I’ve spent most of my vacation and holiday time hiking, climbing, kayaking, or rafting locations that were illustrated in my childhood Boy Scout handbook. Yet there’s a twist. Those images were cartooned and often inaccurate, leading younger me to believe I could one day enjoy a campsite in front of Delicate Arch. Or that climbing Everest was something any fit young man could accomplish with a knapsack and a thermos of Campbell’s Soup.
And yet on another adventure motivated by an inaccurate illustration, Lauren and I boarded a plane. Flying over the American South West, giant canyons look like deep cracks in a dry clay bed, a scene of grandeur broken only by the occasional city, and the odd sight of huge green circles.
Rafting the Colorado was everything we had hoped for. The diversity of our tour group demonstrated a unity in our appreciation of nature. A group comprised of visitors from China, Vietnam, a family from India, our guide a Native American, Lauren a French-Cajun who looks like Snow White, and me the blue eyed ginger. A proverbial (white-stag), and no that’s not a racial joke, or was it? Seriously Google it, only 1% of humanity gets to be this awesome! And by awesome I mean sunburn in less than 10 seconds.Above us a desert yet the river basin was a veritable oasis teaming with life. The landscape never ceased to amaze, on a scale so grand we didn’t realize when we’d entered the world famous (Horseshoe Bend). Stopping for lunch our guide pointed out beautifully preserved Native American rock art. Does it get any better than this?And then it happened. During a question and answer session, we were told the Mighty Colorado no longer reached the ocean. Yes, you read that right. One of the largest rivers in the United States gets used up. After our tour, standing before a large sign explaining the impact of bottled water and waste, I watched as the shop across the street watered their lawn, (in the desert). Adding insult to injury, gale force wind blew the water onto the road where most entered the storm drain and the rest quickly evaporated?
We’re from the swamps of South East Texas where it rains three times a week. Water preservation is hardly an issue for us, or so I thought. For the next few days I saw the importance of water everywhere I looked. From rock formations carved and cut by flash floods, to flora and fauna sustained by small pools.
It’s a bit out of focus. Not sure why my hands were shaking?
Captivated by an Arch in the process of nature’s construction I reflected on the damp slot canyon walls of Wire Pass, the mammoth scale of Horseshoe Bend, the epic importance of those small desert pools, and that stupid lawn. And let’s not forget those giant green circles we saw from the plane; agricultural crops. Their size and shape defined by walking irrigation systems. Hydroelectric dams, man-made lakes, what started as the dream of free electricity and safe drinking water somehow transformed into watering lawns, and bottled water. Being from South East Texas, the capital of petroleum refineries, pipelines, firearm ownership and lifted trucks we catch the topic of ecology, environmental impact, and conservation from every side. To the ecologically minded, yes my income is closely related to the petroleum industry, but do you use plastics, drive a vehicle powered by a combustion engine, is your home connected to a power pole? To the jacked up truck good-ole-boy, do you enjoy spending time in the woods or on the lake, do those amazing sunsets and unspoiled lands, I know those wild places are important to you?
If we could have a real conversation around a campfire, get past how someone speaks to hear what they are saying we’d realize that none of us are that different. We’d all like to put less in the trashcan, see less smog, and waste less. Stop pointing fingers and calling names. Start small, do something, anything. Cut back on bottled water, start recycling, use a bit less, turn off the lights when your not using them. You can call it (not wasting), or (conservation), who cares what you call it, as long as you do it. JustBe<Better