Last week, PBS broadcast
There were several reasons this was a bad idea, but for a couple of unusually wet decades, bumper crops were the norm. Then, in the 1930s, inevitable drought returned. The land dried up and, quite literally, blew away in enormous black clouds that killed crops, livestock, children, old people and dreams. It was the worst man-made environmental disaster in American history.
Now, as we grow more aware that we face the worst man-made environmental disaster in the history of the world, we are proving to be no more wise than the imprudent farmers who tore up the buffalo grass. Rather than taking serious steps to curb the carbon emissions that are driving up temperatures everywhere, rather than being shocked by the rapid melting of the polar ice packs and mountain glaciers, rather than seeing drought-driven wildfires and monster storms as portents of things to come, we are redoubling our efforts to extract every last ounce of fuel from the dirtiest depths of the land.
The oil boom in North Dakota is turning that sparsely populated state into an American Arabia. Even bigger is the oil bonanza in western Canada. According to a
In a time of high unemployment and high gas prices, this seems like happy, hopeful news. But it is hope built on sand -- the vast deposits of oil sands that give up their black gold only through a process that requires a bottomless supply of water and poses huge environmental risks. The worst comes after the oil is extracted. That is when we burn it all up in our cars and factories and send the resulting emissions into the atmosphere.
On Sunday, the
But if we continue full speed ahead, drilling, fracking and burning it all up, then the coasts will see a 25-foot rise that swamps all of south Florida; all of Norfolk, Va.; big swaths of New York and Boston; every beach in California and, strangely enough, more than 60% of Sacramento.