California’s drought: how long until this is the new standard?

Made by Richard Tinker. Found

The drought marches on.

Though I’m hardly an old sourdough, I have been through resource crises. In third grade we often had to switch to writing or going on early recess because the rolling blackouts didn’t allow fancy-pants pedagogy. Yet the energy crisis was relatively short-lived. This drought period- far from the first for older Californians- is serious and has no end in sight. People are running out of tap water. All of California is growing taller because of the lack of heavy water to press it down.

One cannot overstate the importance of water. Not only do humans need to drink it, it comprises a majority of our body mass. Down to the cellular level, water-based chemistry is all there is. Those extremophile bacteria that can resist heat, cold, radiation, can’t live in an environment with no water. An old trope is that cockroaches will be the only ones left after a nuclear war. Cockroaches couldn’t survive a waterless Earth.

Collectively, we must deal with resource anxiety. Many resources globally may be running out, or becoming scarce and expensive. With California, my anxiety is fundamental: how many more droughts do we have before it’s just the new state of climate? Put simply, is drought the current reality, or is also transitioning into the reality in my state.

When climate change worsens, every event connects to the split between temporary and a new standard. Temporary droughts, hurricane seasons, heat waves etc. give people some chance to make right. Even if they don’t cut carbon emissions, you can build a new infrastructure to mitigate future disasters. Yet at some point, time runs out. California should have built a larger water storage system. It should have set up fines for excessive water use. It should have yelled at Homeowners’ Associations until they allowed drought-resistant landscaping. It should have invested in more reclamation and grey-water usage. But infrastructure built in reaction to something is never as good as infrastructure built in expectation of something.

This drought has knocked an existential fear into many citizens and officials alike. But fear must be made into policy; future action may be more difficult and expensive. We are procrastinating on a project, and the project is the future of the planet.

One grain at a time.

Malinge Canyon, Jasper, Alberta. Picture by Andrew Mackay
Malinge Canyon, Jasper, Alberta.
Picture by Andrew Mackay

Tall cliffs were once asleep
in monotony, before their
position was carved by
newly-melted snow
so they could survey
surging chaos
pearly blue flows by
on a whirlwind tour
of all that high places
have to offer.

Hammered silver

Taken by Andrew Mackay, March 31st, 2014
Taken by Andrew Mackay, March 31st, 2014

Hammered silver flows
over years like antique glass
that settles at the pane’s bottom

amidst fatigued reeds
their color stripped by
an always-somber sky
a gawky heron digs
mining muck
for hidden treasure

the breeze is gone
nowhere to be found
and in the overhelming
a single picture will suffice

The water swan-dives

Multnomah Falls, Oregon. Photo by Andrew Mackay
Multnomah Falls, Oregon. Photo by Andrew Mackay

Forever falling
wrathful clouds, between
the once-dry masses and the
stark void of night
where even the most neighborly star
lies far beyond our mortal reach

Water, its pure essence
distilled by the cocoon wafting
in the sky, arrives in all its glory
and terror
to nourish the dying fields
where prayers had long gone unaswered
or to foster raging rivers
that seek to destroy all that dared
block its path to a waiting ocean

Over basalt cliffs the water
now stained with earthly sin
swan-dives, on its way to
end one cycle and wait for another.