The Sky is Blue, the Sun is Yellow: So What?
life forms sweat it out in the southwest sunshine
One wonders if there isn't a room reserved somewhere in the great beyond in which disaster victims meet and exchange their heartbreaking stories. They would certainly have lots to say. Broadcasters sometimes report their plights. But they work within safe, insulated spaces alongside security and staff. And yet, the TV World is not insensitive. Disasters, experienced only second-hand, do in fact affect people in various, mostly psychological ways. Oklahoma's tornadoes, like Hurricane Katrina, won nationwide sympathy. They simply happened, unlike man-made disasters. Disasters are not so nice up close and personal. Religions think they indicate the second coming. Small consolation. Did the sky have something against Oklahoma? Doubtful. But what about deserts? What about the Southwest? Its year-after-year drought, which is a disaster, too, unfolding over a lengthy period of time, often feels deliberate. What happened here to bring upon this natural wonderland such an awful curse? Moreover, what kind of question is this?
The headlines a while back more or less told the story. The Santa Fe National Forest and Pecos Wilderness were burning. So was the Cibola National Forest. The names are not important. Nor the acreage. The locations are not common knowledge either. It is just that nobody was surprised. It does not rain in these parts. Summer is almost here again. The place is burning hot. The atmosphere is dry enough to work a mere spark into a full-fledged fire. It is a great thing that the Surgeon General persuaded so many to stop smoking. But what about smoke that turns the sky an eerie shade of gray? There are no clouds up there, just smoke. Even without fires, the air quality is suspect. Usually it is perfectly still, which is to say, stale. What do New Mexicans actually breathe?
I came to Albuquerque because it was warm. But warmth is only a single factor in a tangled mess. People prefer Phoenix in the winter, but there are virtually no winters in either place. The weather is desirable anytime after November and before May. In Oklahoma, brutal blasts of wind took from many residents their entire material possessions. As fires raged a while back, the same horrible scenario was a distinct possibility. These fires were eventually contained. Things were done to stop them. Crazy things, too. The Albuquerque Journal reported on the evacuation of trout from the Rio Grande. It was not even safe in the water for ten inch fish.
This year, NM still goes without rain. Elsewhere, rain is a nuisance. It wrecks car washes and ruins plans made long in advance. But this endless streak of waterless weather is truly unnatural. Everyone feels it as such. The sunshine becomes a curse rather than a blessing. The warmth is only a prelude to a new disaster, in whatever shape and form it will take. Often the wind blows and thunder roars. All for naught. Nary a drop falls. People keep the faith, but the devil takes all.
It has been a long time since I initially started to write about the drought. I have been in the Southwest nearly five years. I have all but forgotten about rain, snow, or any other form of precipitation. Every day the sun begins strong, never weakens, and ends, often with a brilliant sunset. All this sunshine -- but for what? The whole place resembles an open tomb. There is so much dirt. Could it be transported? Are there not farm-friendly places that could use this substance. Not infrequently, the wind picks up and blows dirt all over. These windstorms are not welcome relief. Windshield wipers are needed to drive in them. Water is still a mystery to me. The Rio Grande is basically anemic where I am. Talk of a huge aquifer underneath has died down. But the air, too, is puzzling. What is in it? Sun-baked particles, I imagine, nondescript, and rarely commented on.
I hardly know what I am getting at. A rule of thumb in writing is to write about what one knows. I know this stuff. It is a downer in reality and much the same in print. My only gripe is that there is too much deference to nature and not enough man-made intervention. I am not a meteorologist or mad scientist, but I feel positive that things can be done. In 550 BC or so, Cyrus the Great diverted the Euphrates River (Isaiah 44, 45), according to an interpretation, in order to conquer Babylon. If someone could manipulate nature to an advantage more than 2500 years ago, why cannot something along the same order be done today? After all, in some geographic regions, water is plentiful. Here water is so scarce that people are at each others' throats in and out of courtrooms. Why not engineer a solution based on what water there is to supply arid lands in dire need? If nothing is done to alleviate the situation, what further disasters await?
The Politics of Water
It Can Be Done
Rivers can be reversed. What else? Can they change, if skillfully engineered, salt water into fresh? Can artificial rivers be created?