Wednesday, August 02, 2017


Sucker Creek fire line

A day ago we were smothering in bright smoky heat.  This morning the temp requires a jacket and the dark, just-as-smoky, overcast suggests the end of days.  People are being evacuated from their homes just south of here, near Lincoln.  In theory the sun will return this afternoon, but it would take optimism to believe that.  I should be rushing out to cut weeds while it’s cool, but instead I just want to sleep.  With the covers over my head, trying not to dream while smelling smoke.

Because of my bias to the individual rather than the community, I’ve given more attention to bodily personal homeostasis than the homeostasis of towns, though I have considered them a bit, mostly while trying to understand Valier.  Our three shopping towns, each thirty miles away and the seat of its county, have reasons for their size.  Shelby is close to the Canadian border so that it controls the profits of every boundary and point of transfer (from truck to railroad or vice versa) and it also accepted a for-profit prison, not minding the moral questions of such business.  They are thriving enough to support a big box store (ShopKO at the moment) but not a MacDonalds.  (There was one but it crashed.)  And progressive enough to have a major wind farm.  Their hospital is always in crisis, but still maintains, mostly through nursing the aged.  There’s also a symbiosis with the prison.  The new drugs for Hep C should help that, assuming they have access.

Cut Bank is clearly living by parasitism with the rez (which expands in population and sophistication) and the rez federal income (always in danger), as well as the dregs of oil revenue now turning to frakking.  Conrad is harder to explain, but it’s on the big interstate highway.  It supports banks and credit unions, truck manufacturing and car dealers, but not the laundromat.  The hospital is always in doubt.  One independent grocery store.

Valier’s lifeblood is irrigation, but they never seem quite aware of that.  They believe in tourism.  The town is shrinking steadily but “reads” to outsiders as a peaceful remnant of past times, like the Fifties.  They don’t like cowboys or chickens, preferring to style themselves as suburbs.  City people who relocate here get surprises in terms of worn infrastructure and social alliances that were created in high school.  Little pockets of minor crime exist in the face of denial.  Truck drivers live here when they are home.

The point of homeostasis is that it defines the boundaries, the “shores of the stream”, beyond which existence ends.  They are the two extremes of a viability continuum made up of supplies, internal coherence, human attention to process and function, and the larger forces like weather or war or the general economy or disease.  At the moment the pervasive disease is diabetes, but it is ignored.  No one has been brave enough to analyze the records to see if we’re a cancer cluster because of ag chemicals.  Alcoholism is assumed to be a rez prob, not affecting white people.  Talk of frankenseeds or species protection are quickly quashed.

On the other end of the continuum, a base in irrigation is geological, one might say, “God given.”  The “earliest” major irrigation projects are usually in Euro context.  The South and Central American systems are probably as old, depending on the Andes rather than the Rockies, and the Chinese irrigation projects are also very old, but still in use.  One estimate is that half the farming on the planet is dependent on irrigation.  In the USA we have been pumping out the underground aquifers left when the last major glaciation melted.

In short, humble Valier with its knotty little problems, is actually part of the global human survival system.  The grain grown here goes out on the railroad to the coast and around the world.  Without it, there is famine.  We don’t always have a sense of this grand keystone to civilization.  And we deny our vulnerability to global weather change even though we can see the diminishing snowpack from here.  At some point we may be tipped into disaster by some collapse we didn’t even see coming.

Our current national political chaos may be that disaster and ironically we were part of triggering the chaos.  The level of education and culture here is not as high as it seems to the locals.  I don’t mean they don’t quote Shakespeare or dress in silk.  I mean there is entitlement based on brute force, deception, and wealth that is echoed around the world.  Possibly it is produced by certain media sources, and mall-rat gang standards, which is good since as we segue into internet film streaming and ebay shopping, that's changing.  There may be enough variousness to break up alliances, which could be either good or bad.  On the other hand, info silos are dangerous.

The history of irrigation coincides largely with the history of religious institutions (silos) meant to provide order and to support specialists who created the roots of science and math.  Probably the relationship between water and religion needs more good books explaining why “Tigris” and “Euphrates” were holy enforcers, more implacable than Jehovah when it came to floods.  “Nile”, “Amazon”, and “Mississippi” are names of religion-level force and what have we done to them?  Ask New Orleans.  The Chinese are building dams so massive that the weight of their impounded water make the axis of the planet wobble.

This is just gloomy prophetizing on a dark August day, but it was met by a remarkable article in the US Guardian.  Stephen Marche attends the Ohio Preppers and Survivalist Summit and discovers the contradictions in American life are the very conditions that are slowly crumbling it from within”.

Some people are saying that it will take until 2018 to get rid of Trump and his 1% oligarchs, who are now zigzagging like rabbits in the field.  That’s assuming that they are doing it on purpose instead of going crazy.  Since Putin’s private (secret) fortune has been stored in the West, because otherwise his own oligarchs will steal it, when all the current accusations are sorted, he’s likely to be broke.  Possibly desperate enough to go back to nuclear threats instead of his slower cyber-war.   Although, personally, I think he could do much more damage with cyber-network chaos and not have to leave radioactive cities deserted for millennia. 

It’s hoped that by the end of all this, the US is not too compromised to go on.  How do the rest of us maintain our individual homeostasis while the ship of state careens from mud banks to volcanic rocks?  Do we need a new religious institution?  Or do we have one, called Wall Street?  Where are our heretics to remind us that rivers of money dry up? 

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