Fact or Fiction?

This week’s reading, The Tamarisk Hunter by Paulo Bacigalupi, was an interesting change of pace the more academic readings we’ve mostly been exploring. It offered a descriptive, artistic perspective into what a post-global warming world might look like, in many ways more real than what any scholarly article could offer. As Bill McKibben says in his introduction to the collection of stories, “With climate change we face the biggest single thing human beings have ever done, so big as to be almost invisible… Since global warming seems, almost by definition, hard to imagine… it gets short shrift.” Artists, he says, by giving us a vivid image of what we find difficult to imagine, help take the reality of climate change from abstract to real. Furthermore, by painting hopeful pictures, they give us the courage to face what we might otherwise hide from. This is the first step towards change. 

The Tamarisk Hunter is about a man who destroys tamarisk trees (which suck water out of the Colorado River) for a small daily wage and a water bounty. In the time it is set, California has bought out the water rights for the Colorado River, leaving the rest of the country in a severe drought. At the end of the story, the water bounty program is cut by the government and he is forced to move north in search of a richer watershed.

This story is striking because it is not an unrealistic prediction of the future. I think this kind of writing is important because it opens our eyes to a different kind of reality than science can offer, and hopefully will help snap us out of our denial and into action. If we don’t respond to facts, we just might respond to fiction.

Hunting for Truth

Owens River from tableland-750px.jpg
Owens River via Wikipedia

While reading The Tamarisk Hunter, I found it crazy how digestible and tangible this reality felt; fiction has a way of doing that. While the story depicts a future in which California has purchased significant water rights for the Colorado River, causing many upstream inhabitants to suffer, this story is but a hypothetical depiction of a reality that has already unfolded in front of our eyes.

The Owen’s Valley and the Mono drainage basin have already been subjected to these exact circumstances, so much so that the Mono Lake water level dropped so low that the Mono County Water Committee sued LAPD over misuse of the water from the drainage. Many inhabitants of the Owen’s valley have dry wells, and native American populations in particular struggle to acquire sufficient water because of the comfort necessities of the rich in LA. While this story depicts national struggles across state borders, we don’t need to look that far to see the present truth in this.

Being as anthropocentric as we are, we neglect to see the effects of the misuse of water rights that are already effecting ecosystems relatively uninhabited by humans, such as LA’s extraction of water from underneath the Mojave desert, an aquifer which is nearly the only water supply to many plants which sustain desert life.

For a couple years, LA’s misuse of water rights has been a fascination of mine which I hope to soon start combatting from a political side by joining the Mono County Water Committee. I have spent the last few years preparing to move to Bishop, CA to work to return sovereign water rights to its’ locals. This story is not fully a false narrative, it is a fictional depiction of present truth.