We all do it, but it rarely works. Ignoring a problem until it goes away is something we all try at some point. Problems allowed to linger usually get worse. How often does putting off bathing your dog result in the dog starting to smell better? Unless you want to keep lying to yourself you might as well admit it and get out the shampoo. It is time to give the dog a bath before the whole house gets that weird funky smell that you don’t notice but slaps visitors in the face before the front door closes.
If you spend just a few seconds with the news these days, the evidence of allowing problems to fester surrounds us. We are in a cycle where it feels like problems long ignored are banging at the window and demanding, finally, our attention. Big problems long ignored not only become bigger, they also become inexorable and without ready solutions.
For a long time, we have known that water availability was the Achilles heel of unrestrained growth in the desert Southwest. Undaunted, we kept on growing and planting water thirsty lawns in arid climates. The best solutions we came up with was to divert more water into the dry desert through, get this, an open-air concrete channel known as the Central Arizona Project. What water that didn’t evaporate in transport fed more development that further pressured limited water resources. With the two largest reservoirs in the region now below 40 percent capacity, it was announced that water allocations are being cut back on January 1. The lawns are still there and so are the people. And now the farmers and the natural resources are going to feel the pinch. Truth is, now that the West is having to confront water scarcity, everyone gets hurt and all the choices are hard, inequitable, and painful.
This is just one example where we barreled ahead, living as we wished and ignoring that which is now so obvious: lawns and the desert don’t mix, the world is getting hotter, and climate change leads to drought, and that the whole house of cards was built on a foundation of shifting sands. But a bunch of people made a lot of money, played a lot of golf on green desert golf courses, and moved on to leave those remaining to deal with the mess.
It’s true here too. We have long known that reliance on septic systems was the driving cause of water quality declines, but previous leadership allowed the problem to fester and get worse. Solving the water quality problem is now being done at higher cost and with restoration of our resources a higher hill to climb because we let things get so much worse before forming the resolve to address the root causes of the problems.
There are other examples. New reports provide stark evidence that neglect of climate change has made big changes, and pain, inevitable. We are confronted with no longer being able to avoid the ramifications and are left to mitigate and minimize the damage. Ask the people dealing with raging wildfire in the American West, Canada, Turkey and elsewhere throughout the world how that is going for them. While you are at it, check in with displaced people driven from their homes and communities by rising sea levels, heat, famine, and disease, all driven in large part by rapid changes in climate, and see how they feel about the wisdom of not dealing with our problems sooner.
The point here is not to catalogue our failings, but to recognize them, learn from them and resolve to do better. There are plenty of issues that warrant your attention. We at APCC talk to you about some of them all the time and you no doubt have several in the back of your mind as well. As we enjoy the remaining weeks of summer, let’s all commit to being part of the solution. You will be glad you did.
That’s all for now; it is time for me to give my dogs a bath.