“This Is Not a Normal Time”: Trump and the Rapidly Expanding “Witch Hunt” ~ The New Yorker

The criminality of the key figures in the President’s inner circle is now established, and they have started to implicate Trump himself.

Shortly after 11 a.m. on Thursday, Senator Jeff Flake, of Arizona, took to the Senate floor for his farewell speech. One of President Trump’s few remaining public critics in the Republican Party on Capitol Hill, Flake used the chance for one more lament about the perilous state of American democracy in the Trump era. “We all know well that this is not a normal time and that the threats to our democracy from within and without are real,” Flake said. “None of us can say with confidence how the situation that we now find ourselves in will turn out.” As Flake was still speaking, Trump tweeted out the two-word slogan that more than any other captures the current political agenda in the capital of the most powerful nation in the world. “witch hunt!” the President wrote. No explanation offered, none needed.

Trump’s critique is familiar by now. By one count, that tweet marked the hundred-and-forty-second time he has complained on social media about the investigations into his possible collusion with Russian interference in the 2016 election; he started in March of 2017, not even two months into his White House tenure. By May 18, 2017, he was already calling it “the single greatest witch hunt of a politician in American history.” By late November of this year, Trump was asking, almost plaintively, “When will this illegal Joseph McCarthy style Witch Hunt, one that has shattered so many innocent lives, ever end-or will it just go on forever?”

Given the constant, repetitive nature of Trump’s “witch hunt” tweets, it might be tempting to ignore them. That would be a mistake. The chief executive’s attention is the most valuable resource of any Administration—what a President spends his time on reflects, more than anything else, an Administration’s true priorities. By those standards, the “witch hunt” is the overriding priority of the Trump White House, and it will be even more so in the new year, when the special counsel, Robert Mueller, moves toward a conclusion and a new, Democratic-controlled House of Representatives, with the power and the votes to subpoena and impeach Trump, takes office. The uncertainty that Flake captured, then, is not about the political agenda of Washington in 2019, which Trump’s tweet perfectly summed up; it is about what those who run the battered, gridlocked, dysfunctional institutions of American democracy will do about it. Events may soon force them to take action.

This is a week, after all, in which President Trump, or “Individual-1,” as the prosecutors of the Southern District of New York are now calling him, was implicated in federal court as the leader of a criminal conspiracy to pay off two women to hide his affairs in the run-up to the 2016 election. Trump’s lawyer Michael Cohen, the fixer who once bragged he would take a bullet for the President, has turned on him, and on Wednesday Cohen received a three-year prison sentence for violating campaign-finance laws with the payoffs. The President’s tabloid friends at the National Enquirer who participated in the scheme have admitted to it in a deal with the prosecutors, and new details were reported this week that place the President directly in the room when the hush-money plan was being discussed. His campaign chairman is also going to prison, as a result of a separate case. His first national-security adviser has pleaded guilty. All of them are coöperating to various degrees with Mueller.

In other words, the criminality of key figures in the President’s inner circle is now established, by their own admissions, as they start to implicate the President himself. And this is even before Mueller issues findings or criminal charges related to the central subject of his inquiry into whether Trump or his campaign colluded with the Russians in 2016. Additional damning evidence against Trump is increasingly likely to emerge from outside of the Mueller investigation, as in the case of Cohen, or as a consequence of aggressive investigations and oversight by the new Democratic House. For example, on Thursday, the de-facto incoming Speaker of the House, Nancy Pelosi, said that the Ways and Means Committee will use its subpoena powers to demand Trump’s tax returns, which, given the extensive reporting in the Times about his family’s decades-long tax dodges, could produce an untold wealth of damaging information.

Largely overlooked in the daily flood of Trump-era news, a week ago, his former Secretary of State, Rex Tillerson, said in an interview that Trump had repeatedly pressed him to violate the law. “I’d have to say to him, ‘Mr. President, I understand what you wanna do, but you can’t do it that way. It violates the law, it violates treaty.’ He got really frustrated,” Tillerson said. “I think he grew tired of me being the guy who told him, ‘You can’t do that.’ ” The coverage of Tillerson’s interview with the journalist Bob Schieffer focussed more on Trump’s outraged response than on the underlying revelation. “Tillerson calls Trump undisciplined. Trump calls Tillerson ‘dumb as a rock,’ ” one headline, in the Washington Post, read. But Tillerson’s allegation was more than just another bout of Trump-era name-calling between a former Secretary of State who once called his boss a “fucking moron” and the President who fired him by tweet. Imagine Tillerson before Congress come January, testifying under oath and live on television, about which laws Trump told him to break. Speaking of testimony, I can hardly wait for that of the two White House chiefs of staff who Trump also fired—the latest one, John Kelly, just this week. When asked about the chaos of the Trump White House, Reince Priebus, Kelly’s predecessor, who was dumped by tweet while on Air Force One, once told the author Chris Whipple, “Take everything you’ve heard and multiply it by fifty.”

~~~  CONTINUE  ~~~

Stephen Colbert Takes on Trump’s Friendship With Tabloid Publisher

Another day, another high-profile witness in the Russia investigation. On Thursday, Stephen Colbert unpacked the news that David Pecker — the publisher of The National Enquirer and a close ally of President Trump — had admitted to prosecutors that he made hush-money payments to a Playboy model to shield Trump’s presidential campaign.

 
Colbert found plenty of angles of attack.

Rewilding Chile & Argentina ~ Mountain Outlaw

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Kris Tompkins has protected 13 million acres, and she’s not done yet.

BY EMILY STIFLER WOLFE

The first time I try to call Kristine McDivitt Tompkins, she’s in Santiago, Chile. It’s a Sunday afternoon in September, and after three days with little sleep, she lies down for a nap and misses our scheduled Skype call. But I don’t really care: I’ll get to talk to Kris Tompkins.

As CEO of Patagonia, Kris helped lead the company from a small climbing gear manufacturer to an outdoor apparel titan and a pioneer for corporate responsibility. In 1993, age 43, she retired from Patagonia, married Doug Tompkins, founder of The North Face and co-founder of Esprit, and moved to a remote farm he’d bought in Chile’s Lakes District.

Tompkins Conservation—the umbrella organization for the nonprofit foundations the Tompkins established—has purchased roughly 2 million acres of private land for conservation in Chile and Argentina. It has taken on ambitious ecological restoration projects including the reintroduction of native species, has donated most of its land as national parks and other protected areas, with the remaining acreage pledged for donation. Since Doug’s death in 2015, Kris and her team have also helped protect another 10 million acres of new national parklands in Chile and helped establish three new national parks in Argentina.

Kris is a world leader in large landscape and species restoration. Someone who gives all her energy, time and wealth to restoring functioning ecosystems. If you believe the idea that we need biodiversity to survive—and you should—you’ll quickly realize she’s not just saving wildlife, she’s trying to save humanity. If she needs a nap, she’s earned it.

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“You’re never finished. Truly never. It doesn’t matter where you are in the world, that’s the story.”

In the meantime, I call her former boss from Patagonia, Yvon Chouinard.

“She was a juvenile delinquent like the rest of us, in that she didn’t want to take the straight and narrow path,” he says. The two met when Kris was a 15-year-old surfer, and Yvon, 28 at the time, gave her a summer job packing boxes at what was then Chouinard Equipment. “She went to school barefoot, and her teacher would tell her to go to home. The next day she’d show up with leather shoelaces wrapped around her toes.”

After college, where she ski raced for the College of Idaho, Yvon and his wife Malinda hired Kris to help them launch Patagonia Inc., the clothing company. “None of us knew how to run a business,” Yvon said. “We all learned together. And we didn’t want to run a business like everybody else’s. We broke a lot of the rules, and she’s more than happy to do that. That’s what makes her a successful person, really.”

That, and she’s a very effective leader.

“She could see through all the crap,” said Richard Siberell, a clothing designer who worked at Patagonia in the late ‘80s and early ‘90s. “She was your big sister and your best friend and kicked you in the ass and [would suggest], ‘You got work to do. You’re going to work all weekend until you get this shit done. If you won’t, you’re not going to be demoted—the whole company is going down in flames.’”

When Kris calls from Patagonia Park in Chile the following week, she and Malinda Chouinard (whom Kris describes as “beyond my closest friend—she’s like family”) are reviewing materials for a new visitor center and museum set to open in November. They’re also prepping to turn management of the land and infrastructure over to the Chilean park service in April 2019.

Roughly the size of Yosemite, 765,000- acre Patagonia Park is a seven-hour drive on a gravel road from the nearest commercial airport. It’s spring, and the buds are just emerging, Kris says. They’re working from a guest house Tompkins Conservation has already donated with the rest of the park. Kris describes life-size photos of pumas in the living room, and windows overlooking grassy foothills into the Andean peaks. They leave for New York in three days, and the energy through the phone line is palpable.

During our two-hour conversation, I ask about topics ranging from a childhood in Venezuela and on her great-grandfather’s ranch in Santa Paula, California, about the farms she and Doug bought in Chile and Argentina, and her 2018 meeting with Pope Francis. But first I ask about the news from the Greater Yellowstone: Two days before, grizzly bears were returned to the Endangered Species List in the Lower 48, and Malinda, whom I can hear in the background, was involved in the fight.

“We’re really excited, but we also realize these things are so fragile, and the next day you have to get up and face something else,” Kris tells me. “You’re never finished. Truly never. It doesn’t matter where you are in the world, that’s the story.”

Moving from grizzlies to South American carnivores, Kris describes the local animosity toward pumas, the same species as North American mountain lions. Here in the southern cone, massive estancias, or ranches, reign, and the animals have a price on their heads.

To form Patagonia Park, another nonprofit Kris established bought 220,000 acres of private land to connect two federally protected reserves. The majority of that land was part of a large sheep ranch in the Chacabuco Valley, and the organization, Conservacion Patagonica, has removed 400-plus miles of fencing and restored overgrazed grasslands, allowing native wildlife, including pumas, to repopulate.

Tompkins Conservation has worked from the southern tip of Chile, establishing Yendegaia National Park in 2014, to northern Argentina, where the organization helped create El Impenetrable National Park and is now doing groundbreaking species restoration in the upcoming Iberá National Park. Since purchasing 340,000 acres there in 1997, the organization has reintroduced giant anteaters, tapirs, macaws, collared peccaries and pampas deer. It hopes to release jaguars by early 2020, which would be the first large carnivore reintroduction in Latin America, according to Ignacio Jiménez Pérez, who directed the Iberá rewilding program until mid- 2018.

“The biggest challenge for reintroducing any large predator is about the reaction of society,” Jiménez Pérez said. “The response of the neighbors and the provincial and national society has been phenomenal. They are really excited about getting Jaguars back.” The largest feline in the Americas, jaguars are gone from 95 percent of their original Argentinian range and were extirpated from the Iberá area in the 1960s. Because they’ve been gone so long, the big cats aren’t seen as a threat, even among local cattle ranchers. The region is already benefitting from ecotourism, with a million annual visitors to nearby Iguazú Falls; plus, jaguars are part of the native Guarani folklore, considered a lost relative. “There is no mythology of hatred,” Jimenez said, contrasting them to wolves in the Northern Rockies.

The Tompkins didn’t start as rewilders: Their first projects, Pumalín and Corcovado parks in Chilean Patagonia, both had fairly intact ecosystems. It was a sea change in their work—a massive commitment that’s been the most difficult part, Kris said.

~~~  CONTINUE MOUNTAIN OUTLAW STORY  ~~~

We thought the Incas couldn’t write. These knots change everything ~ New Scientist

A lost language encoded in intricate cords is finally revealing its secrets – and it could upend what we know about Incan history and culture

 

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The Inca system of writing in khipus, or knotted cords

©The Trustees of the British Museum

THE Incas left no doubt that theirs was a sophisticated, technologically savvy civilisation. At its height in the 15th century, it was the largest empire in the Americas, extending almost 5000 kilometres from modern-day Ecuador to Chile. These were the people who built Machu Picchu, a royal estate perched in the clouds, and an extensive network of paved roads complete with suspension bridges crafted from woven grass. But the paradox of the Incas is that despite all this sophistication they never learned to write.

Or did they? The Incas may not have bequeathed any written records, but they did have colourful knotted cords. Each of these devices was called a khipu (pronounced key-poo). We know these intricate cords to be an abacus-like system for recording numbers. However, there have also been teasing hints that they might encode long-lost stories, myths and songs too.

In a century of study, no one has managed to make these knots talk. But recent breakthroughs have begun to unpick this tangled mystery of the Andes, revealing the first signs of phonetic symbolism within the strands. Now two anthropologists are closing in on the Inca equivalent of the Rosetta stone. That could finally crack the code and transform our understanding of a civilisation whose history has so far been told only through the eyes of the Europeans who sought to eviscerate it.

The Spanish conquistadors, led by Francisco Pizarro, first encountered the Incas at the start of the 1530s. They were awestruck by the magnificent stone cities, the gold and treasure. But as the Spanish began to take over the Inca empire and impose their own customs, they became equally enthralled by the way the society was organised.

Machu Picchu

The Inca royal palace of Machu Picchu

Ralph Lee Hopkins/National Geographic Creative

The Incas governed the 10 million people in their realm with what amounted to a federal system. Power was centred in Cusco, in the south of what is now Peru, but spread through several levels of hierarchy across a series of partially self-governing provinces. There was no money and no market economy. The production and distribution of food and other commodities was centrally controlled. People had their own land to farm, but every subject was also issued with necessities from state storehouses in exchange for labour, administered through an impressive tribute system.

“Break the khipu code and we might finally read an indigenous Inca history”

Historians have argued variously that the Inca empire was a socialist utopia or an authoritarian monarchy. But no one disputes its efficiency. “It was an extraordinary system,” says Gary Urton, an anthropologist at Harvard University. “Administratively speaking, it was very sophisticated and it seems to have worked well.”

Key to that success was the flow of reliable data, in the form of censuses, tribute accounts and storehouse inventories. For that, the Incas relied on the khipumayuq, or the keepers of the khipus, a specially trained caste who could tie and read the cords.

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Jonny Wan

The majority of surviving khipus consist of a pencil-thick primary cord, from which hang multiple “pendant” cords and, in turn, “subsidiaries”. The Spanish described how they were used to record all manner of information. The poet Garcilaso de la Vega, son of an Inca princess and a Spanish conquistador, noted in a 1609 account that they had “an admirable method of counting everything in the Inca’s kingdom, including all taxes and tributes, both paid and due, which they did with knots in strings of different colours.”

There are reasons to think khipus may record other things, including stories and myths – the sort of narrative information that many cultures write down. De la Vega was among many chroniclers who hinted as much, writing in one passage that the Incas “recorded on knots everything that could be counted, even mentioning battles and fights, all the embassies that had come to visit the Inca, and all the speeches and arguments they had uttered”. True, he was prone to ambiguity and contradictions. But about a third of the khipus in collections seem to have a more elaborate construction than the others, as if they contain a different sort of information. For decades the point was moot, however, because no one could read any of them.

The first hints of revelations from khipus came in the 1920s, when anthropologist Leland Locke analysed a bunch of them housed at the American Museum of Natural History in New York. He noticed that the knots are organised in rows almost like beads on an abacus (see diagram). He demonstrated that each row of knots at a certain height denoted units, tens, hundreds and so on. That made sense, fitting with the decimal system the Inca used to divide up groups for tribute purposes.

Written in knots

Hard knot to crack

The discovery sparked a wave of interest in khipus. By the 1990s, though, we still had no idea what the numbers meant. “Say you read off the number 76 – what does it refer to?,” asks Urton.

To answer that, you would ideally have a translation of a khipu into a familiar language. It would be an equivalent of the Rosetta stone, which contained a translation of Egyptian hieroglyphics into ancient Greek and unlocked that picture language. In the absence of that, Urton has spent the last 25 years tracking down and carefully digitising the details of every khipu he could find in museums and private collections across the world. Today, his Khipu Database Project contains details of more than 900 of them.

There are all sorts of varying factors in khipus: the colour of the strings, the structure of the knots and the direction in which they were hitched. Having spent countless hours poring over them, Urton began to think that binary differences in these features might be encoding information. For example, a basic knot tied in one direction could mean “paid”, while in the other it would mean “unpaid”. By 2012, he had developed a more specific hypothesis, proposing that the direction in which knots were tied, the colours of the strings, or some combination of the two, corresponded to the social status of the people whose tributes they recorded, and even individuals’ names. Without a khipu translation, however, the idea looked destined to remain untested.

Then in 2016, Urton was browsing his personal library when he picked out a book that contained a Spanish census document from the 1670s. It was what the colonists referred to as a revisita, a reassessment of six clans living around the village of Recuay in the Santa valley region of western Peru. The document was made in the same region and at the same time as a set of six khipus in his database, so in theory it and the khipus were recording the same things.

Checking it out, Urton found that there were 132 tribute payers listed in the text and 132 cords on the khipus. The fine details fitted too, with the numbers on the cords matching the charges the Spanish document said had been levelled. It seemed to be the match he had been looking for.

Even so, Urton was struggling to pick apart the detail of the connections between the Santa valley khipus and the Spanish documents. He ended up letting a Harvard undergraduate student named Manny Medrano take a look. He turned out to have the perfect complement of skills for the job. He was a native Spanish speaker and, majoring in economics, he was a whizz with spreadsheets. Medrano painstakingly generated tables of the khipu data and combed through them in search of matching patterns. This year, he and Urton showed for the first time that the way pendant cords are tied onto the primary cord indicates which clan an individual belonged to.

“It is a really important achievement,” says Jeffrey Splitstoser at George Washington University in Washington DC, who specialises in khipus from the Wari empire that preceded the Inca. “It gives us a new way to interpret these sources. Gary has made things a lot more tractable.” Yet the question of whether the khipus also contain stories still hung there.

~~~  READ ON  ~~~

‘Silverton’ a painting by Paul Folwell @ Maria’s Bookshop in Durango …

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A beautiful painting by Paul Folwell titled “Silverton”.  It’s an incredible piece.  The sky is magical.  This was painted in one of Paul’s classic periods twenty some years ago. Canvas size is 30” x 48”.

Silverton has been proudly displayed at Maria’s Bookshop for a long time and is currently hanging on the wall of the shop. “Silverton” is looking for a new home. It’s a classic piece.

Paul Folwell is one of the original Purgatory patrollers and is the namesake of Pauls Park ski run at Purg. He is still painting canvas daily with great success.

Please see Maria’s owners Andrea & Peter for details.

 

And for a cool history of Maria’s Bookshop (which is for sale)

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Jon Batiste’s World Is Wonderful, but Flawed ~ NYT

Jon Batiste spoke about the way New Orleans and New York had molded his career and musical aesthetic. Credi tMike Cohen for The New York Times

By Doug MacCash

NEW ORLEANS — Discussing his views on music’s role in a city’s culture, the jazz keyboardist Jon Batiste, who is the band leader on “The Late Show With Stephen Colbert,” told a panel in New Orleans that music has a unique power to inspire action.

Music has always been the soundtrack of movements, he said.

Mr. Batiste, 32, who hails from the nearby suburb of Kenner, spoke with Marc Lacey, the national editor of The New York Times, then concluded by stepping to the piano and playing a stark, somewhat melancholy rendition of “What a Wonderful World,” a tune made famous by Louis Armstrong.

The performance was perfect, as the lyrics seemed to reflect Mr. Batiste’s inherent optimism, while his contemplative execution communicated the musician’s awareness of social inequity that permeated the Armstrong era and beyond. Mr. Batiste, the final panelist at the Cities for Tomorrow conference, talked about how his career and musical aesthetic were molded by two dynamic cities.

In New Orleans, he was steeped in jazz culture, both as a member of one of the city’s premier musical families and as a student at the New Orleans Center for Creative Arts. When, at age 17, his talent took him to the Juilliard School in New York, he absorbed the kinetic nature of the metropolis, where he and his band played mini concerts for subway riders.

Jon Batiste’s performances on the Colbert show are superb, his talents multi cultural from jazz to classical to ‘improv’, but they are all too brief. I long for him & his band ‘Stay Human’ to be given a full time slot of his own which the live audience enjoys during the commercial breaks but the TV audience does not. More Jon Batiste, please!

Earlier panelists had discussed how the rise in population and economic vitality in many cities had exacerbated inequity. Mr. Batiste’s view of music’s role in city culture reflected his resistance to urban unfairness. When Mr. Lacey asked if music could be part of “the actual lifting up of cities,” Mr. Batiste responded in activist terms.

Music can inspire action, he said. “Music has always been a way for people to endure hardship and figure out how to really connect to their humanity or affirm their humanity when everything around them is trying to squash their humanity,” he said.

Jon Batiste Performs ‘What a Wonderful World’ Credit Video by The New York Times Conferences
Marc Lacey, left, with Mr. Batiste.CreditMike Cohen for The New York Times

The importance of music, he added, goes beyond entertainment. “In any situation, music can be used as a reprieve or a balm.”

Not all of Mr. Batiste’s comments on music and its impact on city lifestyle were as weighty.

He confessed that he liked to play his piano loudly, which irks his neighbors in tight New York apartment buildings. Or, at least it used to. As he explained, when he became a television personality, the reproachful notes and the pounding on his floor from the room below magically ceased.

Reflecting on his instant upsurge in prestige upon taking the “Late Show” job, he said, “TV is crazy.”

In addition to his TV duties, Mr. Batiste is working on the score for a Broadway musical based on the life of the late 1980s art superstar Jean-Michel Basquiat.

The title of Mr. Batiste’s most recent album, “Hollywood Africans,” was taken from a 1983 Basquiat painting. The album includes his gorgeously ironic “What a Wonderful World.”

How Do You Map A Drought? With Art, Science And Some Good Ol’ Farmer Wisdom ~ Colo Public Radio

We spoke with a lot of voters concerned about conservation, the drought and water issues. On our way to the Western Slope we stopped at Dillon Reservoir in Summit County, where the water level was visibly low. Bare ground could be seen between stands of trees where normally there would be water.

Hart Van Denburg/CPR News

As extreme drought marched northward from Arizona and New Mexico and parked itself squarely over the Four Corners in early 2018, many turned to one tool to understand the change: the U.S. Drought Monitor.

The map is updated weekly, and it continues to show poor conditions in much of the Southwest.

“Droughts are like the Rodney Dangerfield of hazards. They just don’t get any respect,” said Drought Monitor co-creator Mark Svoboda, director of the National Drought Mitigation Center at The University of Nebraska-Lincoln.

Standing watch for the drought typically happens under the radar. TV crews are quick to cover hurricanes and wildfires. They seldom rush out to stand in front of a desiccated farm field or talk about the federal money set aside for crop losses.

As with many government initiatives, the Drought Monitor got its start after drought struck Washington D.C. 20 years ago. Today the once-obscure resource is used by water planners who decide resource allotments, farmers who need water for their livelihood and federal bureaucrats who it to calculate aid for the Livestock Forage Disaster Program.

The U.S. Drought Monitor tracks the encroaching drought in Colorado through 2018.
U.S. Drought Monitor

Citizen scientists like Dave Kitts outside of Sante Fe, New Mexico are keen to the insights the drought maps provide.

“I think it’s a little obsessive. But I check it every Thursday,” said Kitts, who’s lived on the same 2-acre spread in New Mexico for decades.

He watches the map because he can chart progress on his land. Good wet years mean normal conditions. Dry years crust the soil and kill his pinyon trees.

“It’s just upsetting and depressing to me,” Kitts said. “And when it moves the other direction it definitely lifts my spirits.”

In bad drought years, the map can appear to be yellow, orange and red crayola crayons melted in a haphazard jumble. Each color signifies a level of drought, with deep crimson being the worst. White patches signify normal, moist conditions.

The colorful blobs are intentional, driven by dozens of data points.

Svoboda pointed out they cover everything, “from groundwater, stream flow, [to] temperature.”

Right now all eyes are on the dark red bullseye in Four Corners.

Any weekly adjustments to that bullseye — for better or worse — often take into account input from hundreds of people. It all starts with recommendations from state climatologists on any potential changes.

Assistant Colorado Climatologist Becky Bolinger is personally “feeling a little bit more hopeful“ about recent rain and snow translating into a smaller blotch hovering over the confluence of Colorado, New Mexico, Arizona and Utah.

State recommendations aren’t always based on professional weather watchers. Ranchers and farmers from across the country also send missives to state and national offices.

“We’ve gotten some very specific examples of like, ‘Well, I went out to put in a wood post and the surface was wet and three inches deep the soil was bone dry,’” Bolinger said.

Once recommendations from around the nation arrive, then comes the hard work. Every single national Drought Monitor map is authored by one person who coordinates reports from around the country.

David Simeral, of the Nevada-based Desert Research Institute, is one of those authors. He said the map is “a physically and emotionally draining process,” that starts with data and then he digs into the recommendations. If that sounds like an 8-hour workday, think again. Fortunately, the map author job is rotated between creators every two weeks.

The lines of the Drought Monitor are both a science and art — and a high stakes proposition. Since 2011, the Drought Monitor has triggered $7 billion to ranchers through the Livestock Forage Program.

Each public map has the author’s name printed on it, so Simeral and his peers quickly develop a thick skin. He often finds himself justifying decisions to everyone including politicians who watch federal aid tied to the map, the ranchers who do or don’t receive it and everyday people like Dave Kitts.

He picked up the phone and called the Drought Monitor a few weeks ago after multiple storms moistened the soil on his small ranch. But he didn’t see any changes on the monitor.

Simeral was ready to listen.

“[Kitts] told me it was the most he had seen in the 25 years he had lived in that area,” Simeral said.

So, Simeral wrote down the information and included it in the reams of data for the the following week’s author to review.

Kitts was pleased.

“It even seemed as if my little bit of data was important to [Simeral] and the other authors of the map,” he said.

After that conversation even more rain fell in New Mexico. One week later, when Kitts’ routine brought him back to the drought map, he saw a small improvement for drought classification in his New Mexico county.

There was another change, too: A new appreciation for the Drought Monitor, and the hundreds of people behind it.

The Term ‘Drought’ Is Out of Date for the American Southwest. They Call It ‘Aridification’ Now.

BY

Esquire

NV: Drought Drops Lake Mead Water Level To 40 Year Low

Getty ImagesEthan Miller

On Wednesday, representatives of the Colorado River Water Users Association, a consortium of seven western states, as well as representatives of the federal government, opened a meeting in Las Vegas. Nearly 20 years of drought conditions combined with increased usage in those states have shrunk reservoirs and generally depleted the water supply to the point where drastic—and, very likely, painful—collective action has become immediate and vital.

When the meeting was first called, its purpose was to develop a plan for that action, and a method by which the states that depend on the Colorado River and associated water could share the sacrifice that everyone agreed was necessary and imminent. That, alas, didn’t happen. From the Wyoming News:

Arizona has been the holdout, with farmers, cities, Indian tribes and lawmakers in the state set to be first to feel the pinch still negotiating how to deal with water cutbacks when a shortage is declared, probably in 2020.”There will be cuts. We all know the clock is ticking. That’s what a lot of the difficult negotiations have been around,” said Kim Mitchell, Western Resource Advocates water policy adviser and a delegate to ongoing meetings involving the Arizona Department of Water Resources, Central Arizona Project, agricultural, industrial and business interests, the governor, state lawmakers and cities including Tucson and Phoenix.

Severe Drought Drains Colorado River Basin
Getty ImagesJustin Sullivan

In Arizona, unlike other states, a final drought contingency plan must pass the state Legislature when it convenes in January. Federal water managers wanted a deal to sign at the annual Colorado River Water Users Association conference beginning Wednesday in Las Vegas, and threatened earlier this year to impose unspecified measures from Washington if a voluntary drought contingency plan wasn’t reached.

The water associated with the Colorado River supports 40 million people and irrigates millions of acres of prime agricultural land, and, right now, today, all of that is in desperate shape, and there is no time remaining for dilatory measures.

After 19 years of drought and increasing demand, federal water managers project a 52 percent chance that the river’s biggest reservoir, Lake Mead behind Hoover Dam, will fall low enough to trigger cutbacks under agreements governing the system. The seven states saw this coming years ago, and used Colorado River Water Users Association meetings in December 2007 to sign a 20-year “guidelines” plan to share the burden of a shortage. Contingency agreements would update that pact, running through 2026. They call for voluntarily using less to keep more water in the system’s two main reservoirs, lakes Powell and Mead.

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In the course of looking at what’s going on with the planet’s water, I’ve learned a new word: “aridification.” It was a word coined to describe what’s going on with the area served by…wait for it…the Colorado River. From the High Country News:

This spring, the Colorado River Research Group, an independent team of scientists focused on the river, labeled the climate transition in the Colorado River Basin “aridification,” meaning a transformation to a drier environment. The call for a move away from the word “drought” highlighted the importance of the specific language used to describe what’s going on in the Southwest: It could shift cultural norms around water use and help people internalize the need to rip out lawns, stop washing cars and refrain from building new diversions on already strapped rivers.

Essentially, it means that dry places are getting drier, and that the transformation is likely to be permanent, unless human beings radically alter their behavior toward water usage. From the Colorado River Research Group:

Perhaps more importantly, moving forward means abandoning the mindset that current changes to climatic and hydrologic regimes are a temporary phenomenon. We are not likely to ever return to normal conditions; that opportunity has passed (Milly et al, 2008). Rather, there are two possible new normals.

First is a continuation (and likely acceleration) of the current drying trend and the accompanying increase in variability, an outcome largely “baked into” the system by existing atmospheric greenhouse gas concentrations.

Severe Drought Drains Colorado River Basin
Getty ImagesJustin Sullivan

A second, and better, new normal would be to establish regional hydrologic conditions at a steady new level—a step change—that results from the stabilization of atmospheric greenhouse gas concentrations at some new equilibrium. Achieving this second outcome will require many actions taken across the globe, and in sectors beyond water management. Nonetheless, the Colorado River management community can still be a leader in promoting and contributing to such actions.

There is much to gain in the basin by leading on these larger issues, as well as by exploring local opportunities—such as dust suppression—to slow or halt ongoing environmental changes. It is time for water managers to both adapt for the profound changes the future holds and to advocate within the political sphere for a reduction in greenhouse gas emissions. A very modest starting point is to admit words such as drought and normal no longer serve us well, as we are no longer in a waiting game; we are now in a period that demands continued, decisive action on many fronts.

This has been your now-almost-daily Water Apocalypse update.