NYTIMES Mag: “The Future is Drying Up”

The New York Times Sunday Magazine is one of the few things I still read in print. Something about the weekend and a 5,000+ word cover story makes for a perfect combo.

The West is the fastest-growing part of the country. It’s also the driest. And climate change could be making matters much, much worse….

Scientists sometimes refer to the effect a hotter world will have on this country’s fresh water as the other water problem, because global warming more commonly evokes the specter of rising oceans submerging our great coastal cities. By comparison, the steady decrease in mountain snowpack — the loss of the deep accumulation of high-altitude winter snow that melts each spring to provide the American West with most of its water — seems to be a more modest worry. But not all researchers agree with this ranking of dangers

This week’s cover story was fascinating, and what stood out for me was the great cost of inaction, but also the exciting challenge of a big problem that has to be solved.

5 thoughts on “NYTIMES Mag: “The Future is Drying Up”

  1. I saw this same photo in the mag when I sat down to peruse. A few things struck me when looking at it. One, I used to go to Laughlin, NV as a child with a bunch of people from Bonita, CA and we used to water ski, etc. The levels at that time were below “normal”. The past couple of years, friends from SF would venture north and house boat for a long weekend on the lakes at Shasta. The last year we went, we were unable to visit parts of the lake due to the water levels. We even managed to saw off the prop on our ski boat as levels were dangerously low. Lastly, my parents were evacuated two nights ago due to fires in southern california. While maybe not tied together, and all possibilities in their own right…lower water levels across the board, increased dryness, increased temperatures, fires without a hope in sight…i pray for the future!

  2. raanan bar-cohen says:

    @Jason: Interesting stuff — thanks.

    For me the big take-away is the non linear nature of the environmental situation. You can’t look at the past water levels for example, and have anything close to an accurate prediction of the future.

    It definitely seems like factors combine to accelerate many of the things we are seeing. A tipping point if you will …

    On a positive note, there are a ton of smart people out there working on these problems.

    Just today’s nytimes op-ed page has this article from Ken Caldeira, a scientist at the Carnegie Institution’s department of global ecology, titled. how to cool the globe — which focused on emitting particles into the atmosphere (much like a volcano) that would block the sun’s rays and bounce them back into space.

    Sounds a bit crazy, but we might need a crazy solution to set things back to normal 🙂

  3. Alot of smart people are tackling this in bits and pieces..but hubris may be at the root? And greed! We, as a nation, think we can fix “anything”? Similar to the underlying motivations for Rushmore and Good Will Hunting…if we give a problem set to individuals..they will come up with an answer. The George Dantzig result (famous statistician that solved two “unsolvable” problems). Check out CNN’s Planet in Peril…talks about the relationships of each piece of the environment and its implications on all the other pieces. Basic ecology 101..but interesting nonetheless.

    p.s. Bought a new house i see. i like the new look and feel of the blog! Very clean!

  4. Things will change until we get back to fundamentals, or we may get lucky and technology will come to the rescue — how bad will we have to have things before people are willing to give dangerous ideas like Ken Caldeira’s a go?

    Water poverty is pretty scary sounding.

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