If You Ain’t Got the Do-Re-Mi

by Akim Reinhardt

Map from Orange County Register

I was about 10 miles up the road in Long Beach visiting my sister’s family when word came of last week’s massive oil spill in Huntington Beach, Orange Co., California. We were actually headed over to that very beach when my brother in law checked the conditions. 

Uh oh.

Ten or twenty years ago I might’ve made some tired, easy joke about how this state is a tragicomic carousel of disasters. Earthquakes, mudslides, droughts, riots, etc.  Just add this oil spill to the list. But now it’s the entire nation that resembles a bad joke with punchlines you can smell long before they arrive.  

And if this state is a microcosm of the larger nation, with about 12% of the U.S. population within California’s badly angled borders, then perhaps it has something to do with how money both creates and sorta solves problems, at least for some people. The wealthiest state in the world’s wealthiest nation, and neither can get out of their own way. They both stumble about, knocking everything over amid their ravenous search for profits, and then turn to the “regular people,” the actual workers with sigh-inducing lives and miserable commutes, and even the less fortunate, to foot the bill and clean it all up.

America, can’t abide by simple rules designed to keep a pandemic in check because you’re susceptible to the propaganda actively or passively spewed by profiteering TV networks and digital media? Then just spend lavishly to hog the world’s vaccine supply and ride out the worst of it while maintaining your freewheeling ways.

California, don’t have enough water to support both, 40 million people and an enormous, misguided agribusiness complex in a state that’s mostly desert or near-desert? Then spend decades building and maintaining massive hydro reallocation projects that wreak ecological devastation for hundreds of miles around. Read more »

Plague Echoes

by Shadab Zeest Hashmi

“A pestilence isn’t a thing made to man’s measure; therefore, we tell ourselves that pestilence is a mere bogy of the mind, a bad dream that will pass away. But it doesn’t always pass away and, from one bad dream to another, it is the men who pass away…” —Albert Camus (The Plague)

Photo by Yaseen Hashmi

“So long as each individual doctor had come across only two or three cases, no one had thought of taking action. But it was merely a matter of adding up the figures and, once this had been done, the total was startling. In a very few days the number of cases had risen by leaps and bounds, and it became evident to all observers of this strange malady that a real epidemic had set in.” (The Plague, Page 35)

Death by pneumonia, and then another, and another, advancing in only days to large populations— caused by one of those crown-wearing microbes, a Coronavirus, deadly, beautiful under the microscope. They named it Novel Coronavirus. Once unsheathed, it leapt from animal to human, one town to another, then between land and sea borders. The first confirmed case in the United States was recorded on January 20, 2020. Only 20 days ago, we had wished each other peace and a vision clear as 20/20. But is a year of numbers and blurred vision. The Grand Princess sailed with 2000-plus, 21 infected by the time she passed under the Golden Gate Bridge. By March 18th there were 7,769 cases. Ten days later, on March 28th, they had risen to 116,505.

“The evening papers that day took up the matter and inquired whether or not the city fathers were going to take steps, and what emergency measures were contemplated, to abate this particularly disgusting nuisance. Actually the municipality had not contemplated doing anything at all, but now a meeting was convened to discuss the situation.” (The Plague, Page 15)

There was a memo early on, wasn’t there? One of them asked.
The man had no answers, only mirrors and insults inside. He spoke as if swirling in a perpetual drumroll. He appeared every day for the press conference, knotting a bright tie in a different color, head skewed; most days he favored red— red and oversized, as he snarled or shrugged at a question, red as he made his pounce. Read more »

Disappearance and Return on the Klamath River

By Katharine Blake McFarland

408px-Klamath_river_CaliforniaLast weekend I slept in the back of my car by a stream in the Klamath River Basin, a territory that stretches across the top of California and into Southern Oregon. This is how you camp when you don't have a tent, and it still does the trick. You still get to watch for shooting stars and you still wake up in the cold and the mist, with no one around for miles.

The Klamath River itself is a river upside down. Like most rivers, it flows North to South, but unlike most rivers, which begin as trickles high up in the mountains, the Klamath begins in farmland and then winds its way down to the mountainous Pacific coast. In other words, the terrain gets wilder and higher as the river runs south. In the droughty state of California, the Klamath's 266 miles of water are sought after like the gold once buried below its banks. Indian tribes, farmers, fishermen, conservationists—and at one point, even, Dick Cheney—have all thrown down the gauntlet over the river. Meanwhile, coho salmon, Chinook salmon, and stealhead trout follow their migratory patterns upstream as they've done for thousands of seasons; but fewer and fewer make the journey each year.

Seven thousand years ago, before the logging and lawsuits and fish kills, when the river's waters were cooler than they are now and cleaner than they'll likely ever be again, salmon were called ney-puy. Yurok Indians built their villages along the river's banks from keehl (fallen red wood trees), used dentalia shells, like tiny white elephant tusks, for money, and danced the u pyue-wes and mey-lee (White Deerskin dance and Brush dance). The first white settlers to meet the Yuork tribe in the early 19th century were fur traders, interested in the territory for its beavers. But interest outpaced supply, and soon both beavers and fur traders disappeared. This was the first time the river's ecology changed because of humans: beaver dams and ponds tempered the river's winterfloods and created wetland habitats for the Northern Spotted Owl and other animals; without them, flooding caused erosion and wetlands dried out.

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