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Excerpt: "Am I just a slow person, or doesn't knowing what causes something actually help you prevent that thing's happening again, or at least, doesn't it help you prepare yourself better for when it does? I begin to wonder if climate change is going to be one of those issues like gun-control where well-financed paranoia and heavily subsidized ignorance wear the political process down to the point at which people simply give up trying to fight them."

Failed US corn crop. (photo: Scott Olson/Getty Images)
Failed US corn crop. (photo: Scott Olson/Getty Images)

The Drought - A Slow-Motion Meteorological Catastrophe

By Charles Pierce, Esquire

27 July 12


he ongoing drought in the United States is one of the most consequential — and underreported — stories of the past five years. It affects almost every aspect of human life, from food and water to public safety, as cash-strapped states and cities and towns try to deal with massive wildfires, and the conditions are almost assuredly a result of, and exacerbated by, the global climate crisis the existence of which one entire half of our political spectrum is dedicated to denying. And there are new stories every day, and every one of them is worse than the one before.

Today, for example, we find that the percentage of the country suffering under the worst drought conditions rose seven percent just in the past week. And it's not just farm country that's being slowly desiccated:

States posting dramatic increases in just the last week included Illinois, which went from 8 percent in extreme/exceptional drought to 70 percent, and Nebraska, which went from 5 percent to 64 percent. In Illinois, the drought is impacting water supplies in towns like Pontiac. "The Vermillion River does not have enough flow for us to use it as our primary source of water," one field observer reported Wednesday to the Drought Mitigation Center. "We have had to switch to a secondary source of water, located in a reservoir a few miles outside of town ...  A 'dirt' like smell and taste is being noted ... We NEED rain, very soon."

In Oklahoma, farmers are trying to keep alive herds of cattle that they can't sell. A third of Arkansas is under what is called "extraordinary drought" conditions. A friend down there reports:

The drought here is far worse than last year. We had some rain two weeks ago. The pastures got green again for a week. Now they're dying again. Oak trees are dying up on the ridge. It's very depressing. Really takes the pleasure out of country living, to be honest. Old timers say they've never seen anything this bad. Oddly, it's not costing me much, as the money I'm spending on hay I'm not spending on mowing.

This is a slow-motion meteorlogical catastrophe, the functional equivalent of a series of simultaneous tornadoes or hurricanes, but heat and drought are so general that they don't register as disasters the way other weather events do. Its ecological effects are more lasting, however, and its financial impact ripples through the entire American economy. Meanwhile, as the land gasps from thirst, the national infrastructure of our public water supply has been deteriorating for years, and people have been warning about what a wreck it is for going on a decade now.

And what is the public response? The Washington Post decides to slap the greedy farmers around. And, on the other hand, the Congress, which is chockful of climate-change denialists and people who thump their tubs for "small government" until the wildfires start surrounding their vacation homes, is using the drought to play shenanigans with a farm bill that it can't seem to pass. Whatever they're doing, they're not listening to the administration, that's for sure. Which isn't entirely a bad thing, because the administration doesn't seem to know what in the hell is going on, either.

STOLBERG: Could you talk a little bit about the drought itself? Is it very unusual? Did anyone see it coming? Is it from climate change? Is there anything you can do to prepare?

VILSACK: I'm not a scientist so I'm not going to opine as to the cause of this. All we know is that right now there are a lot of farmers and ranchers who are struggling. And it's important and necessary for them to know, rather than trying to focus on what's causing this, what can we do to help them.

My God, what in the hell does that mean? Am I just a slow person, or doesn't knowing what causes something actually help you prevent that thing's happening again, or at least, doesn't it help you prepare yourself better for when it does? I begin to wonder if climate change is going to be one of those issues like gun-control where well-financed paranoia and heavily subsidized ignorance wear the political process down to the point at which people simply give up trying to fight them.

And then we all die of thirst. your social media marketing partner


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-29 # MidwestTom 2012-07-27 09:48
I wonder what caused the dust bowl droughts in the 1930's? There was a lot less "greenhouse gas then".
+36 # Glen 2012-07-27 10:03
The drought of the '30's is complicated, and brought about by poor farming methods by too many farmers who bought into the notion of "rain follows the plow". High plains are subject to high winds, also, so when the grass disappeared and erosion increased with less moisture the weather and soil were ripe for disaster. Farming methods are much improved now, but the aquifers must be protected. Don't know the condition of the aquifers.
+25 # wcandler1 2012-07-27 09:50
Please add that "The drought is worse/caused by global warming, which in turn is due to using fossil fuels." We have to STOP using fossil fuels. The way to do this is to levy a tax on fossil carbon up stream at the mine, well-head or port-of-entry, with all revenue returned to consumers as an equal per capita "energy dividend" (i.e. unrelated to extra expenditures on fossil fuels of energy dependent products). The tax needs to be substantial (say $250 per ton of carbon, which would double the price of coal based electricity). We need a demand-side (consumer)respo nse: If you want the attention of a Mule, hit it with a 2-by-4.

No subsidies for fossil free energy would be needed, since they could about double their selling price of energy.

A myriad jobs would be created as we replaced our moribund fossil dependent infrastructure. ... It is simple really!
+21 # indian weaver 2012-07-27 10:17
None of the above can work because our political process doesn't work, at all. With the republicans continuing to be a threat to survival and our mortal enemies, the enemies of all living things plant and animal worldwide, and a threat to the planet itself, well, what does one do to an enemy threatening their / my lives? I know, and like war, you begin to take measures necessary to disarm the enemy or take them out. And I don't mean congressional action because that'll never happen in a fascist terrorist regime like amerika's, only money talks. And they aren't talking, or acting. Our turn. If we want to survive, and our Great Mother to survive, the most beautiful planet in all creation.
+4 # RLF 2012-07-28 05:45
The planet will survive but humans might not...worse things could happen. The people that will be hit the worst by this drought are the poor in the third world...they will starve so we can burn ethanol in our giant, stupid cars.
+3 # Billo 2012-07-28 14:35
All energy comes from the sun. We have the know-how to harvest this energy. A tax on fossil fuel, which is then used for grants and low cost loans to get solar panels on every home and business would go a long way toward sustainability.

How about the German solution, where the government would lend money to homeowners and businesses for solar panels. Excess energy is sold back to the grid at triple the wholesale price until the loan is paid off.
+24 # vt143 2012-07-27 10:03
Mr. Pierce asks:

I begin to wonder if climate change is going to be one of those issues like gun-control where well-financed paranoia and heavily subsidized ignorance wear the political process down to the point at which people simply give up trying to fight them.

Answer: Yes. Put it on TV and repeat it enough and it becomes fact. Rove and his ilk learned that a long time ago. Down is up.
+16 # indian weaver 2012-07-27 10:20
None of those suggestions are helpful or relevant. Our "government" is ruled by the wealty elite who depend on ecological crimes for personal wealth. And TV! ha ha, we have no legitimate news in amerika anymore. the corporate news supports and encourages terrorism and torture because it sells well as news, and they earn their living with the War Machine owning them. For CBS, NBC, ABC, CNN and FOX, war is good for the bottom line, like the entire War Machine. I mean, what to do with a million armed forces if we stop killing, assassinations, torture and international terrorism, then they are out of work. No more job security if we stop killing and invasions. So ...
+14 # tomo 2012-07-27 11:26
What Charles is afraid will happen is already well underway. People who ask about the drought: "What's going on here?" DO get discouraged when the political and educational leadership stalls. If you ask an all-too-familia r-politically-c orrect-type teacher: "What's going on here?" the wonderful, one-size-fits-a ll response is likely to be: "Everyone is entitled to their own opinion." Suppose you are a kid living in a house where suddenly there is a strong odor of carbon monoxide poisoning and you ask your dad: "What's going on?" and he answers: "Each of you is entitled to your own opinion," and then cracks open another beer in front of the TV. We consider such a dad criminally irresponsible. Not so with climate change. All our political and educational leaders just keep repairing to the ice-box for another beer.

Lester Brown (Earthwatch) predicted just what's happening now a couple years ago. Nobody paid attention then. Hardly anybody is paying attention now.
+16 # universlman 2012-07-27 11:31
Mother Nature may be planning to cast her vote in the upcoming election.

To all the GOP leaning climate crisis deniers out there; she is a "person," she is an "energy voter" and she is pissed.
+12 # angelfish 2012-07-27 12:05
You'd think that some fore-sighted (?) Congressional Entrepreneur would, at the very least, try to develop a cheap, efficient method for desalinizing ocean water to irrigate our scorched earth! Nah, they're too busy thinking up ways to make President Obama a "one term President" or writing new Legislation banning Abortion! We don't need no stinkin' facts on global warming and catastrophic Drought!
+3 # Jim Young 2012-07-27 22:49
Well at least North Carolina outlawed sea level rise. Now I want to see how they try to enforce it.

California didn't outlaw landslides and unstable soil, but they did corrupt the process that would have identified the almost guaranteed occurrence of it to allow unscrupulous developers to profit from the construction that never should have been approved.

Criminal? I think so, but still not as outright stupid as blatantly legislating deliberate general public ignorance of the most likely future damage.
+3 # mgwmgw 2012-07-27 12:19
So, a problem is farmers do not have enough water and their plants are dead. Everyone in some parts of America has not enough water to drink or it tastes funny.

Some of the people who comment believe that this is the result of climate change due to use of fossil fuels.

The article implies that the problem is due (in part?) to a failure to maintain the water distribution system.

The politicians are saying that they hear that farmers are in financial trouble due to the lack of water. They say they want to "help".

Some of those who comment believe that government does not want to help most people due to having other motives such as profit to selected people or desire to maintain power.

I am thinking about what can be done to solve the water problem.

Maintaining the water distribution system might
1) allow more variations of moving water from one place to another
2) refine how we process the water before and after it is used or
3) reduce the amount of water that is lost through leaking and evaporation.

Do we know whose responsibility it is to maintain the water distribution system? If government, what level of government?
+5 # Jim Young 2012-07-27 23:02
There is steady movement towards attempting to privatize water ("piratizing" it to my way of thinking). It does seem to work if it is more member owned, but the rent seeking investors (not part of the community) scare the daylights out of me. Just take a look at the Jefferson County, Alabama situation, a $300 million water and sewage system overhaul left them with over 10 times the debt ($3 billion) in the biggest local government bankruptcy in US history. They still don't have the improvements, their bills quadrupled, and they are bankrupt. Good job by the financial services industry, and even better cover up by such "careless" action as House Finances Committee chairman Spencer Bauchus failing to swear in witness Jaime Dimon (on their $6 billion "gambling" loss). SOunds more than a little fishy to me that his congressional district includes the bankrupted Jefferson County. Hear no evil, see no evil, speak no evil, when you'd have to blind, deaf, and dumb, to do so.
+2 # RLF 2012-07-28 05:48
This drought is the perfect weapon to run the few remaining family farmers out of business and get their land into corporate we will see no action on behalf of our government.
+1 # mgwmgw 2012-07-27 12:20
Can we put forward a convincing argument that repairing the water distribution system will solve the problem? If water is not available anywhere, then building pipes will not help. Even if the water is available, moving it will mean less available from where it came from. It may also impact the environment or shipping.

While it may or may not be true that global warming causes drought, reducing carbon footprint, if we do it, will not improve matters quickly. That does not mean preventing global warming would be a bad idea, but I do not expect it would solve the problem in the time scale that the farmers require.

I wish that making power from growing industrial hemp was an acceptable solution to the carbon impact question, but this does not seem to be a popular idea in America. I cannot prove that it would be a practical idea, even if it were legal. Hemp would also need water. I guess we could grow hemp in parts of America that have enough water.

While stopping the war-making could improve America's reputation and the financial situation of America's government, and might be a good idea for moral reasons, I do not expect that war-making directly has anything to do with the drought, unless you think less war would allow more to be spent on water distribution, but that is a long stretch. The amounts of money are on difference scales.
-1 # VLR 2012-07-27 16:17
There is one rapid, efficient, comprehensive and cost-effective way to greatly reduce pollution, resource depletion, and environmental degradation.

Just kill off most of the humans on earth.

It's ridiculously easy for America to do--we have more arms than anyone else. You don't need nukes--carpet bombing will take out most excess population centers, and intramural strife will take care of most of the rest. Let the elites sit it out in the well-stocked salt caverns, or on isolated tropic isles that they own anyway, and they can emerge and own it all. I really believe that this is the only long-term plan in existence.
+4 # colvictoria 2012-07-27 17:01
@VLR so should we take out all the humans who consume most of the world's resources? that would mean wiping out all of the USA.
And the elites who survive? whom will they exploit when all the cheap labor is gone? I guess they too will die off quickly since they can't possibly survive without air conditioning, their martini drinks and that whiff of coke.
+7 # CreativeBlue 2012-07-27 19:48
I believe it's been pointed out innumerable times that the elites are stone ignorant about what's on the other end of their seeming infinitely bounteous supply pipelines.

Brought up in a regime of instant-gratifi cation of any and all wants, they cannot conceive that at some point, and with certain finality, without a healthy planet (much less a healthy and happy workforce) those "pipelines" will empty, and sooner than they could possibly imagine.
0 # shraeve 2012-07-27 23:50
Kill off most of the humans on Earth? That is what we are in the process of doing.
+1 # Holmes 2012-07-27 23:43
I am struck by the lack of comment by those who are skilled in Agricultural Science. Are there no experienced extension workers / researchers who can comment, or does what they say not match what the main stream media want to say?
+2 # mdhome 2012-07-28 14:36
I have 45 years of living on a dairy farm and what I am seeing scares me half ,no 3/4 to death, I sure hope there are large grain reserves someplace.
0 # Rob Carter 2012-07-28 00:08
Nothibg will be really done about climate changes, if real, it all came and went before. Anyhow those with the money to do something about it won't as they will be dead before the effects are serious, and they are leaving more than enough for their kids and grandchildren to solve their own problems if that comes to pass. Most religious Americans believe God will fix that with nature's natural adaptations everything of such major scale works out in generation hybrids. We may all be Tropical nondrinkers in a few generations.
0 # mdhome 2012-07-28 14:37
You do not have an ag degree , do you?
-2 # Rob Carter 2012-07-28 00:09
God and Nature will fix what animals and the heavens movements change.

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