Changing climate in the Southwest has become an object of grim fascination for many citizens. Despite the political ostrichism on the part of conservative bureaucrats who’ve recently come to power, it’s clear to thoughtful people that increasing temperatures have become one of the greatest public health menaces our region has ever faced.
Rising heat and steady dehydration can amount to a death sentence especially for infants and older people, for people with infirmities, for poor children and their parents, and for most of the rest of us too, even the fittest, as it endangers the health of our habitat, upon which our lives depend.
Escalating heat is undeniable. But the cause of it is still the object of lunatic political disagreements. Trying to deal rationally with the madcap logic of the climate change-denying EPA and Department of Interior is like a sane person trying to play chess with the inmates of Bedlam. EcoTrumpism, or Trumptopia, is a corollary to Trumpcare, the temporarily defeated Republican plan to repeal the Affordable Care Act. Tumptopia denies humanity’s utter dependence on ecological well-being in much the same way Trumpcare denied medical assistance to the millions of people who need the most.
Having been “medically indigent” myself, without insurance for many years as a freelancer, Trumpcare reminds me of being ghastly sick and finding yourself in roomful of absent minded, white-coat narcissists probing for your wallet. Trumptopia, the gold leaf forests of the ugly rich, gives the same impression of cold hearted, careless exploitation. Trumpland ends up as an amusement park in which all liquid is soda pop. You shower in it, brush your teeth with it, cook with it, irrigate with it, while marveling with horror at the sticky desiccation all around you and within you.
If this wasn’t all so dangerous and hateful it would just be horrendously stupid. But we know none of this is a joke.
Trumpcare’s indifference to medical suffering might have turned out to be complicit in the deaths of millions of Americans. Trumptopia, a world in which the most dire ecological predicaments come from the corporate Midas touch that turns the collateral damage of environmental degradation into gold, is even worse. The administration’s refusal to recognize that not only is the planet heating up but that arid places in America are becoming hotter and drier will prove to be, I think, an accessory to compromising the Southwest’s drinking water supply to such a degree that its great cities shrink in the face of the public health calamity of desertification.
For water managers and elected leaders in the region’s urban centers and rural farm lands, changing and unpredictable weather patterns and rising heat are turning their familiar worlds into alien and dangerous places. Fast adaptation to murky uncertainties will be the key to a prosperous survival. But as we know, resolving disagreements in politics and science do not lend themselves to speed. And it’s easy to be gulled by optimistic cheerleaders of human ingenuity and the technological fix.
And then there’s the loopy weather itself. This season the watershed of the Colorado River has enjoyed one of its best snow packs in years, especially in the Wind River Mountains of Wyoming from which the Green River flows. The Green is the largest tributary of the Colorado joining it just below Moab, Utah. That snow, according to Tony Davis of the Arizona Daily Star, is being viewed by some as a reprieve from drastic conservation measures being negotiated among Arizona, California, and Nevada who were readying themselves to cope with serious shortages in delivery from Lake Mead. But even as relief was sweeping through the offices of water planners and bureaucrats, the beautiful but eerie heat wave we experienced over the first two weeks in March has caused quite a lot of that snow to melt prematurely all over the Mountain West. Still Lake Mead should be filled high enough to avoid shortages imposed on states by the federal government for a year or two more.
As the flow of the Colorado River continues to diminish, despite episodic reprieves, we all know it’s getting hotter in the Southwest and that the heat is adding to the drought that’s gone on with little let up for almost 18 years and will probably continue to do so. And even with the Secretary of Defense, former four-star Marine General James Mattis, publically disagreeing with the President and climate change deniers crawling all over the Department of Interior and the Environmental Protection Agency, it doesn’t look good for the heat to plateau and stay steady, much less abate, owing to an aggressive restrictions on releases of CO2. Greenhouse gases are no longer viewed as a public heath menace. They’ve been exonerated in Trumptopia. In fact, just as the sound of jet fighters is the sound of freedom to some, rising heat is the merry sound of a booming trade in air conditions to others.
General Mattis sees climate change, caused by pollution, to be a threat to national security. Tumptopians see climate change is a virus spewing out new and pernicious regulations to choke the initiative of the commercial class.
Both Trumpcare and Trumptopia operate on the same principles. Health is a given for the wealthy, a luxury for the middle class, and an extravagance for the poor or the vulnerable. The same goes for the environment. Personal health and environmental health operate on the same roulette wheel. If you have enough money to be lucky and beat the odds, the gods are with you. If you don’t, you’re a low-life freeloader trying to get the fortunate to provide you with protections that only they can afford and, they imply, have earned through superior effort and brain power. Living in a healthy environment is apparently not a right to them. They see endorsing protective regulation against pollution as an affront to the “freedom loving” corporate person that pursues noble profit at any cost.
A war on regulation is simply a war against public health.
By deregulating the health insurance industry, Trumpcare would have given price gougers and their accomplices free rein to treat the public like military contractors treat tax payers. Whether you offer up $900 hammers or $60,000 hip replacements, or let polluters heat up the planet at will—what’s the difference if you can get away with it?
In Trumpian reality there are no consequences for the pursuit of wealth. As long as corporate persons make at lot of money, nobody gets hurt, nobody, of course, except real people who are subject to aging and illness or who are forced to live in a furnace.
*Nullius in verba: take nobody’s word for it