aNewDomain — Yosemite, 1983. My folks sent me to summer camp. I only went twice, once there and once, later, to a calendar house in Britain. It was fairly banal. Hiking, crappy crafts, bugs, showering with other boys, trying to sleep in a room with boys who promised earlier in the day to put boogers in your mouth while you’re sleeping.
The most exciting thing was the camp counselors told the girls they had to dry their hair real good before they came across for dinner, or it might freeze and snap off. I spent days wondering if that might be literally true, if I might see a girl’s hair break off.
But one day we did a learning unit on the Giant Sequoia trees and we all went down to see them.
It was cold. The air was full of our breath, the sounds of our boots crunching through frozen, dry needles, of the sound of pine cones bouncing along. But no words, no words. There was nothing to say.
Trees are trees. But Giant Sequoia redwoods are miracles.
They towered, loomed, grasped at the sky. They scraped the bottom of heaven. Pick your euphemism.
We did the bit where all the kids stood around a tree, holding hands, to see how many children it was in circumference. The answer: incomprehensibly large. And the trees: They weren’t trees at all but the pillars of the world, incredible madness made real. They’re the living dinosaurs of the plant world, the titanic brachiosaurs striding past us, all of us little rat-sized proto-mammals waiting patiently for world domination.
Not long after that, they appeared in “Return of the Jedi.”
Most of that film I spent jumping up and down and pointing at the trees I’d met, not realizing this was a different forest full of a different tree: the California Redwood. The trees in the film are actually smaller than the Sequoias, more mundane – and yet still they are totally staggering.
And, we’re killing them. All of them. The redwoods, the Giant Sequoias, everything.
Some of them are thousands of years old. Hundreds of feet tall. Ecosystems in themselves.
And they’re dying. Of climate change, drought, pollution, mismanagement.
We aren’t killing them on purpose, because we hate them. We are killing them simply because we’re humans.
Humans make decisions based on their immediate experience, on selfish priorities, on their perceived best interest. Not on statistical data. We don’t read scientific journals and statistical abstracts, learn enough science to consider alternatives, weight the evidence.
Donald Trump alone is sufficient evidence of all this, of the way we decide impulsively and back-rationalize our decisions.
Defenses of the Confederate Flag as a non-racist remembrance of those who died in the Civil War is another thing. Such descriptions of mourning for grand-pappy’s pappy strike me in much the same way as a conversation I remember between two psychotic patients about what a great guy Hitler was.
We are all so wrong about Hitler, one said. He just wanted world peace and an end to abortions.
The Great Sequoias aren’t dying just yet. We do have advanced warning here.
Estimates are within 25 years, if conditions continue as they are, we will start to see forest loss. Bear in mind that the most pessimistic predictions of climate change based on available data tend to be the best estimates: That 25 years number could change. And it could change fast.
Most likely, conditions will prevail as they are now.
Rich people will hoard the water, special interests will get exemptions on usage limits, Nestle will continue to get sweetheart deals through which they can pump the water out for next to nothing, bottle it up, and sell it back to us for a fortune.
The drought will not abate.
Even the promise of an upcoming El Nino cycle won’t restore California’s lost water balance the way a wet summer here in Colorado has refilled our reservoirs.
This is because it isn’t just empty reservoirs we’re contemplating here: it’s depleted groundwater, depleted snowpack and depleted root systems.
Climate change will continue to accelerate, and the rate of acceleration will continue to accelerate.
We have done nothing at all about it, only a tiny decrease in the rate at which the United States increased atmospheric carbon emissions.
Things are bad and getting worse.
These majestic giants, the Sequoias and all the other magnificent forests, are all on the line. Everything is on the line.
For aNewDomain, I’m Jason Dias.
Image one: DailyMail; All Rights Reserved; image two: Pinterest.com/tamimather; All Rights Reserved; image three: Pinterest.com/alebertossi; All Rights Reserved; image four: StopCorporateAbuse.org, All Rights Reserved; image five: MonumentalTrees.com, All Rights Reserved.