Beware of nukes. Beware of zombies. Beware of too much of a good thing, and beware of the consequences of not enough.
About 10 years ago, an in-law relative of mine bought a small second home in extreme southeast Idaho. It was, he figured, the safest spot within reasonable driving distance of his home to be in the event of a nuclear bombardment of the United States.
Personally, I’m not losing any sleep over thermonuclear war, but I confess to a certain kind of what-if doomsday thinking of my own.
Great civilizations, after all, can fall, and occasionally that fall happens hard and fast. Again, I’m sleeping well, but it’s interesting to think what kind of place is the safest to be in the event of an unexpected demotion from first-world living.
To put it more realistically, I like the idea of living in a place that can survive and even thrive without outside intervention, be the conditions primitive or modern.
We’re talking sustainability, and on this point Del Norte County has a lot going for it.
Consider Southern California. Growing up in its Mojave Desert left a deep impression on me of the importance of living sustainably because SoCal does anything but.
You can’t even poop there without a sense of guilt about having to flush more than once to get the job done with a legally-imposed low-flush toilet that dribbles out a couple teaspoons of water per yank of the handle. Meanwhile, as you wrestle with your stingy toilet, your neighbor is lavishly spraying buckets of water on his trophy lawn.
Southern California’s voracious and frivolous appetite for energy and water is emblematic of everything wrong with how the modern world uses its resources.
We hear a lot these days about how hard it is for us to cut off our addiction to climate-changing carbon fuels in the wake of repeated and emphatic warnings about their harm to our planet.
The addiction is baked into our DNA, I’m afraid. Economist John Kenneth Galbraith, who worked during World War II in the Office of Price Administration, which managed wartime rationing, said that the American public was remarkably accommodating of imposed shortages of daily goods with one exception: gasoline. You can take our sugar, stockings and spare tires, but you’ll have to pry our gas cans from our cold, dead, driving-gloved fingers.
Utterly absurd: SoCal’s gas-guzzling freeway sprawl and the power-grid straining blast of air conditioning during the summers (not to mention the senseless waste of gigawatts that is the wasteland “oasis” of Las Vegas with all its seizure-inducing lights and ring-a-dinging slot machines). If these places are too hot for comfort, what sense is there in cooking the rest of the planet with carbon emissions to keep a society of fools cool, mobile and stacked with chips?
At least one thing in the desert cities’ favor is that there is ample sustainable energy of the solar variety that will hopefully someday provide for the region’s “needs.”
The water shortages of our neighbors to the south are another problem entirely. Historian Carey McWilliams said that “God never intended Southern California to be anything but a desert ... man has made it what it is.”
To satisfy its unquenchable thirst, Los Angeles exported its wasteland elsewhere, parasitically sucking dry fertile agricultural lands in Central California and the Colorado River Basin to satiate the needs of a much tinier plot of land that had no business metastasizing into a metropolis.
All of this illustrates why Del Norte County is my kind of place. Should there be some kind of civilization-burying disaster — my money’s on zombie apocalypse — this is the sort of climate where I would want to fight for my survival, Idaho wilderness be damned.
Zombie paranoia aside, this is a rich land (its economy is another matter), a place where lawns grow themselves and there is plenty of water for crops and, importantly, toilets.
Compared to many part of the world, our energy needs for heating and cooling are small. Near the coast, the summers are cool and the winters could be much worse, hard as that may be to believe when looking at your winter electricity bills.
As for water, well, we’re practically up to our gills in the stuff. Gills, in fact, would be quite useful in these parts.
Our water supply is not without its downsides — last week’s soaking was considerably less enjoyable than, say, high-velocity weaving through LA freeway traffic, a favorite youthful indiscretion of mine.
The possibility of catastrophic flooding looms every winter, as Klamath residents circa 1964 can attest. A just-released Scientific American report shows that megafloods of even greater proportions than the ’64 event are a regular occurrence here, and we’re approaching the overdue point for another at the same time that global warming is intensifying our storms.
Because of our hydro-prosperity, we have too much mold, too many landslides, and we have to wear raincoats, which make you so drenched in sweat that you have to wonder what the point of them is.
But life could be worse. And if it ever is, we’ll get by much better than those yahoos down south.
Matthew Durkee is assistant editor of the Triplicate.