Sunday, July 1, 2012

Apocalypse New Mexico

After the horrible fires last year, this year's fires in Colorado and New Mexico -- which have so far burned far more square miles -- seem almost routine. Not for those who are nearby them, of course, but in the broader scheme of things.

Now Ari LeVaux writes from Placitas for Alternet about the continuing drought and the consequences for New Mexico farmers and everyone else.

The problem of water in New Mexico is constant. Even in "wet" years, there isn't much, and in dry periods, there is far too little for comfort, sometimes not enough for survival. The Anasazi society supposedly collapsed due to a decades-long drought. What really happened, though, is still something of a mystery to the scholars and archaeologists. There is no lack of Anasazi descendants. Droughts there have been, and much worse besides, but the People abide. Somehow.

How much of the current drought is a unique phenomenon is hard to say. I can testify that the unrelenting HEAT is unusual, for I have never experienced so many days of consistently high temperatures since coming to New Mexico for the first time over 30 years ago. It's been a good deal hotter here than in the notorious oven that is California's Central Valley and for a longer period, too. The discomfort is mitigated somewhat by the fact that it's (usually) a drier heat here, but it's coming on Monsoon time, and afternoon showers are incipient if not yet regular. The humidity will rise.

The farms in the area where I am are irrigated by ground water, so they seem to be doing OK, but the grazing land is all dried up, so there are few or no cattle and other livestock on the range. The idea that people are trying to maintain inappropriate landscaping -- lawns and such -- is largely false. There are exceptions, of course, but most people long ago adapted to the desert conditions and generally try to maintain xeriscapes or just leave things to Nature. When there's water, things are green. When there's no water, things dry up.

The basic challenge is to resist the urge to panic which can be difficult as drought conditions intensify. Are we going to have water? Where will it come from? What if there are no rains this summer? What if the aquifer is pumped dry?

And is this drought the permanent drought predicted by climate change experts?

We don't know.


But it's been this bad, or maybe worse, before -- at least according to the memories of the Peoples who have so long endured...

The Apocalypse may be here, but if it is, it's not for the first time; it's here again.

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