Living in hell or notes on climate change
"There are only two seasons here," said someone I recently met in Tucson, "heaven and hell." I have experienced both. Winter is comfortable for any outdoor activity and the sun is always out. It looks and feels like a paradise. Summer, on the other hand, is an invitation to death. Summers make you question your decision to live here and the longevity of human civilization.
Last week while taking a Lyft ride, my driver said: "I'm getting the hell out of here. I'm moving to Fargo, North Dakota." I can't deny I had similar thoughts, but we connected more over the reasons why we wanted to get the hell out of here - uncontrollable population growth, unsustainable new construction, water scarcity, increasing heat. Arizona behaves like a typical money-hungry capitalist fixated on one thing only - economic growth. While the state is experiencing severe water scarcity and everything that comes with it, it also allows foreign companies to buy land to grow alfalfa for export. Alfalfa. One of the thirstiest crops on the planet. This is happening while Arizona farmers are forced to not cultivate their own land due to lack of water. The state is compensating them for it, but for some farming is their whole way of life and not doing it sounds like a death sentence. Many native tribes are choosing to do the same, but with an intention to put the unused water back into reservoirs to replenish water bodies and aquifers.
While it is infuriating that the Saudis are using our precious water resources to grow alfalfa to feed the horses of rich sheiks, Arizona farmers are doing something similar. Arizona farmers have been growing thirsty crops for decades. Corn and cotton. Corn and cotton. Let it sink it. In order to produce a decent crop in desert conditions, the fields are flooded. Flood irrigation is the least efficient method of irrigation, but in desert conditions it is the only irrigation method that works. In the desert, everything needs more water, including humans.
It is 82 degrees in my house, not because I like it but because my AC unit can't fight against 110 degrees outside. All blinds are closed, and I don't even turn on a lamp by my desk because it emits heat. I don't use the oven. I don't go outside. Even driving 5 minutes away to a grocery store requires planning - water, a hat, long sleeves, sunscreen, a wet scarf around my neck. What drives me insane is that I drive more in the summer. Instead of helping to reduce carbon to slow down global warming, global warming makes you emit more carbon. Without carbon the desert would be uninhabitable.
In one day, I had a conversation with a plumber who preps for the worse (I don't make fun of those people anymore) and a retired couple who are hopeful that the federal government won't abandon us and will bring water through a network of extensive pipelines or through desalination projects. All of these projects require massive amounts of water and carbon. Are we shooting ourselves in the foot? Is there a sustainable way out of this? Well, at least people are talking. One friend is buying a water filtration system in case she has to use creek water from her backyard. Another friend is putting stucco on her house to save it in an event of wild fires. If you want to learn about how to survive into the future, come to Arizona!
Living in the Southwest makes you more climate mature. I don't just talk about climate change anymore. I live in it. I am planning for it. I don't want to feel like I'm dying when I step outside from May to September or that one bad monsoon season can bring us to the brink of extinction. But where would we go? It seems like every place on Earth is impacted in one way or another. Soon, there'll be no places to hide from our own destruction. I bet my arm we will still be concerned with economic growth as we watch the last stand of trees being burned.