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Re: SC40

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April 03, 2007 11:30PM
http://www.thenation.com/doc/20070416/davis_2

Denial in the Desert

......Although no one knows exactly why the bears, big cats and legendary vampires are moving northward, one plausible hypothesis is that they are adjusting their ranges and populations to a new reign of drought in northern Mexico and the US Southwest.

The human case is clear-cut: Abandoned ranchitos and near-ghost towns throughout Coahuila, Chihuahua and Sonora testify to the relentless succession of dry years--beginning in the 1980s but assuming truly catastrophic intensity in the late 1990s--that has pushed hundreds of thousands of poor rural people toward the sweatshops of Ciudad Juárez and the barrios of Los Angeles......

....... La Niña events, Seager added, will continue to influence rainfall in the Borderlands, but building from a more arid foundation, they could produce the West's worst nightmares: droughts on the scale of the medieval catastrophes that contributed to the notorious collapse of the complex Anasazi societies at Chaco Canyon and Mesa Verde during the twelfth century. (To make the bad news from the super-computers even worse, enhanced aridity is also forecast for much of the Mediterranean and the Near East, where epic drought is a well-known historical synonym for war, population displacement and ethnocide.)

Yet mere scientific pronouncement, even to the thunder of nineteen unanimous climate models, is unlikely to cause much of a flutter in golf-course suburbs of Phoenix, where luxury lifestyles consume 400 gallons of water per capita each day. Nor will it stop the bulldozers shaping monstrous strip suburbs of Las Vegas (a projected 160,000 new homes) along US 93 all the way to Kingman, Arizona........

....... Despite a lot of recent sloganeering about "smart growth" and intelligent water use, desert developers are still stamping out burbs in the same "dumb," environmentally inefficient mold that has blighted Southern California for generations. The trump card of the free-enterprise Southwest, moreover, is that the majority of the water stored within the Colorado River and Rio Grande systems is still dedicated to irrigated agriculture [which could be diverted to residential use].......

........More futuristically, there is also the "Saudi" option. Steve Erie, a University of California, San Diego, professor who has written extensively about water politics in Southern California, told me that desert developers in the Southwest and Baja California are confident that they can keep the population boom well-watered through the conversion of seawater.......

........ As water becomes more expensive, the burden of adjustment to the new climatic and hydrological regime will fall on subaltern groups like farmworkers (jobs threatened by water transfers), the urban poor (who could easily see water charges soar by $100 to $200 per month), hardscrabble ranchers (including many Native Americans) and, especially, the imperiled rural populations of Northern Mexico.

Indeed, the ending of the age of cheap water in the Southwest--especially as it may coincide with the end of cheap energy--will accentuate the region's already high levels of class and racial inequality as well as drive more emigrants to gamble with death in dangerous crossings of the border deserts. (It takes little imagination, moreover, to guess the Minutemen's future slogan: "They are coming to steal our water!"winking smiley

Conservative politics in Arizona and Texas will become even more envenomed and ethnically charged, if that is possible. The Southwest is already sown everywhere with violent nativism and what can only be described as proto-fascism: In the droughts to come, they may be the only seeds to germinate.

As Jared Diamond points out in his recent bestseller Collapse, the ancient Anasazi did not succumb simply to drought but rather to the impact of unexpected aridity upon an over-exploited landscape inhabited by people little prepared to make sacrifices in their "expensive lifestyle." In the last instance, they preferred to eat one another.............So, do the Anasazi remind you of anybody?
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Wizard 964April 03, 2007 10:51PM

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