Climate change is NOT the only problem, folks

Posted 1.27.17

SHAWVILLE, QUEBEC | Given the racket introduced by our digital interconnections that allow everyone to comment instantaneously on any subject whatsoever, when I met a respected geologist recently I was all ears to hear his comments on environmental issues of the day. After all, a geologist does more than read the newspapers and whatever's crashing around the internet surf; here's a scientist who reads (reads more than Facebook).

One comment of his which caught our little group's attention right away was this: "Climate change is not the problem, it's a symptom." All our ten ears went to alert.

He had been speaking of water and soil - - especially river bottoms, apparently a speciality of this Ottawa scientist. The question of underground water came up and the subject moved to aquifers, and the practise, especially in the United States, of drilling wells down to these reservoirs and pumping out the water for crop irrigation and city use.

He mentioned practices in central California's San Joaquin Valley, one of the most productive agricultural areas in the world, and also one of the most water-short farmlands. So much water is being pumped up that predictions of the life span of the huge aquifer supporting this area have dropped remarkably - - and are now used as another indicator of the dire effects of changing climate. As we know from the news, California's lengthy drought has meant very little of the annual re-charge is happening to this aquifer.

"It won't re-charge," he argued. Even if the next ten years were as wet as the last were dry, and this because the soil structure holding the aquifer has by now silted up and collapsed; there is no longer much storage capacity down deep. Even if the Americans were able to divert an entire Canadian river down there, the aquifer no longer exists as it once did. The river would run off, drain away.

The minute chambers and passages that hold and transfer the aquifer's water are now plugged up, collapsed, and even compacted with the weight of the soil above. The geologist was arguing against the water diversion plans we hear suggested by the Americans every decade. And the same effect, he said, is happening around the world, wherever aquifers are being tapped for industrial quantities of water. Western Canada, the prairies in particular, and other local farm-intense areas - - it's our problem, too.

"Climate change isn't exhausting the aquifers; we are." Climate changes may mean less water is arriving during the wet seasons when aquifers are re-charged by a steady inflow into a reservoir system that is still sturdy with existing water. We are taking it out. And we are taking it out to support our basically unsupportable standard(s) of living.

He put it immodestly: "Climate change is not the main problem, it is our extravagant, wasteful, and unsustainable lives. We want almonds, oranges, and lettuce all year around. We've upset the natural equilibrium which produced us and our civilization. Our own wasteful consumption is doing us in."


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