Responsible parenting and leadership are a start. In between reaching for the sky (Toy Story rocks).

Screw the darkness. I prefer the lightness of Pop.

Sunday, August 16, 2015

A Scorched Perspective

They stood on overpasses holding American flags and painted banners and signs. We couldn't read the signs as they were facing westbound traffic on Highway 50, out of the Sierra Nevada mountains and into the Central Valley, and we were heading east toward Lake Tahoe.

The Mama got online with her phone and looked for a news reference to the flags and banners. Then she found something about honoring a firefighter killed by a tree battling one of the many blazes burning throughout California

That's when the procession of local firetrucks and CDF firetrucks streamed past us on the left as we drove beyond Placerville. We grieved audibly explaining to the girls there were lots of fires burning that were dangerous to everyone including the fire fighting men and women trying to put them out.

The Golden State is a tinderbox, more so than usual due to the five-year drought and the increasingly hotter annual temperatures. There are currently well over a dozen fires burning in California, both in Southern and Northern California. 

At the same time state water tables and aquifers are low getting lower and lower. Lake Tahoe was visibly lower to us, and we experienced the difference as well as we waded way out along the South Shore beach where we stay. The water level that only last year hit our chests was barely above our knees, this being the 6th largest U.S. natural lake and the second deepest. Little if any snow collected along the Sierras this last winter, and even if the projected Godzilla El Nino (who comes up with these names) hits this coming winter, it will only be a brief reprieve from probable longer spells of dry, hot weather in the West.

The entire state of California has been on mandatory statewide water restrictions for residential and business properties since January 2014 with one exception -- groundwater for agriculture. In fact, California is the only state in the nation that has never regulated groundwater. Ever. Farmers in the Great Valley are for the most part free to pump as much water as they want and they don't have to really track it.

I grew up in the Central Valley in Visalia and was actually shocked to learn that parts of Porterville, a town near Visalia and where my dad was from, have run out of well water. You actually have to go to the fire station to receive bottled water so you can survive. Your hygienic needs must also be met in church parking lots where makeshift sinks and showers are set up. Can you imagine that in 110 degree heat?

For a state that is economically thriving, this seems to be madness to me, the part where some communities are beginning to actually run out of water while many farmers are receiving investment money to drill deep and deeper into the California water table and suck it dry for profitable cash crops that are only profitable because of the drought. 

I'm all for capitalism, but c'mon. We continue to be our own worst enemy when it comes to compromising basic necessities for a quick bottom line.

I get the fact that may take hundreds or even thousands of years for natural climate change, and the man-made short-term destructive nature, to force the West Coast population to live elsewhere, but mercy me this is scary. We've done our part locally in Santa Cruz to cut back on water usage and continue to be well under our allotment. There's a lot more we could do as a state and the privatization and further regulation of water in California could be a good start.

When we hiked above Emerald Bay in Tahoe, one of the many natural wonders we've been grateful to visit more than once, I couldn't help but wonder what might come of this lake and all of California someday. Would it all be a desert? Would we experience another ice age? Would the state burn up in massive fires? The span of geological time is unrelenting in its slow wake, and our current generations of human progress and memory will wash away like the fossilized ash of those before us.

No matter how resilient we are in California, and how much water most of us are saving, the scarcity of life-giving resources leaves a scorched perspective on both near-term and long-term survival. We could all use a little #BhivePower and positive hive mind mentality at this point.

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