|A mural of Oroville damn and it's spillway, Oroville, CA. March, 2009|
|A mural promoting a dam-free Klamath River. Orleans, CA. April, 2013.|
Whether we like it or not our world has been remade. Environmental scientists working in the Central Valley will admit it is impossible to truly know how the area looked before Native Americans began to reshape it. Early accounts depict a seasonally flooded, unstable hydrology supporting massive numbers of birds and mammals. Given modern economic models, transportation infrastructure and settlement patterns it is easy to see how this environment was unsuitable to settlers. In fact, it was absolute contrary to the faith-based fervor that compelled vast numbers of people to trudge across a blazing desert to claim land and bend it to their will. Forcing a European notion of settlement onto a landscape designed for seasonal migration had consequences we are still copping with. Aquifers can't recharge, the acreage available for migrating waterfowl is reduced and spawning grounds for salmon and steel head are destroyed.
The war over the ideals that live in our heads plays out in media and propaganda. Those supporting increased water infrastructure and storage, and those advocating the destruction of dams and freeing of rivers both see a spiritual element in their positions. Where does the ideal meet the reality? How can we maintain our economy and save the small amount of wildness that is left in California? Talking to each other rather than past each other would be a good start. By acknowledging where we are, where we came from and how we got here, we may be able to begin moving forward.