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Reminder to folks in Santa Fe and Albuquerque:
Reception, talk, and discussion tomorrow, Thursday March 28, 2013:
March 27, 2013
Bulletin #167: Whither New Mexico, world capital of weapons of mass destruction?
Dear friends –
As we enter yet another warm, dry spring in New Mexico many of us are acutely aware that the world, our country, and this state face a set of converging crises that existentially threaten our environment, society, and economy.
Most of the best responses to these crises are no longer available. We passed the best roads and didn’t take them. Quite the opposite: our misdirected momentum is increasing. But here we are, and things which can’t continue, won’t.
One of those is “New Mexico as we know it,” meaning the gradual evolution of its economy and society along historical patterns – and everything we think we know about what is politically practical for us.
What lies just ahead in this state, weakened for decades by a political addiction to nuclear weapon institutions, is unprecedented ecologic, economic, and social change. How we craft our response to these circumstances, and in particular the vigor, clarity, and compassion with which we bend the arc of our history henceforth, will largely determine the quotient of joy in the lives of our children and theirs.
In 1945 the Manhattan District of the U.S. Army Corps of Engineers needed the Jornada del Muerto to test something highly destructive. Especially thanks to Pete Domenici and others that have followed and are following in his footsteps, there we have largely remained.
We need not stay there. What seems impossible to us today may not be, and it may not be impossible tomorrow either, when harsher realities enter the picture. Hannah Arendt reminds us that:
In the meantime:
Whatever truth we tell, it is not going to be an abstract or external truth which will keep the heavens from falling, or set us free for that matter. What matters above all is the truth we embody. “Preach,” said Francis, “and if necessary use words.” We have to own it.
Apart from its premier nuclear role, New Mexico lies in a part of our continent that is “ground zero” for anthropogenic global warming. A human signature can be seen on our weather today, on the evolution of the landscape and the movements of mobile species, on our mistreated forests and grasslands – the latter stressed to the limit by overgrazing already. Significant changes in atmospheric humidity and polar albedo, to pick just two mechanisms, affect all weather, tilting the scales in our case toward warmer days and especially warmer nights, drought, fire, and associated ecological changes, much less surface water, and the economic sequellae of all of this.
Of course any given ensemble of weather events cannot be distinguished, most of the time, from what used to be “ordinary” weather and the effects of the El Niño–Southern Oscillation (ENSO) in the Pacific. That’s the point.
There is at present no limit to how severe these changes could become, if we remain passive, if we let the massive business opportunities in renewable energy and conservation pass us by, and if our fossil-fuel-intensive way of life continues. The first two are uncertain but we certainly will not be continuing a fossil-fuel-intensive way of life much longer, for reasons we will explain Thursday and on later occasions, as they affect all government (and private) policies.
What, then, is the future toward which we are trending in New Mexico? Under all variations of business as usual, we can look forward to:
As I am sure you recognize, there can be no "successful" adaptation of the present population to a much warmer and drier climate in New Mexico. The simplest "adaptation" will be for most of our population to leave. But to where? Adaptation to unmitigated climate change is not feasible except as a respite and exigency, especially under conditions of declining conventional oil availability -- which decline has been underway in the developed west (OECD) for the past six years. That decline is now picking up speed, and New Mexico will more affected than most because automobile fuel expenses are a greater part of our household finances than is the case in most other places.
For all this -- and this is crucial -- opportunities for redress remain. The sun will rise tomorrow. There will be huge differences in outcomes, depending on our actions. What is more, and what is more important personally, for everyone, there will be huge differences in personal fulfillment as we respond. We can be noble; we can make use of the natural human inclination to heroism (sensu Ernest Becker); we can find a greatness and an authenticity that the glutted consumer life does not know. Instead of the failure of the liberal class so well described by Hedges (Death of the Liberal Class), we could be part of, and help lead, a new "greatest generation." We could show the way.
So we in New Mexico are really at a moment of truth. If we remain attached to militarized policies, or think our future could be secured by the next resource extraction boomlet (e.g. tight oil and gas), the best we can hope for here will not be enough to provide for a dignified life. What is coming like a freight train under current policies is as economically inadequate as it is socially, environmentally, and politically destructive. Either we will get off this track or we will get run over.
The Los Alamos Study Group is ready to do its part, and we hope you will join us tomorrow evening, and after.