My daily walks often take me through a very nice regional park with paved paths, acres of manicured lawns that are shaded by stands of pine, birch, eucalyptus and various other tree species. The park contains several large, shallow ponds that attract waterfowl, rabbits, squirrels and coyotes, although the latter stay out of sight during the day. A large flock of Canada geese has taken up residence and become habituated, along with several species of ducks. There is always lots of interesting stuff to see on my walks, and I do much of my “writing” as I meander along, although sometimes I forget most of it by the time I get home. I tried carrying a little digital voice recorder, but every time I turn it on, my mind goes blank.
Now, this park is in Southern California, which is experiencing a brutal drought. When water rationing went into effect last summer, I feared that the park would be allowed to wither and die. Most of the trees are non-native species that require regular watering. Some grass areas were allowed to brown off, but last winter we had a brief respite from the drought, and the rationing was terminated. This year has been very dry so far, and if we don’t get more rain soon, I am sure we will be back on rationing later this year.
I would hate to lose my precious park, but nothing lasts forever. Two hundred years ago, the area covered by that park looked much different. It was a dry river bed, a flood plain, adjacent to the Santa Ana River, one of several rivers that drain the local mountains. Flood control dams were added to retain some of the water and protect low-lying residential areas. Some sections of the river have been “channelized” with concrete banks and levees. The park where I walk is bordered by a levee with a paved bike path on top. I have ridden my bike down that trail many times, all the way to the ocean, more than fifteen miles away. The running club I belonged to also staged marathons and some shorter races along that trail in my younger days. The river and the park have been part of my life for almost fifty years. But nothing lasts forever.
I was thinking about this as I was walking the other day. I asked myself, “What would I have seen if I were standing right here two hundred years ago?” A dry, sandy river bed, with some native plants. A small trickle of water in a central stream. Or maybe, if it were just after a big storm, I wouldn’t be standing there because it would be under a raging torrent of muddy brown water heading for the Pacific.
If the drought continues, eventually the water situation will become dire. Governor Brown is pushing to build huge tunnels up north to funnel more water down here, but the drought affects people up there too. They may not be happy about us siphoning off their water. The only alternative is desalinization, and it is very expensive at the moment. Nobody wants to pay for it, so…we are relying on Mother Nature, who has shown pretty clearly that she doesn’t give a shit about us. Without water, the only alternative is depopulation. If you have a million-dollar house but cannot get water, your house is worthless! Can you imagine millions of people suddenly forced to leave their homes and go…where? For most of them, their home is their primary savings. If it’s worthless, they are suddenly broke and homeless. Only Trump and his acolytes would cheer that. Thirty million people live in Southern California. Without rainfall, even with desalinization, I suspect less than half that number could live here, and the landscape would be much different from what we have today, with our miles of suburban residences with lush green lawns, and water thirsty trees and shrubs. It could happen. I am sure my park would be long gone. Nothing lasts forever.
Including the human species. Of course, Christians think our souls last forever. There is no rational justification for that belief. It’s just wishful thinking.
How about the molecules and their constituent parts that make up the matter in the Universe? Or its energy equivalent, according to Einstein’s famous equation? Does that stuff last forever?
I haven’t a clue, and despite much philosophical and theological pontificating, nobody else does either.
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