Albuquerque is burning….Again
Leaving a downtown theater after a showing of Men in Black Three the smoke outside was so heavy that I told Nancy to go get the car while I hid inside the glass enclosure of an air-conditioned restaurant. Smoke from 80,000 burning acres in the Gila Wilderness, 150 miles to the south is blanketing the city. With today’s winds gusting to 40 mph, or “normal for this time of year”, the fire is zero contained. Of course, endless draught, and forty mile an hour winds are not normal if you bother to think about it.
Trouble is here in the West we don’t like to think about it. In fact people here don’t like to think period. At the local Post Office, when I suggested that the employees might consider voting Democratic, because “The Republicans want to close the post office and fire you”, I was lucky to exit without having a postal scale hurled at me. The next day when I said to another postal worker that “the fires were the result of climate change” she came back with the sarcasm, “I thought El Queda caused them”. And Lester, the ditch rider, the man who controls the federal allocation of irrigation water, told me he knew global warming was “fake” because his aunt, “who is over sixty”, told him so.
Well, I am over sixty too, and New Mexico is not what it was forty years ago. The winds did blow in the Spring, but for weeks, not months. I recall only a single large fire between 1970 and 1980, I do not remember ever being unable to see Sandia Mountain because of smoke, nor do I recall ever being told to “stay indoors”, “keep pets inside” or having to pick the ashes out of the dog bowels and cattle tanks. All those things are now common in the summer here.
There is also less water in all the rivers and streams. The San Juan, one of the great trout fisheries of North America has less water in it. Once a braided river, the side streams of the San Juan no longer carry enough water to hold trout. Forty years ago I pulled a five pound cutthroat out of a side channel of the San Juan after putting a live leopard frog on the hook of my fly (that’s illegal), but now the side channels have so little water in them that they hold no trout, this caused by our own actions, which are legal.
And where are our leaders? Where is one that will say, “We cannot breath because of the smoke. The forests are always dry. We can’t stop the fires because the wind is always blowing. The weather has changed, and you and I have caused that. We are responsible and we bare the burden of containing this disaster. We owe it to our self respect and to our children and children’s children.”