A social obesity. An economic, financial, and political obesity … A global, total obesity that spares no realm of life, public or private. An entire society that, from the top down, from one end to the other, seems prey to this obscure derangement that slowly causes an organism to swell, overflow, explode.
The American Intermountain West was on fire in May and June, following one of the driest springs in memory (I have lived in Wyoming since 1979).
In a reversal of the usual pattern, the early drought was followed by a wet July. But now, in August—traditionally the hottest and driest in the Rocky Mountain area—a warm, dry air mass has moved in and the red flags are up once again, indicating extreme fire danger.
New fires are already burning around Wyoming, the fire restrictions of last spring are being reimposed everywhere, and the streets of Laramie are filled with smoke again, this time from wildfires burning in western Wyoming, Idaho, Oregon, and California. A week or so ago, the New York Times published an extensive article describing drought and the water crisis in the West. Though a fairly comprehensive job, the piece had nothing new to say to Westerners who are experiencing these things.
It is possible that the Western drought, like that afflicting more than half the United States, is the result of the “global warming” trend said by the international scientific establishment to be a direct result of industrial pollution since the latter half of the 19th century.
Alternatively, it may be simply a manifestation of a weather pattern documented by the historical record and modern scientific investigation of tree ring growth in the American Southwest carried out in the past few decades.
Both modes of study show, without question of a doubt, that since the 14h century severe periodic droughts have visited the Southwest. In the late 1300s, lack of water was a chief factor in causing the Anasazi people to abandon Mesa Verde and other ancient villages and migrate south into Mexico. Drought persisted throughout most of the 15th century, led directly to the revolt by the Pueblo Indians against the Spanish in 1680, and returned at the middle of the 18th century. In recent times, devastating drought struck the West in the 1930s and in the 1950s.
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