everywhere I stick my nose and poke around it takes all of two seconds to see how arcane and twisted up our agricultural system has become. Remembering that Cargill and Archer Daniels Midland are colossus and humongous tyrants and cause untold political misery in Washington and have a lot to do with why legislation never moves.

Now we know for certain that the once reliable snowpack in the Sierras is now a one night stand and she’s never going to take a call from you again. Now we know water intensive crops need to be relocated to wetter regions of our nation. Now we know we need to eat our nuts, fruits and vegetables if we want to not all look like some two legged version of the Goodyear blimp. Now we know that water scarcity is radicalizing rural farmers ready to throw democracy out with the bath water if they don’t get their way. We get it, we see it, we know it. Policy has got to catch up to these cowboys before we have to saddle up and send a posse out to bring them in back into a more sane and wholesome world.

Once more it needs to be said. We are in a climate emergency and that means change, and the change we need is the painful changes our farmers with our generous support need to make. Remember if this works out we will all be eating better, living longer, thinner and trimmer, sexier and happier, all of us dancing until all those happy cows we no longer have to slaughter greet us at sunrise as we make it home after a grand night on the town that we really don’t want to talk about.

penny-pinching beasts

Sunrise somewhere over Seattle

Biden’s infrastructure bill, the American Jobs Bill has $16 billion designated for capping unproductive oil wells and for cleaning up abandoned mines, most of the money would end up being spent in rural America because that’s where most of the hole punching and mine digging occurred.

That’s fine and dandy but I’d go a mile or two further on this project. Since we’re already out here maybe this program could be designed to help stabilize the economies of so many of the rural communities that have for too long been ignored, neglected and are lurching from one crisis to the next.

Here’s what we do…

First if you are now or ever have been a communist sympathizer, you might want to reconsider. Are you an advocate for a leaner, meaner government? All this passion for penny pinching, beast starving bathtub drowning obsessions of the past four decades have left our government too small and the fossil fuel industry too damn big. This goes by another word, it’s called inequality.

Fair minded citizens trying to keep up with all the bankrupting wildcatting oil well abandoning shenanigans know the industry has painted our country into a tight spot. We’ve been left with a big mess with untold climate emergency consequences. In other words, central planning has screwed the pooch and the consequences are that the taxpayers got some land to restore and oil well capping to do.

If you haven’t noticed or maybe you have and just don’t give a flying sexual intercourse of two or three our nation has been growing. You can tell by sprawl, gridlock and the number of cranes hovering over our urban landscape. We’ve got a big mess that is even bigger than the previous mess, which happens to be the stinking mess I am talking about, and like it or not we are going to have to pick up the tab. Bellyachers can put a sock in it starting now.

Inequality is a Scourge on our democracy

I’d like to digress just for one moment. Senator Rand Paul opposes fixing our country’s infrastructure unless it is to do with a fence Mexico is never going to pay for. Doing nothing to fix our rotting infrastructure is notably deficient of sentience, or as the colloquial saying goes, doing nothing is just plain dumb. Thank you kindly.

Let’s continue…

So here is what I think might be useful to maintaining the peace and quiet in this trigger happy hopped up on Fox News Television nation. I propose we hire good men and women who want and can hold a job, bring people in that live nearest to these abandoned oil wells, pay them plenty good, the less education in their resume the more likely they are to be hired, hire more of them and one hell of a lot less of those with higher educations. If you have an advanced degree you are not qualified.

Now I don’t want them to eat crow or humble pie, but I do want every single solitary one of these employees to understand that this is good work, important work, and their generous salary will help hold the union of our nation together. Spending the $16 billion dollars will put hundreds of thousands of our finest on the front lines of the fight against the creeping climate change emergency we are facing. And remember this is just one small piece of a much bigger plan to build our country back better. You got a problem with that then you likely live in a gated community and are stinking mad about everything. Get over yourself.

I’ll want the employees to understand our tax dollars are replacing the oil companies’ royalty payments, lawyers’ fees, and insufficiently funded Bonds that were not up to the task of fixing the predictable mess this industry has made of our landscape.

I’d argue any worker that hates on our country while pocketing wages while employed in this program be confronted by their choice of television viewing habits. We should dream up some kind of oath of employment, you know something simple like: I promise to fix what the oil and gas industry has left broken and to the best of my ability appreciate the wages I am earning and the wisdom of the taxpayers of our great nation for having the integrity to step up and give me a job, help put a roof over my head and food on my table. I promise I will work on holding the private sector accountable in the future, and as we do hold these big fat liars to account, and when all our work is finished and built back better, we may resume seeking a more perfect smaller sized government and union.

I’m all too sure most of what I’m proposing makes plain old horse sense but likely wouldn’t pass muster with the local, regional, state, private or public entities that are hellbent on preserving a citizen’s right to gripe and grumble about near darn every damn thing under the sun.

Let me just take a moment to say that Senator Rick Scott is miserable at his job and before all that misery this rascal sucked $300 million taxpayers’ dollars out of Medicare and put what was fraudulently skimmed from the federal government into his own greedy pocket. Florida’s phosphate pond problems were on his watch too. Enough said.

Bridges are Infrastructure

This next issue is a serious as a heart attack. There are some dangerous unhappy unhinged young single men in the United States that need opportunity. Many are located near all these holes that need capping. Getting a bored unproductive young man stood up and doing something productive might help with all those other problems we all would prefer not to think about. We might try to get this buckaroo off fentanyl, might get him to dial back on his porno watching, videogame addiction and maybe take that big fat wallet he’s got full of fresh earned honest wages and ask some philly out for a romp around town seated next to him in that new electric powered Hummer he’s just purchased for cash. Forming relationships is healthy, walking through the world alone is harmful to a persons mental health.

Almost every single solitary plug nickel, dime and quarter has ended up going to the Jeff Bezos, Warren Buffet, Billy Gates, and Elon Musk. Time we shower the workers with half a chance to make a little something for themselves. I want more daycare and I want as many women hired in the oil field operation as is humanly possible. As a kid I hated going to an all-boys school and darn if working with a lot of different kinds of people isn’t just healthier for everyone concerned.

Saturday morning, I woke up in Seattle where I had been for a week visiting my daughter for the first time since February of 2020. I’m all over the American West these days. If you didn’t know the stinking gridlock you experience where you live is just as awful everywhere else. In Seattle I tried driving across Ballard back to Capitol Hill and it was no less a grind than trying to go east on Melrose when you are trying to get your sorry butt out of West Hollywood.

Let’s get a wiggle on we’ve a whole wide wonderful world to enjoy if we could just stop with all this nonsense about not ever fixing the stuff that needs fixing. Roads, bridges, water pipes, sewer lines, and could we get serious about upgrading our dilapidated airports. Passing through New York’s JFK shouldn’t be a virtual terrorizing Grand Theft Auto looking dystopian close encounter with a post-apocalyptic reality. We are so much better than all of this.

Meet you and yours at the water cooler and would you all talk about these urgent matters. We have a nation to rebuild.