Que Sera Sera

“The Tamarisk Hunter” is a story about a post-apocalyptic world by Paolo Bacigalupi in which global warming has continued to the point that water has become scarce and is sequestered by the wealthy as the poor are weeded out of the population. Lolo, a water-reclaimer of sorts, siphons water from California’s “straw,” a water conservation and containment contraption for wealthy citizens to live well in the world. The story is not necessarily drastic or flashy, and does not have an angery or passionate tone, as would many other works that deal in climate change, instead, it is slow, dull, and long-winded in description, with a tone of helplessness. Even in trying to survive in this time it becomes clear that Lolo will not last for long, and neither will many others. It is hard to shake the feeling that something along these lines will take the human race from a glorious mountain of achievement to a pitfall of regression and forced steampunk misery.

Humanity is incredibly ingenious, however, it is quite slow to act on things that do not directly have to deal in the lives of its constituents. What doesn’t come through emotion and persuasion to the gain of some other, albeit an ideal of many or few, moves at a snails pace. Even worse is the fact that, although there are ideas of value and virtue in society, even with constant discourse there is little hope of building a strong compulsion to conquer climate change. However, without hope of any kind there would be no action towards resolution of the issue. If movement can be expectedly slow in this regard, then the choice to overcome climate change may be relatively abandoned as a motivator, other motivators must become valid. Governmental reform may have to take place. Governments tend to move an idea either quickly with harsh consequences in the case of monarchy and dictatorship, or slowly with slow progress. With climate change moving quickly would work, however there would most likely be horrific miss allocation of resources and action, where much of society would face monumental social challenges; moving slowly on the other hand is a stacked deck, it is much harder to get progress made, yet the more time that is spent progressing in some ways, the more drastic the situation can get, which could lead to a scenario similar to “The Tamarisk Hunter.” There will more than likely have to be a middle ground, a way that governments can use great power quickly, with some form of authority and healing from the mistakes that will inevitably follow, and move slowly towards goals that can be dragged to a conclusion without incident. Furthermore, with a global society, governments will most likely take different approaches, some will fall and others will succeed, it is a test in darwinian evolution on a social stage, and we’re currently in the second act.

The ENd for Hunters

Paolo Bacigalupi puts a fictional spin on reality within The Tamarisk Hunter. The story follows Lolo and his attempts to secure a source of water. In order to do so, he works everyday by pulling up tamarisk from the water beds. He does this so that he and his wife won’t be pushed off the land like her parents had been. I thought the story was interesting and was different from our previous readings. 

It focuses on the possible effects of a drought on the people and the land. You could say that this is a warning for what is to come if we continue to allow our current climate to change even more. As humans contribute to global warming, it makes a large impact upon the amount of precipitation there is. Drier soils means less water less water is evaporated when dry seasons come up. This has been very apparent in states like California. 

The setting of the story is along the colorado river. Every day Lolo rides his camel down to the riverbank in order to pick tamarisk, his reward is $2.88 a day plus water bounty. Lolo uses a secret trick in order to take advantage of the current system. When he rips up tamarisk, he also salvages some and replants them in other areas. This allows it to regrow so he can harvest it later on. One day the Utah National Guard shows up and it worries Lolo. He thinks that they’ve found out about his job plots but they are actually there to offer him compensation. It’s been decided that there is no longer a need for the water bounty because the government saw profit elsewhere. This concept illustrates the prioritization of monetary benefit over many other things. It’s been a key piece of climate change denier’s argument to say that fixing climate change would sacrifice our economy. 

Yeah, I knew what a tamarisk was

Firstly, I googled what a friggin’ tamarisk was. I was really confused at the first definition then I watch a youtube video explaining what a tamarisk was which then made me feel stupid for not getting it at the first definition I found for it. ANYWAY,

I thought “The Tamarisk Hunter” was a very unique story that brought up an interesting “possible future world” (does that even make sense?) where water is the valued commodity. This story really reminded me of the Lorax in that there was a huge deal with business and necessary resources and it was somewhat scary because it really reflected our values as a society. A couple weeks ago we talked about values with the “The Vanishing” and I see similar themes presenting themselves here.

We as a society are pretty much willing to place a value on pretty much anything. Or rather, the United States has at least. We are willing to jeopardize lives with arguments like, “If you can’t work or pay for it, then you shouldn’t get it,” or ,”just work like everyone else and pay for it”. Although I do think work is very important, I also hope that people that argue arguments like that read this short story. It’s real, and shows a very possible reality where “working” isn’t the solution. It shows a world where we have to resort to stealing, being afraid of being caught, and even hesitant to help others especially with our self-preservation instincts kicking in as we saw in the story.

I guess the biggest question I had after reading this short story was and want to pose to those that so strongly uphold a society where everything has a value is:

For what?

H20

Access to water is a huge issue even today’s world. We are lucky to have access to basically unlimited clean water. This isn’t often the case in other parts of the world. Water in many developing countries is tainted in one way or another and there are many projects in place to combat this inequality. Water is essential to life and everyone should have access to clean water no matter where they live. 

Looking at this issue from the perspective of climate change sheds a very different and foreboding light on this critical situation. What happens if we run out of water? Any of us can go into the bathroom and turn on the faucet for as long as we want. We often take this for granted and don’t consider what are lives would look like without this invaluable resource. With increasing temperatures and extreme weather a drought is a very real issue that could arise. This is especially true in places that are already dry and don’t receive a lot of rainfall.  Then think that humans are mostly made of water.

Whenever a resource is scarce the rich get it and the less rich don’t. This would be no different if water became a rarity. This is already obvious in the world today. Who has water and who doesn’t? This creates additional problems of class and divides people even more. The serious problem that climate change could cause to our would be even worse than you might initially think. This is the depressing but very real truth of climate change.

-Russell Fitch

Invasive Species and Change

A tamarisk is an invasive tree that consumes a large amount of water in a desert environment. In “The Tamarisk Hunter” a dry future is painted upon the American Southwest, where water is scarce as a result of an extended period of drought. To keep water feeding the Colorado River into California. Lolo, the tamarisk hunter, is most likely located in Arizona or Colorado, where it is generally dry, but snows in Winter to feed the Colorado River. Lolo gets paid by the government to pull out tamarisk in order to keel water flowing to the river for the river to meet the amount of water it needs when it enters California. Drought during the story is so bad that the towns surrounding Lolo’s location are ghost towns, without enough water for residents to shower on a weekly basis.

The impacts of climate change combined with invasive species are apparent in the story. Drought occurred as a result of the climate change, creating less sustained water for use in the Colorado River. Tamarisk’s large amount of water consumption takes away further amounts of water from the river, particularly when it is near smaller tributaries, causing environmental and economic destruction as a result.

Tamarisk reminds me of other invasive species crises in the United States, like the Asian carp in the Mississippi River system. Like tamarisk’s impact on the economy in “The Tamarisk Hunter,” the Asian carp could cause further economic impact if they reach the Great Lakes. The Great Lakes have a large fishing industry, and the introduction of the carp would result in large scale habitat destruction, as they breed quickly and out compete native species for food. On a more relevant note to us in Oregon, the Zebra mussel and Quagga muscles do much of the same as the Asian carp. Environmental change, partly due to invasive species is yet another example of the impact that humans have on the environment.