Now, thinking locally: I don’t want a Southwest that is desertificated and devoid of humans and wildlife. Or, if not devoid of humans, home to only those curmudgeons, desert mystics, and desert rats who can afford solar-powered air-conditioning (and imagine that colossal irony) and private wells a mile deep. And I’m guessing future generations don’t want that, either.
I want a Southwest in which higher-elevation forests complement lower-elevation deserts, plateaus, and prairies―as satisfying as the Southwest’s complements of mountain and plain, refuge and prospect, and country and city. A Southwest where people can continue to travel vertically as well as horizontally, going up to escape the heat and down to escape the cold.
I want a Southwest that has, even if only intermittently, the sound of running water in its mountains and deserts, water that will maintain this land’s tradition of narrow but clever and enduring agriculture. I want a Southwest steep with snow and deep with burning sand.
I want a Southwest alive with birds, snakes, insects, fish, and furry quadrupeds, and a Southwest that can sustain a reasonable number of humans. I want a Southwest where people can enjoy companionship―and solitude.
I want a Southwestern climate whose fate largely depends not on the tailpipe of a pickup truck on Central Avenue, but rather on the whims of a distant El Niño or La Niña, or even a sun-dictated epoch of planetary fire or ice.
Earth is not threatened. Earth will survive. It has survived five mass extinctions, oxygen starvation, deadly cold, sweltering heat.
Civilization is threatened.
And the estimate by science that there are 10 billion trillion habitable planets in the universe does not give us the right to trash this one.
The choice is ours.