Many of America’s insightful poets and prophets have given us sage advice. Only problem? Our most powerful forces tended to ignore them.
History has now demonstrated that we do so at our own peril.
Young Robert Zimmerman, aka Bob Dylan, was more than a song writer and poet; he was a prophet. Even in 1963. To wit:
“The line it is drawn, the curse it is cast; The slow one now will later be fast, as the present now will later be past, the order is rapidly fadin’. And the first one now will later be last, for the times they are a-changin’.”
Come 1907, the Klamath Project along the Oregon-California border, drained wetlands and lakes and channeled rivers to stabilize a farming/ranching economy. For the next 100 years, those man-made canals and rivers provided kith and kin to generations of American farmers, ranchers and hunters.
But now, no more.
If the far western states thought last year was “HELL” in the guise of massive wildfires raging out of control, they ain’t seen nothing yet. Already, more than half of the West is faced with “extreme” drought conditions that could be the worst in centuries, a crisis clearly associated with climate change.
At the turn of the 21st century, for the first time in its history, the Federal Bureau of Reclamation planned to cut off the water. This action caused many angry farmers and ranchers to invade the plant and to open the canal head gates. Apparently, they did not take lightly to such government BS; the government apparently got the message and kept the water flowing.
Twenty years after this dust-up, water conditions are now so drastic that the Bureau of Reclamation intends to shut down the water again. The lines of conflict are clearly drawn, and they are not new, just amplified.
Besides the livelihoods of farmers and ranchers, significantly reduced water supplies this year threaten several wildlife refuges that are home to 25 at-risk species of birds and fish. Many fish and bird species are already threatened with extinction because of previously long stretches of limited water.
Scientists at major universities predict that these drastic conditions will only get worse if climate change continues to wage war on the current norm of water scarcity. Water scarcity is so widespread and pernicious, that wild, unfounded conspiracy theories are now being bandied about on social media (surprise, surprise), laying the blame for water problems on George Soros (of course, Jews are always responsible), Bill Gates (money-hungry, high-tech rapist) and, naturally, the United Nations (just a bunch of “s..t-hole” countries).
Such related QAnon delusions make an indigestible recipe for a peaceable resolution to a crisis. Guns and butter make for an unpleasant meal — it is sure to give heartburn.
Some folks living east of the Mississippi, often plagued by floods – yet another “gift” from Mother Nature’s climate change – may think that such western droughts won’t affect them. Guess again.
As the drought-stricken far western areas expand and move inexorably eastward, more of the nation’s mid-western breadbasket will be affected as the nation’s source of vegetables and fruit already is.
Water scarcity is a global crisis; it will only get worse. The United States is not immune to this world-wide phenomenon. If the 20th century was the Century of Petroleum (it was), then most certainly the 21st century will be the Century of Water Scarcity, or perhaps more prophetically, The Century of Drastic Climate Change.
Already much of the world’s billions of humans have no clean, potable water. Water scarcity is the No. 1 climate-change challenge facing the entire world. Seventy-one percent of the earth’s surface is water, most of which is salty, and undrinkable. Did Coleridge’s ancient mariner, have it right?
Most of the Middle East and North Africa are the most water-scarce areas in the world with only one percent of the world’s freshwater.
Scarcity of drinkable water increases security risks, inflicting havoc across social, political and economic boundaries. We are seeing similar consequences playing out now along the Oregon/ California Klamath Project boundaries; isn’t the first, and it won’t be the last.
Buckminster Fuller, another 20th-century prophet said that spaceship Earth did not come equipped with an instruction book to guide us. Only Mother Nature has a playbook, and as the angry and aggressive combatants along the Oregon-California border will attest, she is unforgiving.
The most insightful American prophet of all, Pogo, had it right from the get go.
“We have met the enemy, and he is us.”
Darn right! Why haven’t we listened?
So now, what shall we do to fix that which we unfixed to begin with? We better figure this out quickly, ‘cause “the times they are a-changin’,” and Mother Nature is holding back neither time nor tide.
“Well, all I know is what I read in the newspapers.” – Will Rogers.
David M. Taub was Mayor of Beaufort from 1990 through 1999 and served as a Beaufort County Magistrate from 2010 to 2015. You can reach him at firstname.lastname@example.org.