On the EDge: We have but one planet, she is getting tired

OPINION – There are a lot of things humans can do to sustain themselves.

Replenishing our water supplies, however, is not among them.

We can conserve it, we can ration it, but we can’t create it.

It’s become more problematic as climate change impacts our ecosystems, resulting in a drought that has settled in over the West and Southwest for four years. Coupled with record-high temperatures – Utah has seen its seasonal highs arriving a month ahead of schedule this year – and a snowpack about 40 percent of normal, the historic battles over water and water rights are about to heat up.

California, which is one of seven states that feeds off of the no longer massive Colorado River – Utah, Nevada, Arizona, New Mexico, Wyoming and Colorado are the others – is working to implement mandatory measures that could force users to cut water consumption by as much as 35 percent. Rationing is not out of the question in The Golden State.

The current drought is the driest in 1,200 years for a three-year period,” University of California, Berkeley, professor Lynn Ingram said at Utah State University’s 2015 Spring Runoff Conference.

It hasn’t been this dry in the West since the Middle Ages, Ingram said.

Throughout history the region, she said, has experienced megadroughts that lasted as long as 20 years and drove inhabitants to friendlier climes. The Anasazi, for example, were driven from the Four Corners region because of drought, according to many historians.

Today, however, there’s no place to run.

Ingram also warns that one of the anomalies of this cycle is that it will result in short bursts of torrential downpours that will lead to extensive flooding during periods of intense precipitation. The unfortunate aspect is that we have yet to figure out how to capture and store water that appears during those times.

The end result points at more frequent wildfires, the general collapse of our agricultural infrastructure, and, of course, more conflict in the region over water and water rights. Political careers have been made or busted on water issues. Range wars have been fought. People have died because of water and who owns it and uses it.

The picture in Southwest Utah is not promising as we continue this latest cycle of drought.

Even though the local snowpack is at 42 percent of normal and median water flows are about 20 percent of what they should be, Southwest Utah water officials say there should be no problem this year because our reservoirs are at about 70 percent capacity.

It will, however, result in problems next year if Mother Nature doesn’t cooperate.

Budgets and ignorance have prevented us from taking steps to stretch our water supplies as far as possible.

The ignorance, of course, comes from those who continue, in the face of extensive scientific evidence, to deny the existence of global warming and climate change.

For years, conservatives have reviled environmentalists who predicted shortfalls in our water supplies. Of course, they are also the folks who will scoff at restricting air pollution, and believe we have an endless supply of fossil fuels.

Although many finally get it, they are reluctant to make important changes to salvage the precious amount of water we do receive.

Instead, for example, of initiating legislation that would require all communities to install gray water systems – using semi-cleaned up waste water for our lawns and irrigation – they claim there is no money in the till, that it would be too expensive to implement.

Instead, they pour millions into ridiculous ventures to draw more people to the area, more people who will deplete the dwindling natural resources we share.

When they do consider options they involve complex, expensive flights of fancy like the Lake Powell Pipeline, which will do little except deplete yet another water source and pollute the environment even further. The only people who win with that project are the investors and builders.

The truth of the matter is that someday, the Earth will be done with humankind. It will kick us to the curb with a violent, hostile environment that will make the planet uninhabitable. It will then regenerate itself. Humans are but a small blip when it comes to Earth history and will eventually give way, with the exception of Keith Richards, Cher, and the cockroaches who will survive for millennia.

But, we can extend our life cycle.

All we need do is put as much effort into preserving the planet as we have in destroying it with pollution, incessant drilling for fossil fuels that have a finite supply, and frittering away our water.

Instead of inventing newer, more dangerous ways to kill each other, and excuses to do so with senseless wars, we should turn our efforts to the little things that add up to making a difference in how we treat the planet and enhance our survival.

We should institute serious recycling plans to save our landfills from becoming the toxic dumps they have become. We should reduce our nuclear waste by eliminating the radioactive power plants.

We should invest in alternative fuel sources instead of burning coal and other pollutants that are eating away at our atmosphere and stop drilling holes in our land and seas – remember BP and the Gulf of Mexico or Exxon or any of the other environmental disasters created by the oil industry?

We should turn our lawns and yards from lush green to the more eco-friendly xeriscapes Nature intended. Remember, if a plant is not natural to an area it is considered, by science, as a noxious weed.

We should fully implement full reforestation efforts. Trees are an important part of the ecosystem, not only for their aesthetic, but practical enhancements. But, we have allowed them to become depleted by logging and failing to protect them from infestation. Don’t believe me? Take a trip up Cedar Mountain. It is tragic to see how that once beautiful area has been neglected and the changes – not for the better – that have occurred over the last 20 years.

The politics of all of this, of course, are harsh, divisive, unyielding, which is dangerous because we have but one planet.

And, she is getting tired.

Ed Kociela is an opinion columnist. The opinions stated in this article are his and not representative of St. George News.

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Twitter: @STGnews, @EdKociela

Copyright St. George News, SaintGeorgeUtah.com LLC, 2015, all rights reserved.

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  • BIG GUY April 14, 2015 at 7:51 am

    I’m with you, Ed, on about 90% of what you say: I too am opposed to the Lake Powell pipeline and agree we need to make better use of our water supplies and reduce solid waste pollution. But you “step in it” again with your counterfactual global warming paragraphs.

    FACT: temperatures have not warmed for 16 years. FACT: no global warming model can explain that since carbon dioxide levels have risen well over 25% during that time. CONCLUSION: all the models on which supposed global warming is based are wrong. Those who continue to insist on global warming are the ones who display (to use your words) “ignorance…in the face of scientific evidence.” You and your fellow “warmists” are entitled to your own opinions, but not your own facts.

    A study published in the journal Nature in 2014 shows that droughts have been in decline worldwide since 1982. The western U.S. drought is real enough and reminds us that we need to do much better with water conservation. But a recent study by U.S. government scientists definitively attributes this drought to changes in Pacific Ocean currents, not atmospheric warming. No climate model can connect global warming to ocean current changes.

    Ed, you are opposed to both fossil fuel and nuclear power generation. What do you propose we do at night when the wind isn’t blowing? Renewable power generation is a noble (but very expensive) goal and will never supply more than a modest fraction of the power we consume today, much less future needs. Please describe your proposed solution.

    “Global warmism” is a pseudo religion, embraced fervently by its true believers. And like all religions, it requires faith since objective proof is lacking. But in this case, instead of separation of church and state, it’s the state that is foisting this “religion” on us all with dramatic negative economic consequences.

    • Bender April 14, 2015 at 12:04 pm

      Besides you BIG GUY, right wing radio talk show hosts, FOX news and a very minor, ragtag, assortment of the science community, the reality of anthropogenic global warming is the consensus. You’ll soon change your opinion or find yourself marooned with an increasingly sketchy assortment of kooks.

      • BIG GUY April 14, 2015 at 12:47 pm

        . Do you have a problem with my facts? If so, say so. “Ad hominem” attacks like yours above are the refuge of those without any other defense for their arguments. “Appeals to authority” arguments like yours above are only one step better, especially when those “authorities” have been proven wrong year after year for the past two decades. How many tipping points have we passed?

        . Global warmists want to remake power generation at great cost to our standard of living based solely on computer climate models, none of which can explain today’s observed data using historical data. How on earth (pun intended) can any rational person support this?

        . More climate research: fine. Battery research: fine. But don’t try to remake the economy based on a computer model’s future projections until we can explain what we see in front of our eyes today.

        • Bender April 14, 2015 at 4:16 pm

          You appear to understand the term _ad hominem_ differently than I do.

          • BIG GUY April 14, 2015 at 5:40 pm

            – – Per Wikipedia: “responding to arguments by attacking a person’s character, rather than to the content of their arguments.” http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Ad_hominem

            – – I presented facts. You ignored them, presented none of your own, and lumped me in with “an increasingly sketchy assortment of kooks.” Ergo ad hominem.

          • Bender April 15, 2015 at 2:12 pm

            B+ for Googling skills. D- for reading comprehension BIG GUY.

    • Chris April 14, 2015 at 12:55 pm

      “FACT: temperatures have not warmed for 16 years” WRONG! This is a statement that is continuously repeated by various right wing outlets and politicians, and it is completely erroneous. SURFACE temperatures have continued to rise over the past 16 years, but the RATE of warming has not increased as predicted by some models. An absence of increase in the rate does not mean that no warming has occurred. I am always amused when non-scientists attempt to interpret technical data, and this complete misinterpretation is particularly laughable. Furthermore, surface temperatures represent a really minor factor in the total heat retention of the planet. The greatest heat sink of all, the oceans, have been warming at an increasingly higher rate for the entire duration of the 16 years in question, according to every source of reliable data available. Here is a suggestion for the lay person–never believe broad declarations about scientific matters when the source is a politician or Fox News. There is nothing “religious” about rigorous climate research, and plenty of objective proof is available to anyone who is willing to seek it out. If religion is a factor in this matter, it is in the minds of those who reject even the possibility of anthropogenic climate change simply because they don’t want it to be true. If you fall into that “religion”, then you really don’t know the science.

      • BIG GUY April 14, 2015 at 2:20 pm

        – – My statements are factual. I happily refer you to Berkeley Earth, global warming true believers, who say “…the Earth’s average temperature for the last decade has changed very little.” As a fellow true believer, you will find a lot on their web site to warm (pun intended) your heart, especially since they choose time and temperature scales to emphasize change in the last 50 years while disguising the last 16. http://www.berkeleyearth.org/

        – – You disparage non-scientists. Based on your scientific expertise, please enlighten us on which climate change computer models forecast zero temperature change for the last 16 years while carbon monoxide levels have increased over 25%.

        – – I do not reject the possibility of anthropogenic global warming. But I do reject remaking the world’s economy based on computer projections that can’t even explain today’s observations using historical data. Do you support remaking the world’s power generation at great cost, especially to the poor, based on demonstrably faulty computer models? Yes or no.

        • Chris April 14, 2015 at 3:46 pm

          –Once again, not factual. You appear to have “cherry picked” one sentence in a detailed report to support your assertion. You originally claimed that “temperatures have not warmed for 16 years.” Your chosen quote, however, only says that temps have changed “very little.” The point is that they have changed and changed upwardly. From the same Berkeley Earth memo (did you really read the whole thing?), you would find that the global temp average anomaly for 2014 was .596 deg C, the highest for 250 years of data, as compared to .512 deg C for the year 1998. Your claim about the scales used in the memo is meaningless for the given data, and tells me how little you know about statistical analysis. I would need an hour to explain this to you, and even then, you would not understand it.
          –Yes, you are correct that I disparage non-scientists. That is because of the peculiarly non-rigorous analysis demonstrated by you in the preceding paragraph. Statistical models are simply that, models. They are not, nor are they intended to be, complete representations of reality. They are tools, and no tool of any kind is perfect. Repeat here my criticism of your understanding of statistics. There you go again, asserting “zero temperature change.” Your own references refute that. Why do I feel like I am arguing with Ted Cruz here? Oh, I know. You’ve made up your mind about this issue, and nothing can dissuade you. I, on the other hand, am a scientist. We know that there is really never a final, true “answer” to any scientific inquiry, only ongoing research and debate, ad infinitum.
          –“demonstrably faulty computer models”–not demonstrable by anything you have presented. Refer back to my previous comment about models, although I now can tell that you have never constructed a statistical model in your life. Stick to business, Big Guy. Science is over your head.

      • BIG GUY April 14, 2015 at 6:31 pm

        Chris, I have an MS in Planetary and Space Physics, a career of creating models for complex systems described by non-linear differential equations and then estimating as many as a dozen parameters for those models using statistical analysis of noisy observations and then using those parameters to predict the future system state. I’m not a climate scientist but I’m well versed in constructing models of complex systems. Your lecture is not needed.

        – – Perhaps you missed the following on the Berkeley Earth web site: “Numerically, our best estimate for the global temperature of 2014 puts it slightly above (by 0.01 C) that of the next warmest year (2010) BUT BY MUCH LESS THAN THE MARGIN OF UNCERTAINTY (0.05 C). Therefore it is IMPOSSIBLE TO CONCLUDE from our analysis which of 2014, 2010, or 2005 was actually the warmest year.” And perhaps you missed the following: “Note that the ten warmest years all occur since 1998.” [My caps for emphasis.]

        – – Translation for your benefit: The statistical uncertainty in the measurements equals or exceeds the differences in the measured average temperatures in the years from 1998 through 2014. Hence it’s not possible to say with any certainty whether temperatures increased during that time period or not. For example, 2005 is higher (but not necessarily statistically significantly higher) than 2002, 2009 and 2013. And note that 1998 is included in the table of the ten hottest years. Hence Berkeley Earth says it is “impossible” to distinguish with certainty any temperature changes for the last 16 years. That’s a fact. Get used to it.

        – – Once again, you fail to present data even from a friendly global warming web site while having the nerve to accuse me of cherry picking. I present facts from that web site; you respond with personal “ad hominem” attacks. Who’s the scientist? Who’s the “true believer” in the face of facts that disagree with his opinion?

        – – I fully appreciate how complex any climate model must be. Climate change is so complex that scientists are a long way from understanding it. But until those models can take historical data and match observed temperatures, they cannot be trusted to make reliable forecasts for future decades. And only a fool would spend trillions of dollars remaking world energy production based on their current degree of accuracy.

        • BIG GUY April 14, 2015 at 6:58 pm

          P.S. I agree there is a slight statistical upward climb in temperatures from 1998 but none since 2005 as Berkeley Earth states. The temperature change is so far less than the rise in carbon dioxide that I stand firmly behind my contention that no model comes close to explaining what is happening and hence only a fool would invest trillions of dollars until climate change is better understood.

  • sagemoon April 14, 2015 at 8:46 am

    Another great piece, Ed.

  • Brian April 14, 2015 at 10:37 am

    We have but one God, He is trying to get our attention. Jeremiah 50:38, Job 24:19, Haggai 1:9-11, etc. For example, in Joel 1, Joel prophesies severe drought and locusts. In Joel 2, he promises if they repent they’ll receive the blessings of God, including rain, but far more. Joel’s prophecy of an outpouring of the Spirit was quoted by Peter on the Day of Pentecost (Acts 2:17). We ignore this pattern at our peril, both as individuals, as a nation, and as a planet. And for the record, “global warming” is our unavoidable destiny: 2 Peter 3:7-10. Mankind in general will continue to pretend to have all the answers and to twist them for political and economic gain, and will reap their reward (Isaiah 2:11), but as individuals we can choose to avoid that fate by repenting and seeking righteousness.

    • ladybugavenger April 14, 2015 at 11:31 am


    • Bender April 14, 2015 at 12:08 pm

      “repenting and seeking righteousness”.
      What should we repent of Brian? Any hope for the 7 billion on the planet who don’t share your politics, religion and worldview?

      • Brian April 14, 2015 at 1:45 pm

        That’s between you and God, isn’t it? (Whether you believe in Him or not) Search your own heart, I’m sure you’ll come up with something. I always do when I look. We’ve driven God out of our schools, our culture, our music, and instead embraced violence, pornography, debauchery, personal “rights” at the expense of personal responsibility, etc. Our Founding Fathers understood well America’s covenant with God (aka “Providence”), and we have very much broken that covenant. We shouldn’t be surprised if there are consequences for doing so, including those tied to nature. And yes, this applies to every single person on earth. Regardless of religion or politics, everyone knows the difference between right and wrong, selfishness and generosity, etc. Everyone has an internal compass, and everyone knows when they’re going against theirs (though some do so for so long its an unrecognizable whisper and easily ignored).

        • Bender April 14, 2015 at 4:18 pm

          Well Bender searched his heart and prayed to his God. The answer was “Brian’s a loon”. Where do we go from here?

        • Free Parking April 14, 2015 at 4:37 pm

          LOL. it’s unbelievable how full of it you really. are talk about a joke take your religious garbage and stuff it where the sun don’t shine.

          • AnotherReader April 14, 2015 at 7:04 pm

            Perhaps Brian should take his comments to the St George News comments section where you spout all of your B******* all the time Free Parking. Oh wait, that’s what Brian did. If we must be subject each and every day to your smart azz comments and jack azz attitude, I guess you can just live with Brian’s comments as well. What good would stuffing his comments “where the sun don’t shine” do since you are already there.
            *Ed. ellipses

  • proudpatriot April 14, 2015 at 11:18 am

    Ed remember the worst drought in American history it started in the 1930’s and ended in the 1950’s (the great dust bowl ) if folks in the early 1900’s had your great wisdom they would have spared all those folks all that misery for those decades .
    God was punishing sinners than , but now that God is not so popular it’s man causing it now.
    Ed your a pinhead

    • Chris April 14, 2015 at 1:10 pm

      The real “pinhead” is anyone who appeals to religion for answers about our physical world. The dust bowl was certainly not the worst drought in American history, and its origins can be conclusively linked to the stupidity of greedy farmers operating in a particularly fragile ecosystem. By the way, the dust bowl occurred over a period of only 8 years and was over by 1940. Of course, when you have god, who cares about the facts?

      • proudpatriot April 14, 2015 at 2:08 pm

        Your laughable , God vs computer model crystal ball to prodict global warming from man made green house gases. Remember midnight newyear 2000 when everybody predicted a meltdown when the clock struck 12 . You probably still have boxes full of batteries scratching your head wondering how come the power grid did not shut down.
        Wow, computer model, I’m going to base my faith on that.
        Computer models don’t work pinhead

        • Chris April 14, 2015 at 3:59 pm

          From a guy who does not know the difference between “your” and “you’re”, you have a lot nerve calling anyone a pinhead. “Everybody” did not predict a meltdown on 1-1-2000, only pinheads who were a miniscule segment of the population. Since you don’t know anything about computer modeling, how could you have faith in it? If you believe in god, you’ve already demonstrated your immeasurable ignorance.

          • anyonemouse April 14, 2015 at 8:44 pm

            Hmmm, I wonder does your computer model believe in a programmer.

        • Bender April 14, 2015 at 4:25 pm

          “Computer models don’t work pinhead”
          That would come as news to the scientific and engineering community. You should tell them.
          A note on the self application of the the title “Patriot”: Generally this honorific is applied by others to someone who has done something extraordinary. Either that or you are a FOX news nut with no understanding of the term.

          • proudpatriot April 14, 2015 at 5:21 pm

            I served in the Vietnam war does that qualify? And what qualifies you to judge?

          • proudpatriot April 14, 2015 at 6:10 pm

            What’s bender? A alcoholic robot that spouts out insults that are humorous to the adolescent mind. Are you 14 years old?

  • Jensen April 14, 2015 at 11:33 am

    It’s true. We cannot create more water. On the other hand we cannot destroy out water either. There is just as much water on the planet today as there was when it was created. That being the case, then where does all the water go if we are wasting it? I say we are in a cyclic rotation of wet and dry years. Right now we are living in a dry time. That’s just the way it is.

  • NotSoFast April 14, 2015 at 11:43 am

    Good meaning article Ed.
    Facts are sometimes hard to find. Social media is a good place to point the finger at anybody who doesn’t see things the way we see them or threatens one livelihood. ( just ask Al Gore). The condition of Cerdar Mountain trees going to pot and why is a subject of facts be damned.
    How many people trying to live on planet Earth is too many? How many folks wanting to move to Southern Utah is too many? Developers say millions/ give us more water. Really? are you nuts?
    Applying a 15% carbon tax to their profits would indices them to set up shop in places that are wet.

  • Roy J April 14, 2015 at 11:49 am

    I think BIG GUY pretty much nailed this one on the head. Here’s some more hard factual currency for the dullards who can’t (or won’t) think for themselves: Kilauea discharges twice the amount of sulfur dioxide gas than the dirties power plant on the US mainland.

  • Bender April 14, 2015 at 12:22 pm

    “Replenishing our water supplies” What does that phrase mean Ed?
    When you anthropomorphize the earth you start to lose me. Give me a science based approach to defining the problem and possible solutions and you get my attention. Otherwise I dismiss you as a fuzzy brained alarmist.
    The Engelmann spruce die-off on the Markagunt Plateau was caused by the system suppression of the natural fire cycle over the past 100+ years.

    • Brian April 14, 2015 at 2:01 pm

      And more directly by liberals that worship the environment to the point that bark beetles have more rights than humans. Normally they would have sprayed and created breaks, containing the beetle. Instead, no spraying was done and the beetle saw Cedar Mountain as a free-admission Chuck-O-Rama. And taxpayers got stuck with a bill for many, many millions of dollars to stack and burn the wood (which logging companies offered to pay to haul off, but that may have resulted in tire tracks, squished beetles, or ~gasp~ profits and jobs, and we can’t have that…).

      • Chris April 14, 2015 at 4:02 pm

        Why didn’t your “god” prevent that?

      • Bender April 14, 2015 at 4:32 pm

        The spraying tale is the local folklore with little actual basis in fact. Plays well to the ignorant and angry who see a boogyman behind every ill that befalls them. If your intellect has moved beyond that of an angry, illiterate peasant from the middle ages you can read what Utah-based scientists have to say in any number of papers on the web. Short story: the causes are probably: pioneer era clear cutting which created a spruce monoculture, long term fire suppression, natural beetle cycles and, most importantly, the rise in forest temperature and shortening of winters.

        • ladybugavenger April 14, 2015 at 7:39 pm

          too much yammering on St George news, bender

          • anyonemouse April 14, 2015 at 8:24 pm

            Why add your digital graffiti if you believe there is too much yammering here

          • Bender April 15, 2015 at 2:13 pm

            ouch, burn.

        • NotSoFast April 14, 2015 at 8:32 pm

          Bender, In your probably causes are list. I see no mention of the voices yelling to Save the OWL habitat by not taking any action. i.e. The hell with the dying trees. It’s only wood! Did you forget that part?
          I know, move along you say. Back to the Global Warming subject to hide facts.
          If you do believe in a creator, what do you want to bet he is laughing his butt off at your childish logic.
          (Now before you get all bent out of shape), I’m just kidding. (not)

  • Free Parking April 14, 2015 at 4:44 pm


  • fun bag April 14, 2015 at 8:29 pm

    yea Ed. Pretty good article. World’s environment in pretty much going to hell. Only optimistic thing I can say for it is that I won’t be around long enough to see it get too horribly bad, or maybe I will… oh well…

  • anyonemouse April 14, 2015 at 8:40 pm

    The climate is gonna “change”, always a safe bet for instilling fear for cash. Couldn’t keep calling it “global cooling” because it started warming up. can’t stick with the “global warming” because that doesn’t keep true either. “Climate change” will work for the wording because that works no matter what climate fear your peddling.

  • Roy J April 24, 2015 at 10:42 am

    Popular headliners suggest that the scientific community is not all on one side of this issue.

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