Screenplay

Atmospheric River Blues

Drought, wildfire, heatwaves and now nine in a row atmospheric rivers represents California’s new normal weather pattern. Five years ago to the day Montecito and Santa Barbara were hit with a deluge of water and then mudslides after weeks and weeks of wildfire ravaging the hills above their communities. Mudslides, chaos and emergency rescue teams soon followed.

Mojave Desert January 10, 2023

Oprah, Ellen and now Harry have been swept up into the climate crisis gripping the globe. Among the nutty delusional qualities of the mind is wealthier citizens hoping the fossil fuel induced climate changes would somehow bypass their swank digs. Sorry money can’t buy you everything.

Last Friday events pulled us from our place in San Francisco Bay Area to visit friends in Los Angeles. We were planning to make it a fun weekend then get back home on Monday. Instead we turned east to Palm Springs seeking sanctuary from the demon we named— Reality.

Sunday was pretty good here in the desert, Monday not bad, yesterday the remnant’s of an atmospheric river brought rain. We hunkered down here at the hot spring. Fortunate our van was pointed nose first into the 55 mph winds that hit last night. Seatbelts— I don’t got to wear no stinking seatbelts— were considered given the unexpected turbulence.

Sky Valley, California blowing like all hell out here

Behind us is a concrete culvert. Bone dry doesn’t describe it, perhaps the last time water ran down this waterway Truman was still President. Because of the nearby mountains I monitored the potential for uncontrollable runoff. Not much happened, less than a trickle, but in climate change times you can not afford to turn your back where water may come to rage. Evacuation routes are now something to know.

I’d mark my coming of age in the era of climate change to be somewhere around the year 2016. California was ablaze with wildfires, our air was unbreathable. Reckoning the wildfire’s were a once in a century event, not the new business as usual turned out to be poor mental jujitsu. Wildfire’s are as predictable now as atmospheric river’s and who ever heard of those atmospheric demons until now—

All of us have been making little accommodations, adjusting in increments to the heatwaves, downpours and sunburn. You say to yourself— hey, kid, stay ahead of things, its going to be alright, look around, you’re the only one that’s worried about anything, it’s all ok, have another martini, wash your car, pull some weeds, call a friend, make some pasta, drink some wine, get down to the dispensary, buy a hat, see your skin doctor, wear your sunscreen, keep your head low, don’t talk too much about how you feel as your world literally is falling apart, people will shun you, nobody likes a Dana-Downer.

To keep us calm they’ve installed devices here and there

Until about 2016 all of us could take some pleasure in our denial, that it really couldn’t be as awful as the climate scientists have warned. By 2019 traveling across British Columbia the sight of millions of beetle ravaged trees took a toll on my denial. Then, sucking in heaps of wildfire smoke gave me my first climate cough. Viewing reservoirs without an antidepressant is ill-advised.

We still have to live and die, raise our kids, get our groceries, keep a roof over our heads, food on the table, and find some semblance of fun and games whether the lights remain on or off.

Here at the Palm Springs Film Festival we got out to see I Like it Here. The documentary chronicles the phenomena surrounding our aging out until we’re gone. Liking it here is about not being ready to go there, not yet, not while the pleasing alternative of being here holds our attention.

Just stop bellyaching

Encoded into our DNA is an ego determined to maintain its grip on staying alive. Ego is a damn efficient quality of mind— it’ll keep you alive when the rest of you can get the rest of you killed. It is the do this not that device on loan from God— we give our ego and the rest of our gifts back at the end. This comes free, there is no extra charge.

Our changing climate adds concern, it only slightly penetrates our ego’s main vigilant keep it real inner monologue and cheery patter. Our inability to grasp the magnitude of what our species has done to our odds of long term survival is to do with the capacity of our mind to stitch together the weather events of the times we live in. Ego sucks figuring the odds— and not to trigger your ego, but folks the odds are not close to even according to what I see out the window dare I have the courage to look.

It isn’t fair, but it is true, that as we’ve evolved the ego proved useful and was improved by evolution and of course glorified by Hollywood. I’d say ego has had a good run— only Frankenstein seems to have had a better box office.

What we don’t have is the capacity to help plan for two centuries from now. You can love your grand children all you want but that’s probably an ego induced sideshow. The reality is the human mind lacks this forward compassion projecting capacity, live now pay later, don’t worry be happy— be happy right now, we’ll try a little harder next week, I promise I won’t fly off so often to Puerto Vallarta to feed my muse and drink tequila.

Today is a walk across historic Palm Springs. We are now lounging about in our mid century modern hotel just off the strip next to the world famous Palm Springs Tennis Club. I married Vince Lombardi’s reincarnated feminine aspect and she’s walked her other half right to the edge.

Wondering about the number of galaxies in our Universe, I’m betting a trillion isn’t close to the total, and boy that has got to be a bitch of a task to be in charge of tallying up the actual number. Like the climate crisis it boggles our comprehension, almost breaks the imagination muscle trying to wrap our heads around the colossal climate crisis of it all. But as the assignment editor cruelly warns— that’s why we pay you the big bucks— I can get you to take a look, it’s your ego that urges you to look away—

The climate crisis is definitely messing with the speech you are planning to give at the lifetime achievement award ceremony, but you look in the mirror while you check the lapels, tug at the cuffs, you keep going over and over how grateful you are, how the world is at an inflection point, that collectively the time has come, that together we must act, and the truth of the matter is our ego’s are bristling at this, try as we might, when the gods unlocked the code to give us the smarts to do certain things like all wishes fulfilled they overlooked mankind’s ability to think long term, over the horizon, to see into our earth’s future and have the capacity to act to avert a crisis, and not just any old ordinary crisis but perhaps the mother of all of them, the biggest crisis we have ever had to face, the crisis where if we don’t act now it will be too late for those who will soon follow us here. Our ability to act or not to act is front and center. So what is it there pilgrim, you want to ride over that mountain pretending like there’s nothing you can do, that there’s nothing all that wrong, or are you ready to lend a hand to a soul yet born who—

Sorry, these atmospheric rivers can really monkey with my inner confidence—

Books · Screenplay

Cry Me a River

With the election now in the rearview mirror look for the fight over a more equitable distribution of water coming down the Colorado River to enter its nightmare phase.

Colorado River serves both sides of Rocky Mountains

All those good intentions, all the dedicated water saving devices, all the promises from agriculture that they finally do get it, that the jig is up and the time for change has come, well none of that has proven remotely actionable. 

Taking shorter showers is a good idea. Getting rid of your lawn is long overdue. When you brush your teeth fill a glass with water, that’s it, a glass of water is good for rinsing both your brush and mouth after you’ve finished. Toilet etiquette water saving guidance in a drought— “if its yellow let it mellow, if its brown flush it down.” OK— been there done that.

We need to pause a moment as this is the week according to the “being” counters out there that our world has crossed the 8 billion mark, that is people all alive on a little marble sized planet in one little teeny-tiny spiral arm of one rather average sized galaxy in a universe populated with trillions and trillions of galaxies. You like me and most innumerate types need to be reminded of how many zeros there are behind the factor 1 when trying to write out a trillion, that is the numeral one followed by twelve zero’s— that’s the answer to the trillion-universe question. 

North Platte River south of Denver

Figures jump around regarding how much water by water flow gage actually comes down the Colorado River over the course of one year. Since we’re here in the United States trying to form a more perfect union it turns out the Colorado River is slightly down there, and over to the left and doing something quite predictable, in fact it is astounding we would have forecast anything else, but of course we came up with the wrong estimates and that is where our grief begins and ends. 

In this climate changing world what we can measure in the system of rivers and reservoirs that we refer to as the Colorado River Basin is a world that is increasingly warmer and drier. It is not significantly warmer, it is not profoundly more arid, but that isn’t how this game is played. 

Here is located the headwaters of the Colorado River

In 1922, exactly one century ago there were about 12 million people living in the Colorado River Basin— now there 40 million. A century ago, they estimated that 16,400,000-acre feet of water flowed through the basin in one year. A century later we know that is wrong that if you take water measurement records and divide each water year up by this factor of 100 the more accurate amount is 13,200,000-acre feet of water per year. However, the last quarter of a century, the last 25 years have been much less productive than the previous 75. In 2003 for example just 3,800,000-acre feet of water was measured. Then there were many years where barely 9,000,000-acre feet of water was measured. Some scientists now believe that in the years ahead the Colorado River Basin will on average produce just 7,500,000-acre feet of water per year— less than half of what was codified into law when the Law of the River was first drafted in 1922. By the way, that was Herbert Hoover’s work. 

Take a deep breath people— touch your toes, breathe— everything is not going to be just fine, but we can survive in this water basin when we stop spending our water like drunken’ sailors. Why is that? How can that be? Whose been building model airplanes in poorly ventilated bedrooms again? 

North Platte River

Look figure 80% of all the water that comes out of the Colorado River Basin is used by agriculture. That includes ranches, farms and dairy operators. The percentage of water used to grow crops destined for our kitchen tables, especially the crops that are not intermediated by feeding a barnyard animal, those crops use the smallest fraction of that 80%. The thirsty users are growing forage crops for livestock, that’s where most of the water is going. Hay crops are on the endangered-cowboy’s-list and are a congressionally protected species that turns out to be important because it isn’t the cowboys that die from lack of water it is politician’s careers that meet their end.

Other terms and phrases that come to mind are untouchable, perhaps stalemate, gordian knot, intractable, impossible to undo, lifestyle ending, suicide mission, water torture test, misery, and my favorite— decade upon decade of fruitless litigiousness…

Fruitlessness only begins to even get at the stinking mess we the good people of this current century must deal with because of the errors made by our ancestors from the last century. But isn’t that the story of the climate emergency— doing something now that will help the people who will inherit the world from us later. Of course it is!

Einstein like brain power isn’t enough

Did I mention instant gratification seems to be almost as popular as smartphones—? We are plumb out of patience, that virtue is near extinct and instead we live in the go-go world of hairless swimmers in speedos doing laps on bright days and then some years later having to see their dermatologists for terrifying little spots that need to be surgically removed. 

Making one thing better which pretty much sums up the rationalizations for building the dams at Lake Mead and Lake Powell has proven shortsighted. Instead of making one thing better we’ve walked into a corner and made a million things worse. 

Anyway, to end on a hopeful note it is good to know that the election is over and negotiations can now resume at a quickened pace so that decisions might be far removed as possible from the election cycle. That’s probably the most important point of this little pitter pat of prose I’m offering to my fearless social gladiators. After fending off the fascists, after rejecting the Nazi sympathizing monster Arizona Republican gubernatorial candidacy of Kari Lake we can actually get down to less psychologically twisted matters like how to keep the toilet flushed, the toothbrush cleaned, and the swimming pools filled.  

Southern Arizona rainbow falling on the Oak Bar Ranch

A tremendous crescendo of gratitude will wash over our continent as we roll out the new renewable energy system for this new century. Next, and almost at the same time we will review and reallocate what water we have. There will be pain, and suffering will be Ingmar Bergman-esque, but a new and better Law of the River will provide fun legal work for Gen Z’ers, and darn it we really do count on those young rascals bailing a lot of us barrel-aged nitwits out from the fallacies we have foisted on a world that is now filled to the limit with 8 billion people— if you happen to be a jigalow odds have just tipped in your favor, someone is bound to be waiting for you to work your love em and leave em magic after getting what you want then like that the jigalow goes and performs the world famous disappearing act— “God— if that man hasn’t just made me cry a river—”

Books · Performances

Don’t Look Down

Pack your bags, bring your toothbrush, let’s get away from it all, if only we could. First order of business was to get the epoxy coating for the carport drop shipped from the East Coast via Michigan, don’t ask it’s a complicated supply chain thing.

High Heat and Low Humidity

Reviewing local weather forecasts and they tell of a high-pressure system off the California coast that is shunting storms north, that we are going to remain dry at least until the middle of the month, that it will hit 80 degrees later this week, and that there is concern about potential for wildfire.

A friend living in the Gold Country east of Sacramento in Amador City, the smallest incorporated town in California has been hit with homeowner insurance sticker shock. The policy jumped from $2800 per year to $6000. After some changes to his deductibles, he was able to get the premium reduced to $4800 and he feels lucky. This is playing out all across California’s urban wildland interface, and it is the runaway costs of the climate emergency socking citizens right where it counts─ in the wallet.

Too young to be a player in the Summer of Love, 1967’s perfect year for hippies, Haight-Ashbury’s gathering of the tribe, the counter culture that was going to change things traded all of those drug induced happenings for all these frightful challenges barreling down on us like an overfilled clown car. You know the bit where the tiny car parks center ring and out come this impossible to imagine number of clowns one after the other, clowns like drought, wildfire, earthquake, tsunami, hurricane, tornado, and heatwave. We are fending off sea level rise, wildfire smoke, volcanic eruptions and empty water reservoirs. Someone somewhere is keeping an eye out for undiscovered asteroids or comets potentially on a collision course, this is the human condition, modern life isn’t for the weak or the easily worried.

Bureau of Reclamation Plumbing

All the false prophets (profits) of yesteryear had assured us to follow along while we engaged in rampant outsourcing (offshoring─ a much less offensive term), financialization, monopolization, deregulation, and just-in-time logistics. Turns out our competitors took out a can of whoop-ass over there so that they could make us miserable over here. I smelled a rat as soon as the fat cats unbolted the Schwinn Bicycle Factory and sent it lock, stock and barrel to China. Our leaders have been too sheepish, stupid and stubborn. That famous sucking sound turns out to be us, we didn’t need anyone else providing us with sound effects, this was an unforced error.

Trail of the Deep Diver

I did a deep dive into a story about the foreign ownership of America’s farmland. What could go wrong? Water for agriculture is a big deal in a decades long drought, and you can’t really get to the core dysfunctionality of how we squander our water without giving your brain over to the geostrategic blunder being made by policymakers that have surrendered control of our food production system. When the Can-Tan-Con-Man slapped tariffs on China, and in retaliation they responded by canceling purchase of soybeans, and then Washington replaced the lost revenue by providing subsidies to the farmers, and that it turns out many billions of those dollars ended up going to multinationals located in other countries to compensate for the losses they took on farms they owned in America. Hard to flowchart all that losing, screwing and double dealing but friends there you have it, we are up to our elbows in one gargantuan mobbed up racket.

Our current members of the Supreme Court are not oriented by way of ideological fanaticism to care one whit about any of the many ways we are self-destructing. Let’s just say for the fucking fun of it that almost anyone can buy American farmland, biggest foreign owners are Canada, China and even Saudi Arabia’s got their hands in America’s dirt. It’s plain as lavender mascara that we’ve been sucked into a sinkhole of stupid. All this nonsense about the invisible hand of the free market is a bunch of neoliberal doublespeak. We already pay farmers to grow or not grow specific crops, there are subsidies for dairy, corn, soy, and cotton. The market is anything but free.

Goobering up our food system took a disastrous turn in the late 50’s when it was determined what we wanted to do was maximize the number of calories we cultivated. Farms and ranches were incentivized to grow commodity crops, the crops then blighted our population with heart disease and diabetes, and as these commodity producers have been in control for decades, they have no intention of surrendering their control over our food chain or their gravy train and there will be hell to pay if anyone dare try.

Inane Homily by Libertarian Types

Iowa is the poster child for what is widely understood to be the ethanoyl disaster. Decades ago, we decided to make fuel from corn. Never mind that it takes more energy to make ethanoyl than the energy you can get out of this biofuel, but subsidized corn growing was good for Iowa farmers and that was good enough, pretty much an open and shut case of shut your mouth. But you be right to wonder if we’ve been getting our money’s worth for helping Iowa, appears we’re not even close to a fair exchange. Iowans are in the grip of an ultra-sharp swerve to the right of the political spectrum, Chuck Grassley and Joni Ernst voted for Biden the day the vote was certified but not before making the most tepid remarks over the fiasco we know as the January 6th insurrection. Nobody is for defunding the police, but I am tempted to want to defund ethanoyl price supports that go to Iowa because patriotism ain’t getting its money’s worth. Trust me Iowa gets more back from Washington than it sends, and then it bites the hand that feeds it, that my friends makes it right to reconsider the fact we aren’t getting much back for all we give. I’m not into retribution but I’m also not into stupid. Time has come to get all those cotton-picking complainers to fulsomely embrace the right side of history, patriotism and democracy or suffer the loss of all this largess we’ve been squandering upon the ingrates.

There is clarity, spiritual liberation, and soul healing in understanding how perplexing the conundrum that is the interplay between crop and water subsidies. Top four subsidized commodity crops that the Department of Agriculture supports are corn, soy, wheat and rice. There are more but these are the four biggest crops. Then, over at the Department of the Interior, this is where the Bureau of Reclamation is located, and it is here that a good many water subsidies are handed out in one of the most irrational welfare programs and this quasi-legal water grabbing goes on right under the taxpayers’ noses. This isn’t water for the poor or the weak, these are for the powerful and connected. Given the ongoing megadrought in the American West there is every reason to evaluate and reimagine what crops we ought to grow where and if and how much water we are going to use.

You can pound the table, scream as loud as Pavarotti, stink and skunk it up, but you and nobody are going to bring this scrambled pile of misbegotten policy to heel. Like a thousand and one other things under the sun and on this continent, we have a lost our legislative spine to react to current realities and then make new policy.

Knocking on the Door of Change

It’s going to require a massive, colossal unimaginably enormous climatic convulsion before anything is going to shake up this over-intitled elite. And don’t you know that’s where we are and what the forces of nature are doing to the entrenched members of what we call the water nobility. Every politician knows to duck and cover when the topic of what to do about the water shortages out here in the American West come up. The powers that be clam up, get tight lipped and literally lose the power to speak when questioned about this century old fiasco. The plain and simple of the thing is that change is coming, and it arrived about two decades ago disguised as the mother of all droughts and until about now there was still time to do something about the thing. Time’s up and the bill has come due.

 Don’t Look Down could be 2022’s next hit film. And this time it isn’t some celestial object colliding with the world it is the stubborn entrenched special interests threatening the collapse of almost half our nations farmland. How this movie ends is the comedy I’m trying to write.

Books

climate’s cosmic joyride

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

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

That haze is smoke,

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

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

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

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

Roadway ahead shouldn’t be so fuzzy-more smoke

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

Winchester Bay morning walkabout

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

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

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

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

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

Lazy hazy smoke filled skies of summer

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

Books

the scorching truth arrives

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

Books

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.

Books

fixing leaky faucets

Lake Shasta April 2020

A Wall Street hedge fund has sent a posse of potato farming water grabbers out to Winnemucca, Nevada. Water Asset Management was formed in 2005 and is in the business of using water as a for profit investment vehicle.

Access to drinking water is a universally recognized human right. Defending this right and winning this argument at the United Nations was the tenacious Canadian activist Maude Barlow. Drinking water should never be bought, sold, bartered, or privatized. Deeded water rights to underground water shouldn’t be pumped out from underneath one community then piped far off to another wealthier place.

We’re in for a real brawl out here in the American West. For starters we already don’t have enough water. Now we’ve got more people, a growing population and they all arrive at the negotiating table believing they have the best ideas for how to use what little water there is. Water Asset Management is buying up land explicitly for access to the water rights deeded to the purchased properties.

Commercial and Recreational Fishing

What does our water future look like? For starters financializing deeded water rights is turning our common resource into a privatized water grabbing for profit scam. After urban water users’ rates get jacked up you can bet the farm lobby will go seek new water subsidies to offset the higher cost of production. Once consumers start squealing about how much a half gallon of milk has gone up, how expensive a loaf of bread has become, why every politician beholden to Big Ag will be lining up to make water cheaper for farms and ranches while sticking the bill to the urban taxpayers.

From the BBC, Marsha Daughenbaugh, 68, of Steamboat Springs wedge issues agricultures priority access to water use, “Ranching is not only an economic base for us, it’s a way of life.”

What does that mean? In 1994 a telephone operator in New Jersey was practicing a way of life until AT&T cut 20,000 jobs. Telephone operators would have had a better shot at keeping their way of life if they’d been saddled up and sitting on a horse while they were doing their telecommunication’s work.

Look we already have all the dams we’ll ever need, but we can’t finesse our way around a drought and expect to fill old or new reservoirs with water that doesn’t exist. The solution to fixing this mess is not complicated, everyone is going to have to use less water. That’s the new way of life barreling down on every enterprise and individual living West of the Pecos.  

Swallows playing in the Delta breeze

Due to overallocations up and down and all along the Colorado River a hands-on realistic water use plan will be needed for California, Nevada, Arizona, Colorado, and New Mexico. Utah is going to be a more petulant childlike player on account of their whole humankind’s dominion over earth delusions, but we’ll set their fundamentalism aside for the moment.

Alfalfa and cotton farming needs to be relocated east where there is sufficient supplies of water. More crops need to end up on our supper tables. Eggplant, squash, watermelon, pineapples, strawberries, onions, spinach, carrots, lettuce, and tomatoes all use less water and are not just suitable for human consumption these fresh vegetables are healthier for both people and the planet.  

Stanford Law School’s award-winning Environmental and Natural Resources Law & Policy Program is training lawyers in the byzantine area of water law. As it sits right now outlawing alfalfa farming is illegal. Allocations are based strictly on whether there is or isn’t any water. There are rules about how to use the water but there are no rules about what to grow with the water. Water law is a tangled-up snake pit of economically threatened special interests.

Even if I can tell you cotton and alfalfa need to be shutdown, it is one hell of a long way further to settling that hornet’s nest of a mess in court with an enforceable decision, but that day is coming, and it will be arriving sooner than the water grabbers might have imagined.

In California pumping water from aquifers is undergoing a thorough rethink. This is known as the Sustainable Groundwater Management Act. Passed in 2014, agencies had until 2020 to file their plans to make groundwater resources sustainable by 2040. Those plans are subject to review and by political career ending loophole to be reassessed every five years.

Right now, a Limited Liability Company in Napa County can pump scarce and ancient groundwater, grow grapes then export the wine to foreign markets while stashing their profits offshore at a post office box known as a Caribbean tax haven. In other words we are a long way from a glidepath to sustainability.

California Water Alliance wants more water diverted from the Delta then piped to their members further south in the San Joaquin Valley. They almost pulled it off, but the courts stopped the water heist before the former administration could do further harm. The Sacramento and San Joaquin Valley Delta “is the most valuable estuary and wetland ecosystem on the west coast of North and South America and is the hub of California’s water delivery system.” Without the Delta there is no such thing as California.

Fishermen dependent on the salmon that would no longer be able to find suitable spawning grounds, which is a polite term for going extinct. Farmers running short of water do not care one whit about what happens to salmon in Northern California, that is not their problem.

In dryer and warmer low rainfall years farms need to be fallowed then put back into production in years when there is sufficient water. A real greenwashed-Astroturfing lobby group the California Water Alliance won’t have it and if diverting Delta water means driving salmon to the brink that’s just somebody else’s radical environmental activism hurting the economy.

Whether a citizen fishes or farms for their living both laudable enterprises but diverting water and then driving fish and fishermen to extinction and bankruptcy because you want to grow more subsidized cotton is a tragedy wrapped in a self-inflicted existential disaster.

None of this is ours to keep, it is ours to pass along to future generations. If while we continue to grow our economy and we were to decide salmon are expendable, then we’ve in some toxicologically bizarre way just admitted that we are expendable nothing is worth saving, except for holding onto the power to choose. Extinction events are not reserved for the unlucky few, man’s rapacious nature contains the seeds of self-destruction.

Largest system of dikes in the United States

In 2019 a misguided Federal cabinet member unilaterally ordered scarce water to be diverted from the Delta to farmers further south. Courts in Fresno halted the illegal diversion.

“This water grab was led by Secretary of the Interior David Bernhardt, a former lobbyist and counsel for the Westlands Water District, the largest water district in the Central Valley and a significant beneficiary of the weakened biological opinions.” The weakening was done under the cloak of anti-science activists in the former administration.

For now, there is an uneasy stalemate and with the inexorable increasing temperatures and ever decreasing moisture levels in the soils of the American West. Urban areas are about to fight tooth and nail, from one farm field to the next over ever more scarce water. The drought is on and our water wars are only going to get worse. As the announcer says, “let’s get ready to rumble…”

Books

Buckets of Rain Buckets of Tears

Last summer’s monsoons in the Southwest last went missing . Last weeks Southern Colorado-Northern New Mexico snowfall in the headwaters to the Rio Grande while welcomed offered little relief. Most of New Mexico is in severe drought.

Reservoirs in Marin County, California are so low water agencies are within a week of enacting mandatory conservation orders similar to those caused by the drought in 2013-2017.

On March 23rd California State Water Resources Control Board mailed — “warning notices to agricultural water rights holders urging them to plan for potential shortages by reducing water use and adopting practical conservation measures.”

Utah’s governor is urging residential water users to begin conservation measures. From Ogden to St. George the region has been hit hard by a lack of rain and snow.

Lake Powell is less than 38% full with its water level down by 129 feet.

Napa Valley California’s premier winegrowing region rainfall totals are off for a second year. The last time the region was hit with a two year below normal rainfall season the Valley Fire of 2015 erupted and became one of the state’s most destructive wildfires in history.  

Our dry winter has impacted water wells too. The United States Geological Survey has released a study that warns of 200,000 water wells in California were tested and that scientists found increased levels of arsenic that exceed Federal safety standards. Arsenic increases risk of cancer.

Colorado’s Front Range got clobbered two weeks ago by an epic winter snowstorm that has moved the states drought status from severe to water customers now expecting that there will be no water restrictions.

There is no such luck for Colorado’s Western Slope where ranchers and farmers near Grand Junction remain in desperate straits.

Up and down the line circumstances are dire. An estimated 75% of the land in eleven states here in the American West, a vast geographic area encompassing almost half of the nation’s landmass is facing the driest spring in the last seven years. Electricity produced by hydropower is being cut back, vast tracts of agricultural lands will be forced out of production, fish populations will be damaged, and this year’s fire season has the potential to eclipse last years record setter.

California’s economy is diverse. Agriculture in the state accounts for 3% of the gross domestic product while using 50-70% of the states water. Agriculture dependent Modesto, Manteca, Merced, Fresno and Bakersfield will all take a huge hit to their local economies.

As the pandemic winds down, as the virus is brought to heel the damage caused by water scarcity will destabilize California’s economic, social and political outlook.

Arizona, Nevada and Utah continue to attract new residents just as a once in every 1000-year megadrought bares down on the region.

Water rights awarded a century ago in the midst of above average rainfall years have been over allocated. Governments at all levels have maintained a hands-off approach, the politics of the situation is fraught, worse still when there have been subsidies made available for water and crops those incentives have proven misguided.

Water interests in the seven states near the Colorado River are tangled in tense ongoing negotiations with a deadline of 2025. The drought, wildfires and climate emergency only complicate matters that much more.

Water regulators in Marin County have called for a halt to permitting new water hookups for residential housing. California already faced with a shortage of affordable real estate can ill afford to worsen the situation, but in Marin County reservoir capacity is limited and mandatory water rationing is expected to begin soon.

Water needed for a growing residential population continues to expand exponentially across the region. Las Vegas and Phoenix in the last three decades have increased threefold, each from one million to three million. Southern Utah is bursting with new residents. Colorado’s Front Range sprawling expansion has favorite Rocky Mountain destination resorts jammed to the hilt.

Because of the climate emergency the American West is at an inflection point. “Tucson Water Director Tim Thomure. He still oversees the utility as interim assistant city manager.” Addressing the loss of Colorado River water Thomure claims Tucson’s water resources remain sufficient. Assistant city managers have a job to do and elected official to keep in office. His assessment is an outlier.

Tucson and Las Vegas will be forced to seek funding to build desalination plants. This is my opinion, my informed guess, there is not enough water in the Southwest. Expensive purified desalinated water will force residents to put in place stringent water conservation measures. Water pipelines will route across the desert to tap sea water from the Sea of Cortez and Pacific Ocean.

High priced water will force rural grass crop growers out of business. Food crop planting will increase. To conserve water fields will be laser leveled and drip irrigated. Moisture sensors plugged into nut trees sending signals back to software enhanced computers will turn water on and off automatically based upon moisture content measured by remote instruments.

Scarcity will force agriculture to make hard choices, crops will be rationalized, there are sure to be other regions of the state or nation better suited for growing specific crops.

Another dryer warmer winter has come and gone, spring rains are deficient our water deficit is large and the water in our reservoirs is low. California is 50% of normal for rainfall, about 60% for snowpack. With no water to irrigate many crops will go unplanted. Other fields with grapevines or orchard crops will use what water that is allocated to keep their root stock alive until next year.

There is a agriculture lobby group, California Water Alliance that has been behind efforts to ship more water from the delta near Sacramento south into the San Joaquin Valley’s colossus Westland’s Water District. The more water diverted the more fish die, the more salt intrudes into the domestic drinking water reservoirs. The only constituents for these diversions are the enterprises that could use the water for their private profit. Big urban citizens, sizable majority’s don’t want the fish killed off or salty drinking water coming out of their faucets.

In California there are still twenty million acres that haven’t burned in over a century or more, they are dangerously dry and overgrown, one mistake, one lightning strike and the American West will burn on and on.

Groundwater will in the next few years start to be regulated and pumping is scheduled to be cut back. The Colorado River is flowing at a historically much lower rate while the needs of a growing population that depends on this resource continues to grow. Push has come to shove, bullet biting never popular is here and the unavoidable tight spot has arrived.

I can tick off a dozen moves our water managers are going to be forced into this year.

Hotter and drier conditions in Napa Valley are disadvantaging the famous Cabernet Sauvignon grape that is ripening too quick, concentrating sugars that are too high, making the wine too sweet to tame. Winegrowers are planting further north in the higher latitudes.

Interesting times are here. Putting things off won’t do, we are short of water and out of time, we meet the moment by making difficult decisions. The meek will not inherit this hotter and drier earth.

Books

cedar city water grabbers

In the grip of a water grabber

Cedar City Utah’s, Central Iron County Water Conservancy District Pine Valley Water Supply and Conservation Project is worth our thinking about before we go out and cause all kinds of irreversible natural world hell. Southern Utah is one of the fastest growing regions of the United States and I mean horizontal suburban sprawling housing projects that are being thrown up just as fast as a hammer swinging beer drinking football fan can manage. Water is a vital, scarce, hard to come by necessity out here, every squirrel, rattlesnake and icemaking machine from the Mexican border to the Boise, Idaho needs more water.

To be on a planning commission, supervisory board, or to become mayor means you have got to talk fast and find answers to impossible problems. You can’t win without support, and you can’t win support promising to shutdown businesses, slow down growth, and throw your voters out of work. Until now there has been enough water for Cedar City to get into the mess they are in today.

Backwaters of Baker, Nevada

Iron County Water Conservancy is doing its dead level best, but push has come to shove. Seventy miles northwest is located Pine Valley. I been through this region, land is owned by the Federal Government. A proposal to pump groundwater from Pine Valley back to Cedar City is under consideration. That’s all you need to know is that otherwise good civil servants in cahoots with real estate developers want to go from Iron County up to Beaver County and grab the water from a pristine untouched immaculately conceived ancient aquifer. I’m am nothing if not objective, fair and balanced and through and through unbiased.

Let’s wrap our heads around other solutions. Before we begin you should understand taking another track could come back to bite or sting a politician right in the butt end of the ballot box. Best we understand reality before casting about for solutions.

I haven’t crunched the numbers but by aerial photographic investigation it is plain as day that there are a few thousand farms that are going to need to surrender their rights back to Cedar City for the common good.

Water Rights Reassigned

Rescinding a farmer’s water rights is like coming home drunk, lipstick on your collar, a night out two-stepping at the local honky tonk, knowing full well that there are no undiscovered artesian gushers or marriages that can’t end in divorce.

First thing we might want to try is just conserving what water we use now. That rankles contemporary Americans, “I ain’t sacrificing one single inch of my entitled ass for you and that stink eye you are trying to water shame me with.”

Mayor Mobile

That’s one vote losing suggestion right there. Second, every means of water conservation is going to be required to be fully exhausted to slowdown the flow of water from every home and business in or near Cedar City. Low flow showerheads, low volume toilets, drought tolerant landscaping, condemning golf courses, and installing recycled water commercial carwash facilities. That all sounds like some kind of nightmare liberal utopian gateway to socialism. I know, I know, but time has come.

Mule, Jeep or on horseback

Baker, Nevada is a town of 56 good souls. Men and women from this community sit at the foot of Wheeler Peak home to the Great Basin National Park. Not that you are supposed to know or even understand how underground aquifers can all be interconnected, but now that you do know you might just be wondering if Cedar City pumping water out of Pine Valley might potentially cause harm just ever so slightly west to the aquifer beneath Snake Valley? Look at that, just like that, those Cedar City water grabbers have put at risk all that is right and mighty in White Pine County, Nevada.

Wheeler Peak, Nevada 13,065 Above Sea Level

Water grabbing is a big, tangled mess, makes Los Angeles freeway gridlock seem like an almost solvable problem compared to this venomous pit of Great Basin water moccasins. Men, real estate developers and ranch hands are wanton creatures and know more about a 12-gauge shotgun than they do about modern-day birth control.

Drought has the Southwest by the neck. Our swelling population, all the booming communities have arrived just in time for a climate emergency civilization changing reckoning. Business friendly politicians are about to leap into rhetorical obfuscation and pretzel misshaped solutions even the dirtiest devils will regard as even harder to scrub off than a tattoo.

Downtown Baker on a busy day

Timidity will buy time, but it won’t get you what you don’t have. Crystalline materials, powders called metal organic frameworks, can now harvest water vapor from the air. This device comes from Yaghi Laboratory at UC Berkeley. This new solar-powered device can pull water straight from the desert air, and enough water each day to supply each and every happy home in Cedar City.

Lithium mines, geothermal electrical generating stations, Gigfactories, and for the love of God and all of creation you mean to tell me that there is a thing called a solar powered residential water maker in our future? I know it’s hard, but this is where our struggle to coexist with the finite resources found on earth have brought us to. So, dear Cedar City water grabbers, deal with it.

Books

autumn backroad east

I’m a roadrunner baby

Running the southern route adds two-hundred miles to the trip to Denver. Once I’d made Bakersfield, I parked at a truck stop, slept there for the night. Sunday, I made five hundred miles east to Williams, Arizona. A local tipped me off to a free campground operated by the Bureau of Land Management.

“Get off Interstate 40, take Highway 64 north a handful of miles,” my tipster guaranteeing, “you can’t miss the campground, the dirt road is on the right.”

Wheeling into the dusty forest there was posted a sign warning camping was limited to 14 days. Squatters can become a nuisance. I was only there for one night. I parked warily under ponderosa pine. Wildfire this autumn has kept people on edge. Terrain was brittle, dry, risk of fire high. Among the long needle Rocky Mountain ponderosa pine, you would be advised to keep your ditch bag near at hand.

I set out a folding table, chair, got my electric skillet fired up slow cooking the one man- one pot dish. Tonight, it would be homemade beans, potatoes, asparagus, and spinach. The secret sauce to being cast a sage culinary vagabond was be spartan like and not make a mess.    

Pandemic dining at its best

In 1992 I lived along the Verde River eighty miles southeast of here. I remember taking my baby girl Alana shopping in Flagstaff. I could still hold her in my arms. I was miserable seeing her grow up knowing that all too soon I wasn’t going to be able to pick her up and carry that baby girl in my arms. You think about the people you love when your camped out alone.

Out here in the southwest where the Mojave, Sonoran and Great Basin Desert’s meet up there has been a great increase in population. Most of the places categorized as in the middle of nowhere and to hell and gone, five miles by dirt another mile on foot, all of that part of the American West is under threat. St. George, Utah was never supposed to grow so big.

In more remote regions of Nevada, Utah, Arizona, and New Mexico you’ll find solitude as pure as your evil heart. Then, you brush up close to Las Vegas, Flagstaff, Albuquerque, or Phoenix and you will choke on civilization sprawled out over a horizon and cooking at a boil.

Reclamation Project Underway

For my money, the American West is in possession of the crown jewels of our nation’s wilderness. Now each remote outpost is being encroached upon from a new nearby settlement. It is unclear what is to become of solitude, the wildlands have been stolen by a swelling population, hardscrabble loner’s that have struggled to celebrate emptiness are nearing the end of such places. All of us need nowhere even if we never bother to go. The privilege of camping in wild open spaces, counting the mustang off on the horizon, being serenaded by a canyon wren, these are experiences that deserved to be passed onto the misfits and renegade misanthropes.

Fool’s Paradise

I hiked up a gulch fooled by the terrain, read the clues all wrong, ended up in a boxed canyon. Ancient Anasazi people hunted in this terrain, once their prey had been cornered nets were raised, trapped, unable to escape, the ancient hunters armed with spears would press in for the kill.

As the Pleistocene ended, what is now Nevada warmed, ice age animals went extinct, pinion pine migrated north from Mexico. Into the region arrived grizzly bear, elk, deer, antelope and big horn sheep. For the next ten thousand years a tribe of hunters thrived. Early man faced drought, wildfire, and the threat of being eaten alive. Right now a mountain lion can ruin anyone’s day. Important answers to civilizations problems confound people attempting to respond to the mortal risks flourishing in the third decade of this new century. We are acting, you can feel the whole lot of us trying, growing momentum will sweep up more and more, and we will make good trouble refining our path.

I see on my calendar humankind’s next big leap will take place on November 3rd. Let’s get along now, there is a wild blue yonder to chase and a wide wonderful world to save.