Wednesday, April 22, 2015


The Drought: Type 2 Fun

Western Basin and Range Province,
The ongoing western U.S. drought (Water Year (WY) 2012-present) presents a fine example of how variable the climate in this region of the world can be when compared with the more bountiful of cold seasons. Prolonged dry periods are not abnormal on geologic timescales and may be the rule rather than the exception, contrary to what we would prefer. Of course, present-day temperature anomalies worsen the effects as increases in temperature results in greater atmospheric water demand and less precipitation falling as snow. The result is less runoff, which in a society that dramatically undervalues the true value of water and overvalues activities that favor water waste creates myriad problems. Such problems span the gamut of socioeconomic and ecologic spectra and will require both creativity and sacrifice to solve.

Since the end of WY2011, which ATLiens four light years away are now observing ("mmmmmm Eagle's Nest izzzz looking gooooooood"), we have been shown that our "Western Heritage" is in jeopardy. Society has been bumping up against the speed bump guarding an irreversible state change of California (pun intended) and may roll over into the abyss should the drought persist. What's four years when 100-200 years are possible? Should the next couple of years be 'normal' (wouldn't that be nice) or even 'above-normal' (WHAT?! 118%! No way!) the current level of freakout might be climatically-mitigated and we can write about how rad it was to ski Tom and climb 15 stars worth of evening 5.11 at the Gorge in the same day. Pow to corn to pump to Las Palmas, oh yea! Or, the drought will continue in year 10 and maybe then your average Californian could explain to you where their water actually originated. Time will tell.

A golden opportunity awaits the Golden and Silver States to rapidly reorganize and shore up the fortifications of climate resiliency that are presently weakly, if at all, existent. Nearly infinite obstacles are in the way of such change, remnants of the Manifest Destiny still woven thickly through our softshells and Prana shorts. How to surmount such challenges I cannot know. I have removed over 2000sq ft of turfgrass on my property, reducing the water usage by 50%, all the while planting copious pollinator-friendly, climatically-adapted plants. Any water I free up in the system will be quickly snapped up by someone else for a use they deem worthwhile. On goes the cycle.

I've waxed and waned, but let me return to my thesis statement. Climate in the Pacific Southwest has and always will be highly variable. For many of us, previously extended dry periods are at best faint memories. We have now gotten a taste of what is possible and how to adapt our recreational activities and perceptions accordingly. Most likely, a decent or even great shred year is on the horizon within the next few years, but this is not a guarantee by any means. Life is all about gaining perspective. Seeing how one's perspective shifts in light of new evidence is a fantastic learning experience. To be sure, not all learning experiences are fun while they happen. But when you can reflect back with a higher level of understanding and say, "Well, that really wasn't SO bad..." the experience is usually recorded as a positive one. This process is often qualified as "Type 2 Fun." When you know an activity is going to be Type 2 Fun heading into it (or realize it before it ends), you might gain the psychological momentum to keep pushing forward despite the challenges. I see the drought situation in a similar light. Make the best of it, learn from it, and be stoked to capitalize on new opportunities. Once seasonal Type 1 Fun returns, 2011-XXXX will be just a long string of bike rides, hand cracks, slushy jibs, bolts, and core shots.


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