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What We Can Learn from the Deadly Boulder Floods

We can keep arguing whether the devastating still–unfolding flood in Colorado was caused (or amplified) by climate change (or not) or we could get serious about addressing the climate crisis.

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Furthermore, climate change induced bark beetles infestation during the last decade killed tens of millions of pine and piñon trees, all across the southwest. As I  wrote in 2010 that between 2001 and 2005, more than 54.5 million piñons—90% of mature piñons died in New Mexico from bark beetles infestation.

In 2011 the Amon Carter Museum of American Art in Fort Worth presented as exhibition of my desert photographs,  Where I Live I Hope to Know. In the accompanying catalog I  wrote:

When I started my walks [in 2006], I did not realize that the piñon–juniper stands across the Desert Southwest are actually old–growth forests, ancient woodlands that support an amazing diversity of wildlife, including 250 bird species, 74 species of mammals, 17 species of bats, 10 amphibian species, and 27 species of reptiles. Sadly, as I continued my photography, I began to realize that the old–growth piñon forest in New Mexico is mostly dead due to recent climate change.

The massive death and destruction of trees—from bark beetles and wildfires—turn a forest that used to be a carbon sink—to a carbon source, further contributing to climate change.

We can connect many more dots like this. But the point I’m trying to make here is that we can keep arguing whether the devastating still–unfolding flood in Colorado was caused (or amplified) by climate change (or not) or we could get serious about addressing the climate crisis. Sadly, there is no such luck in the horizon, however, as I  wrote in a recent article, “Obama in the US, and Harper in Canada, in tandem, are turning North America into a petro–imperial and petro–despot continent. This does not bode well for solving the climate crisis.”

The Obama presidency has all but finished off the environmental movement in the US. The movement has essentially become what I’d call—the glass is half–full movement. The concept is most clearly exemplified by the Keystone XL pipeline issue. Environmentalists who are Obama supporters cheerily point out that he delayed the construction of the northern half of the pipeline, while critics like myself keep pointing out that he gave approval for the building of the southern half. It is a great irony that the Keystone XL pipeline has become—the Kardashian—the celebrity of the environmental movement. Under the cover of the Keystone XL Obama’s environmental policy is causing great troubles everywhere else: from drilling in the Arctic Ocean, to super–deep–water–drilling in the Gulf of Mexico, to fracking (onshore and offshore), and a recent Mint Press News investigative report stated: “many key pipeline and oil and gas industry marketing projects are currently up for expedited review, making up for—and by far eclipsing—the capacity of Keystone XL’s northern half.”

More than a decade of wars abroad has hollowed out the US economy. Now, responding to frequent climate change disasters—wildfires, floods, hurricanes—will further empty out the government’s coffer. The Empire might not need clothes to survive (bombs and drones will do), but people and all other species will still need a healthy environment—to survive.

The Weather Report: Art and Climate Change exhibition happened in 2007 that visually gave warnings about a deadly flood in the Boulder Creek. Six years have passed. America is yet to take any meaningful action on climate change. Will the death and devastation from this week’s flood in Colorado simply pass us by as a mere spectacle? 


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