My wife knew I’d gotten ahold of this New Mexico thing when I started celebrating rain.
Back East, as we call it out here, rain is sad, glum streaks down your window pane. The spoiled picnic. The ballgame called off. Puddles at every corner. Splashes from inconsiderate cars or buses. No! Rain in the East is not nice. Except once in a while.
Well, out here in drought-struck New Mexico every rain is welcome, every drop a joy. Out here, climate change doesn’t just make us sad, it makes us hopping mad, because our lives, human life in this beautiful little part of the planet is at stake.
Perhaps you recall that the U.N. Intergovernmental Panel on Climate Change (the people who compile the best running record of global warming and its expectable effects) said not long ago that the world has about 10 years to save itself.
The IPCC said we need to cut our planetary carbon emissions almost in half by 2030 or face serious environmental dislocations – even more explosive weather, big changes in climate forcing croplands to move and seasons to shift, which means some significant changes in diet at the consuming end of the food chain.
Not to mention devastating changes – as they say in New Jersey – down-a shore. Start at Key West, and kiss goodbye so many places along the coast, Miami and all those beaches – Charleston, Norfolk, New York, Coney Island to the Hamptons – within a few more decades they could all be gone, or at least depopulated and underwater.
And now ponder this – when it comes to climate change and its effects, here in New Mexico, by measurement and observation, everything happens twice as fast. Or faster. The ambient temperature of the Earth has gone up by 1.8 degrees Fahrenheit since 1880. In New Mexico, the temp has risen two degrees since 1970. Hot here means dry, and drought is changing everything from the mountain forests to the valley chile fields and orchards of pecans.
Laura Paskus is an environmental reporter with long experience in New Mexico and the Southwest. She currently files regular reports for the Environmental Project of the New Mexico Political Report and is writing a book that’s based on a year-long project, “At the Precipice: New Mexico’s Changing Climate,” done for New Mexico In Depth. Her work has appeared in Al Jazeera America, Ms. Magazine, Indian Country Today, The Progressive, Columbia Journalism Review, and High Country News, where she also served as Assistant Editor.