six word story no. 151

Newscasters warned of dangerous drought-killing rains.

sonomaweather

Brought to you with heavy rubber boots and bright yellow slickers by Journaling as Sacred Practice: An Act of Extreme Bravery. Available now on Amazon.

this drought is no joke

gold fame

::REVIEW::

For anyone who has watched firestorms devour entire towns; who has watched farmland wither and die for want of water, who has wondered if our current lack of water is not just temporary, but indeed the Mother of All Droughts, Claire Vaye Watkins’ debut novel, Gold Fame Citrus is familiar territory.

In a hazy future, LA-born Luz lives in  “Laurelless Canyon” with her boyfriend Ray. They are squatters in a once-famous starlet’s once-elegant house where Luz spends her days dressing up in discarded ball gowns. Ray makes lists, scavenges for  gasoline, food, anything worth trading for something else.

“Your people came here looking for something better,” Ray tells Luz. “Gold, fame, citrus. Mirage. They were feckless, yeah? Schemers. That’s why no one wants them now. Mojavs.”

In Vaye Watkin’s future, California is a wasteland. The rivers are dry and the underground aquifers are dust. The sun blazes and when it does rain the air is so hot the water evaporates before it reaches the ground. The state is dry as death and anyone with any money at all has long since abandoned it.

Vaye Watkins’ prose is powerful, and her narrative true. The story is as real as it is terrifying, because in a place where water has become mythic, geography is all that’s left.

“They ate crackers and ration cola and told stories about the mountains, the valley, the canyon and the beach. The whole debris scene. Because they’d vowed to never talk about the gone water, they spoke instead of earth that moved like water.”

One night, Luz and Ray go down to the bonfires, a place where the climate refugees gather to drink, dance, forget. Down among the drifters and the druggies, the drinkers and the plain dangerous, Luz finds a strange toddler who whispers in her ear that her name is Ig, and she says “Don’t tell anyone. Don’t tell, okay?” The child appears to belong to a clutch of grifters, or to no one at all. Driven by instinct she doesn’t understand, Luz picks up the child and tells Ray they’re taking her home.

Luz and her family escape Los Angeles, heading east, seeking a place more hospitable, somewhere safer, somewhere with water. Their car breaks down in the midst of a borderless sand dune so vast it spreads and grows with all the desiccated bits of earth and stone and mountain that was once the Central Valley.

They join a band of misfits led by an enigmatic leader who is either a visionary or a madman, or both. The collective lives on the edges of the dune, surviving somehow as an outpost of civilization, moving their temporary desert city as the sand shifts and threatens to swallow them alive.

Gold Fame Citrus is a complex story of connection and belonging, of outcasts and survivors, of climate change to the extreme, and about the very small scrap of nature that humanity manages to cling to, in the most adverse conditions. Part science-fiction, part cautionary parable, it is a book worth reading if ecology means anything at all in the future of the West.

Cynthia Gregory is an award-winning author who lives and writes in the Bay Area with her rescue pup, Winston The Wonder Dog. Her new book, An Inspired Journal: the Art & Soul of Creative Nonfiction, on Green Tara Press, will be available in 2016.

agua, por favor

What if water grew scarce? What if polar icecaps melted, glaciers shrank, crops failed, the oceans rose, and water itself became a source of power? What would the world look like then? We have a story for you. You can read all about it here.

water

fire and ice

No, really. Climate change is showing up in amazing ways. Hawaii gets slammed with not one but two hurricanes. Permafrost is melting, glaciers are vanishing, craters are appearing across the formerly frozen tundra. If weird science doesn’t frighten you, and evolution is your friend, you will want to read what Scientific American has to say about all this crazy business. 

Get ready for an adventure, people!

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don’t reuse that water bottle

goodbyeDear Water Bottle, We’ve had a beautiful romance, but I’m breaking up with you. It’s simple, really: I’ve learned that you’re a slow poison, and that just doesn’t work for me. In my quest to compost and recycle more I have been studying the various plastics in my life, which until now, I’ve considered a convenience. Well, an evil convenience, but still. Oh Plastic, you have made my life easier, but the fact remains that when the landfills are overloaded and when the Pacific Island of Trash manages finally to put us in a collective gasping choke-hold, I will have no one to blame but myself.

Here are five everyday plastics and why I need to rethink them:

#1 : The most commonly used plastic and can be found in microwavable food trays, water and juice bottles. This plastic absorbs bacteria and should not be reused.

#2: A stiff plastic used in toys, plastic lumber, picnic tables, detergent, household cleaner and shampoo bottles. This plastic is nearly neutral and can be recycled to make detergent bottles, floor tiles, pens.

#3: PVC is a soft, flexible plastic used to make teething rings, toys, cooking oil bottles clear food packaging, mouthwash bottles. Sometimes called “the poison plastic,” it contains phalates that interfere with hormonal development.

#6:  Polystyrene is used to make disposable cups and plates, egg cartons, take-out containers. This material leaches  styrene, a carcinogen, into food (especially when microwaved) and should be avoided.

#7:  Polycarbonates are used to make baby bottles, sippy cups, three and five gallon water jugs. Contains bisphenol (BPA), which migrate especially if heated, and has been linked to heart disease. BPA, is a xenoestrogen, a known ednocrine disruptor.

So you see Water Bottle, it’s over. You and your extended family are simply toxic and I’m done with you.  Now that I know, I will recycle your ilk whenever possible and avoid the worst of you when I can.

Ciao, baby.

kiss a frog

Earth Day (2)Have you kissed a frog lately and thanked it? If not, this is your chance because May is National Wetlands Month.

“Wait…what?”you say. “What the heck is National Wetlands Month?”

Funny you should ask. You see, the federal government recognizes the beauty, the raw power, and the undeniable necessity of wetlands, not because of the commercial development value, but because of their intrinsic and strategic value in maintaining a healthy ecosystem.

Wetlands have three distinct parameters that earn them the title. First, they are water-saturated and can always be wet, like swamps, marshes, bogs and coastal wetlands, or seasonally wet, resulting from winter snow melt, and occurring in forested or wooded or open areas that collect standing water, and sometimes dry like ephemeral pools or streams which reemerge after a rain event and dry out with the sun until the next rain event. Second, their soils are hydric meaning that at least for some part of the year the soils will be immersed in water. Thirdly, they have more than less hydrophytic vegetation which simply means that this type of plant thrives in a water environment. Unless it’s an obvious wetland like a marsh or bog or coastal plain, a bit of scientific investigation is necessary to make a wetlands determination as it’s not always apparent to the naked eye. Permits are required to build in wetlands as well as avoidance and minimization of the planned disturbance and mitigation for whatever amount of wetlands are converted to uplands. It’s a bit of a complicated process, but with the federal government’s “no net loss”of wetlands policy, a crucial one.

Why, gosh darn it, are these mosquito-infested swamps so important? Well, wetlands act like a sponge. They control flooding, filter pollutants, and buffer storm surges like nobody’s business. The Mississippi Delta which is practically one huge wetland has over 40% of the wetlands in the lower 48 states and has lost over 1,900 square miles since the 1930’s. About two football fields worth of wetlands are lost every hour. It used to be that 50 miles of wetlands separated New Orleans from the next hurricane, but no more. Now storm surges and big winds have their way with her.

Philadelphia, was also a big wetland when the colonists first settled, but they ditched and drained their way to what is now known as Center City Philadelphia. The problem is not necessarily the conversion of wetlands. Many port towns around the coasts of our country were once inundated with wetlands and are now bustling metropolises rather than said mosquito-filled swamps, but overdevelopment, such as in the Florida Keyes and surrounding environs, has resulted in life out of balance. As coastal cities continue to build out, or develop their barrier islands beyond holding capacity, the 100-year storm which now seems to happen every five or ten years will continue to pound what used to be only shoreline, but is now littered with million dollar homes.

How many wetlands do we need to control flooding, keep pollutants out of our rivers and streams, and help blunt the surge of rising winds and tides? It’s a fact specific, case-by-case analysis, but as climate change forces sea levels to rise, I’d hazard a guess that we’re reaching critical mass in some of the more densely populated coastal areas, for example, the Jersey Shore. Maybe a few more acres of wetlands wouldn’t have stopped Hurricane Sandy, but they would have cut down way down on the property damage. As the sea levels rise, wetlands have become more important than ever. Insurance companies are keenly aware of this —pun intended —sea change, and have started charging more for policies on climate-threatened properties. Some are even suing municipalities to pay for the cost of global warming such as Farmers Insurance Co. did with some Chicago-area governments in a landmark class action suit filed on May 2, 2014 (Illinois Farmers Insurance Co. v. The Metropolitan Water Reclamation District of Greater Chicago District, et al., Case No. 14CH06608, in the Circuit Court of Cook County, Illinois).

By the way, about the frog: they are extremely important to the balance of the ecosystem since they eat bugs, filter our drinking water (tadpoles), and are themselves a source of food for other species, as well as the source of many medical advances for humans. Plus they make the most rockin’music! Unfortunately, they’ve been on the decline for the last 50 years with fewer numbers and more mutations because of a variety of things, but degrading water quality, habitat loss and overuse of pesticides are a few of the major ones. Frogs are to the ecosystem like the canary is to the coal mine. Their death is the first indication that there’s a problem and where frogs go, humans will follow.

We can’t all have beach front property, not at great public and personal cost, but we can all enjoy the beach. What is it the Buddha said? Everything in moderation? So for National Wetlands Month, go ahead and build that dream vacation home, but build it on a upland so tomorrow our kids will still have a frog or two left to kiss.