Less water, less babies
Not to be missed on Wednesday, June 17 (CNN/US Drought Monitor) and Friday, June 18 (NYTimes): graphic maps of the continental US: one (left map )showing the remarkable heat and drought areas predicted for 2021; one (right map) showing the distribution of a national decline in the birth rate (top right, birth rate, 1996–2007; bottom right, birth rate, 2007–2019.
Lay one map next to the other and the western US- notably a swath from Texas west through Néw Mexico, Arizona, portions of California, Nevada, Utah, northward to Wyoming and Montana- is in for a future twin shortage of water and people.
For metaphor-seeking moviegoers, this is the ‘land’ in Nomadland that Fern, played by Frances McDormand, traverses throughout the movie. Think awesome scenery scorched by truck traffic and rural squalor.
The land David Byrne eulogized in (Nothing but) Flowers (c. 2014):
Here we stand
Like an Adam and an Eve
The Garden of Eden
Two fools in love
So beautiful and strong
The birds in the trees
Are smiling upon them
From the age of the dinosaurs
Cars have run on gasoline
Where, where have they gone?
Now, it’s nothing but flowers
Capitalism, it has been said, thrives on consumerism . The spiritual-emotional link to this idea is the view post 9–11 that to restore America’s equilibrium one need but visit the local shopping mall or Disney World and buy something.
“Get down to Disney World in Florida. Take your families and enjoy life, the way we want it to be enjoyed.”- President George W. Bush, September, 2001
As convincingly the thought that fewer babies mean fewer consumers and shrinking markets mean less robust growth is bandied about by economists, the birth rate decline shadows climate change.
And an injustice. One can argue that LA’s loss is Austin’s gain, but there is an entire region named the “Rust Belt,” that would testify to a different argument. An argument that challenges the notion that capital markets are self-correcting, that one need adjust their positive-tinted glasses on another region, another state, another time. That we, collectively speaking,
The problem with these glasses is that the consequence(s) of late stage capitalism are distributed unequally. Ask who in the Rust Belt a generation later found prosperity by staying? The fortunate ones by dint of accumulated wealth and privilege left the “Rust Belt,” draining the area of bodies and talent.
Now the ‘leaving’ is done in vivo.
Refugees in our own country, we chafe at the border refugees, the marginalized, the dispossessed. Not finding solace in these waters, we repress our suffering and join the Republican Party, the Party of repression and delusion. We unwittingly advocate for the “donor class,” sometimes figuratively (celebrity culture), sometimes literally (voter suppression).
“Everyone knows that Arizona always is Republican,” so was captured an exit voter’s opinion by a cable news reporter after the 2020 elections.
There was a time when Arizona was home to five proud indigenous nations, who negotiated, voted, respected each other, particularly the elders, demonstrated survival skills upon entering adulthood, and collectively prospered.
No irony is lost on the collective feeling nowadays of being stuck on a latter day reservation, unable to leave, move, wander, pursue a goal.
At least Fern was seeking redemption.