Remember the great debate over Miller Lite Beer? Less filling or more taste? It made for a great commercial for Miller. It’s rated one of the 10 best ad campaigns of all time.
The premise – and the joke – was an absurdity, what’s called a false dichotomy – that you had to choose between your taste-buds or your belly. Less filling or more taste? The implicit promise was the opposite: slosh some Lite suds and you’ll get both, full flavor that doesn’t leave you feeling overfilled.
There’s an even more ridiculous choice being proposed by our president. Ask Donald Trump what’s causing the wave of wildfires across Northern California, Oregon and Washington state, and he’ll tell you the wrong answer is climate change, which he frequently dismisses as a “hoax.”
The president blames poor forest management. Nothing wrong with that, inconsistent and often uninformed woodland policies have left our forests filled with fuel, waiting for ignition. But the real right answer is both. But what’s pushed those management mistakes to catastrophic proportions, beyond dead trees or un-removed brush, lightning strikes or power line sparks is undoubtedly climate change.
“Fundamentally the science is very, very simple,” climate scientist Philip Duffy told the New York Times.
“Warmer and drier conditions create drier fuel. What would have been a fire easily extinguished,” Duffy said, “now just grows very quickly and becomes out of control.” One still-raging California fire consumed almost a quarter of a million acres in just 24 hours.
By many measurements, climate change is advancing even faster in New Mexico than in California. Annual temperatures are rising, annual levels of humidity and rainfall have been falling more dramatically in the landlocked Land of Enchantment than in the Pacific Coastal states.
The kinds of mega-fires breaking records in California, Oregon and Washington in 2018-19-and-20 hit New Mexico in 2011 and 2012. We’ve had some scares since, but fortunately, nothing close to the scale of what’s currently burning to our west.
This makes the title of our guest Laura Paskus’ new book so appropriate and its content so necessary. It’s called At the Precipice: New Mexico’s Changing Climate, published just days ago into a new context of California, Oregon and Washington beyond the precipice, off the cliff, paying the price of climate changes unheeded.
Laura Paskus is an environmental reporter with long experience in New Mexico and the Southwest. Her new book, At the Precipice: New Mexico’s Changing Climate was published by the University of New Mexico Press. She currently files regular reports for New Mexico Public Television’s New Mexico in Focus and the Santa Fe Reporter. Paskus ran the Environmental Project of the New Mexico Political Report. She continues to report for New Mexico In Depth, and her work has also 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.