Friday, March 20, 2015
As a way of continuing to develop and practice my self-care skills I felt the need to write about something that causes me sadness.
If you follow world events with any degree of regularity you probably have heard about the ongoing drought in California. It’s been going on for years now. I still have a number of good friends in California. I moved there at the tender age of twenty-five. I can still vividly remember the drive I made across the country from Chicago to San Francisco in May, 1999.
California holds an iconic place in the American imagination. I didn't really have a good understanding of why this was so until I lived there. Contained within the borders of California are an incredible diversity of landscapes. The North Coast features amazing redwood trees. The Central Valley stands between two mountain ranges and is quite flat. Through man made irrigation the Central Valley is one of the most productive agricultural areas in the world. The topography adjacent to the California coast is a product on the fault lines that run up and down the state. California is, in a sense, an amusement park for the senses. It's something of a source of nirvana for outdoor enthusiasts. I think you could live your entire life in California and not easily exhaust the possibilities for travel and exploration.
And yet it appears that the explosive growth of California was made possible by a convergence of factors that may not be present again any time soon. Tree ring data from the Western United States bears out the reality that mega-droughts have impacted this region in the past. Yes, imagine droughts that endure not just years but decades. If California truly has one year of water left as noted in this article then what will happen if the rains fail to really come next wet season near the end of 2015?
When I attended graduate school in Monterey, California one of the common buzzwords in the world of environmental policy was sustainability. It appears the demands the California economy places on its natural capital are not sustainable. In other words they are not realistic.
I am saddened by what I see unfolding in California in part because it touches my heart as an artist. When I think of California I think of extraordinary colors. The state is full of so many colors of plants, landscapes, cultures and people. Some of the most breathtaking photographs I have ever taken I took while living in California. Even if I was offered a great job in California I would hesitate to go back there. Why? Because I don't want to bear witness to such a magical place withering away. If the drought continues people may begin leaving the state in growing numbers in search of better opportunities elsewhere.
So what does this have to do with trauma? Quite simply I think we humans are beginning to reap what we are sowing. We cannot expect to fundamentally change the chemistry of the atmosphere and not expect the world to change as a result of our actions. We are, in a sense, causing damage (you could call it trauma even if some might think you are being a bit hyperbolic) to the atmosphere by disrupting the state of atmospheric equilibrium that predates the Industrial Revolution.
When will we stop doing this? Perhaps once we have done a certain amount of damage. It’s my impression from what I witness of human behavior that many people will not make fundamental changes in their own behavior until they reach a point of crisis. And sometimes even crisis isn’t apparently enough to inspire needed change. Some people die prematurely because they simply won’t change their unhealthy ways of living. And I think a resistance to change also tends to characterize the behavior of groups of people as well.
I want to be a part of a world that is sustainable and meets the needs of all people. Can we create such a world? I believe it is possible.