Paula Noonan

Paula Noonan

Americans, let’s look in the mirror. As the 20th anniversary of 9/11 approaches, with catastrophe in Afghanistan, power-killing floods and hundred-year blizzards in the south, a record low-running Colorado River, massive uncontrolled fires in California, cotton and alfalfa — intensive water-use crops — growing in our deserts, Lake Mead at an historic low, too much ozone in our local air, wanton murder at 19th and Blake Streets, it’s past time to take stock. 

Rudyard Kipling, 19th century British writer, took stock of the United Kingdom’s colonialism in 1889. This is what he said to soldiers about foreign war in Afghanistan:

When you’re wounded and left on Afghanistan’s plains,

And the women come out to cut up what remains,

Jest roll to your rifle and blow out your brains

An’ go to your Gawd like a soldier.

History doesn’t just repeat itself. It repeats the repeat, from England to Russia to us. It’s easy to hurl rotten tomatoes President Biden’s way for our ignominious retreat from that country located deep in Central Asia. But other presidents, the one who got us into Afghanistan in the first place, and two others who left it to the next guy to do the final deed, in addition to multiple secretaries of defense and military generals, should be locked with Biden right now in the metaphorical stocks, on the receiving side of the putrid fruits hurled by the madding press and unaccountable politicians at our current American leader. 

Biden wanted the job he has, so he gets what he gets. But honestly, if we as Americans don’t learn anything from this war and so many others, we deserve to get what we get too. 

Moving on to water. The Gulf of Mexico near the U.S. coastline has some of the warmest ocean water in the world. Heat is energy, so when that warm water recently mixed with wind and atmospheric cloud moisture, it generated enough hurricane force to knock out the man-made power of the entire state of Louisiana, flood the state once again, and leave millions of people stewing in the humid heat of late summer. A blizzard knocked out Texas’s power last winter.

On the western side of the country, the opposite is happening. There, heat is drying out every bit of vegetation. Conservatives claim that fires in California are caused by the state’s forest mismanagement, implying that the golden state deserves its burning-up fate. The Caldor fire is growing in the El Dorado National Forest. Like national forests in Colorado, this land is owned by all of us and managed by the US Forest Service. 

If the lands haven’t been cared for properly, let’s look to the Trump administration that had responsibility from 2016 to 2020 to clean them up. Of course, clearing forests takes tax money. The country has less of that due to the cuts in federal income tax that Trump did accomplish. If Trump has taken personal responsibility for mismanaging the vulnerable-to-climate change national forests in California and elsewhere, the media missed it.

Then there are the Colorado River’s problems. Already calls are out to protect Colorado River water that originates in this state from use by other states. But nature doesn’t act like we humans think. Over thousands of years, that river water cut its way from the Rockies down toward the Arizona/California border into Mexico allowing the natural world to follow its course. That’s what nature did with the River. 

We, on the other hand, have dammed the River, filled reservoirs, used its water for electric power, silted the River, dumped crap in it, and sent its waters to grow crops such as cotton and alfalfa in desert lands completely unsuited for water-intensive agriculture. Arguing over who has the water “right” is wrong. Another type of discussion must occur.

On to our very own state, with its bad ozone, hazy air, and crime rising in the streets. Cutting ozone means driving less and pausing oil and gas drilling during hot summer months. Not happening. Murder at 19th and Blake means clamping down on bars that are bad actors. Let’s follow the follow-through on that.

Magic mirror on the wall, it’s time to reflect, after all.

Paula Noonan owns Colorado Capitol Watch, the state’s premier legislature tracking platform.

Paula Noonan owns Colorado Capitol Watch, the state’s premier legislature tracking platform.

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