Romancing the River: The Colorado River Compact at 100

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Glen Canyon Dam

Have you heard of the wonderful one-hoss shay, That was built in such a logical way It ran a hundred years to a day … – Oliver Wendell Holmes We’ve been exploring the Colorado River Compact here – which, like Oliver Wendell Holmes’ ‘wonderful one-hoss shay’ has now lived almost ‘one hundred years to the day’ – the commissioners signed off on it November 24, 1922.  The century mark is a good place to pause and pull back for a larger perspective on something like a multi-state agreement and see what it has and hasn’t actually accomplished – but without losing sight of the romantic vision of conquest that drove the Compact’s formation, back in the early decades of the Anthropocene Epoch when reorganizing the prehuman world was still fun. In the last post here, we looked at the ‘major purposes’ cited in the first article of the Compact: the first listed purpose, ‘to provide for the equitable division and … Read More

Romancing the River: 
Onward and – well, onward with the Colorado River Compact

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Hoover Dam... Romancing the River: 
Onward and – well, onward with the Colorado River Compact

If any drink [of the Hassayampa], they can no more see fact as naked fact, but all radiant with the color of romance. – Mary Austin Before getting into the Colorado River again, I want to put out a plea: Please recognize the importance of the coming ‘midterm elections.’ Especially if you live in one of 15 percent of our congressional districts that has not been gerrymandered to a foregone outcome. This is a ‘tipping point’ election, not between two political parties trying to work things out, but between two political concepts with no middle room for compromise: if both houses of Congress tip toward the Republicans this election, rather than remaining barely tipped toward the Democrats, then we are going to be taking a big bumbling step toward authoritarian governance, and away from our evolving American experiment in government by, for and of the people. I think I’m probably preaching to the choir here, but please do what you … Read More

Romancing the River: Colorado River Compact, Part 2 – Divide to Conquer

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“Have you heard of the wonderful one-hoss shay, That was built in such a logical way It ran a hundred years to a day … – Oliver Wendell Holmes The last episode here ended with representatives of the seven Colorado River Basin states gathering in Washington, DC, as a commission charged, in the words of Herbert Hoover, U.S. Commerce Secretary and Chair of the Commission, ‘to consider and if possible to agree upon a compact between the seven states … providing for an equitable division of the water supply of the Colorado River and its tributaries amongst the seven states.’ He went on to note that ‘this Conference is unique in its attempt to determine states’ rights over so large an area by amiable agreement.’ That was in January 1922; in 2022 we commemorate the centennial of a compact created by the Commission and ratified by six of the seven states and the U.S. Congress, enabling the controlling and harnessing … Read More

Where does our water come from? 
And what are we doing to it in the Anthropocene?

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Gothic Mountain

For anyone seeing our planet for the first time from a satellite’s perspective, worries about water might be the last thing to cross their mind. Had we first seen the planet that way; we would probably have named it ‘Water’ rather than ‘Earth.’ Looking at its clouds and ice sheets as well as its expanses of water, we would also see from that perspective that we live on a planet at just the right distance from its star to let water exist in its solid, liquid and vapor states. A few million miles farther from the sun, toward Mars, and our water would all be frozen in its solid state. A few million miles closer to the sun and the water would all be a gaseous cloud mass suffocating the planet. In neither of those situations could life as we know it exist; all life on the planet depends on water in its liquid state – but all land-based life … Read More

The Colorado – First River of the Anthropocene

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I said in the first post here that I’ll be focusing on ‘learning to live with the Anthropocene’ – a work-in-progress for everyone who will even acknowledge the existence of the Anthropocene. To refresh your mind on it – the Anthropocene is a new epoch in the evolution of the planet in which the human species is a factor in shaping the planet’s further evolution. This is an ‘honor’ we did not consciously seek – because who would want that kind of responsibility? But we have backed into it, as it were, like it or not – unconsciously, to be sure, and sometimes irresponsibly – but it’s where we are.  The Anthropocene follows the Holocene Epoch, which would probably only have been a 20,000-30,000-year interval, plus or minus, of warmth and greenness between epochs of Pleistocene glaciation, had we humans not inadvertently intervened with the advent of the Anthropocene. If you are looking for possible good news in the onset … Read More

Sibley’s Rivers? What, Why and – Why Not?

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Tomichi Creek, Gunnison, CO

The first thing I want to say about ‘Sibley’s Rivers’ is to not be misled by the name; it’s not going to be all about rivers – although because the West will be the locus of focus, the rivers that run through it (or don’t) will be frequent topics.  Especially the Colorado River, which is so ominously interesting these days. What you’ll find, should you decide to visit ‘Sibley’s Rivers’ from time to time, is mostly going to be ‘rivers of words’ about learning to live in the Anthropocene. The Anthropocene: this new epoch in the eternal evolution of the planet, precipitated by changes that we humans, purposefully or inadvertently, have imposed on the planet’s basic systems, changes which are now altering the conditions of existence for all life on the planet.  Most of the scientific community accepts this as a fact of life we now have to learn to live with, and measure up to. We – all of … Read More