Managing Scarcity III: Consequences & Climate Change

17 images Created 25 Jan 2018

“Having freed ourselves from the constraints of evolution, humans nevertheless remain dependent on the earth’s biological and geochemical systems. By disrupting these systems ... we’re putting our own survival in danger.”
― Elizabeth Kolbert, 'The Sixth Extinction: An Unnatural History'

"To every action there is always opposed an equal reaction."
-Isaac Newton's 3rd law of motion

Coming out of the depression, entering, fighting (and winning!) the War - through all of this the incredible became normal. The dream was real, they lived it.

For a time.

The benefits of the changes in the land outweighed the losses: increased safety from floods, more security in dry times.... concrete rivers sweeping out beyond the horizon, brimming with sweet cool water rolling down from the mountains.

A wiser people, with vision un-muddied by the hubris of 20th century engineering, might have questioned the notion of re-plumbing nature for Man's purpose. Instead, we chased and built the dream. Into our grandest designs and most carefully laid plans we sowed our human ignorance, frailty and pride. We trifled with a system beyond our full comprehension, shaped by powers greater than us. Soon cracks appeared, and we began the busy work of patching them. This busy and expensive work continues today.

The voices of the wounded, who where many, went ignored. Native communities, their life and livelihood still fused to the rhythms of the old world, watched helpless as their sacred valleys and rivers where consumed by stagnant concrete lakes. The salmon and eel migrations, important sources of winter protein, began to decline.

The unalterable foundation of our entire water-delivery system is this: Snow will fall in the Sierra Nevada in the Winter. We now know that climate change is wreaking havoc upon this foundation.

Climate scientists predict that we will see extended droughts punctuated by brief, heavy downfalls. The winter of 2016/2017 was the wettest on record, and it came after a six year stretch of the driest. The winter of 2017/2018 has been almost without rainfall. We can see the climate model playing out in real time. Some years, snow does not fall, and in others it falls all at once, and our reservoirs can not contain the runoff.

Droughts are more severe, leading to a fire season now active 10 months out of the year. When rains finally comes to the burnt land, it breaks loose and slides in great sheets of deadly mud.

The farmers in the Great Valley are adapting. They are drilling wells and pumping what groundwater remains. Once that is depleted, the next step is a chaotic tumble into a great, dry abyss.
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