Sustainability and Sense of Place in the Sonoran Desert/Water

Component Four – Water edit

Our two readings for this Component are the closing chapters for two of the most important - and poetic - books written on the major rivers of the Sonoran Desert, the Colorado and the Gila. The first was Gregory McNamee's Gila: Life and Death of an American River (McNamee, University of New Mexico Press, 1994), an early examination of the fate of the watershed at the heart of the region. The second was Chloe Sevigny's Mythical River: Chasing the Mirage of New Water in the American Southwest, a passionate plea for rational water use as applied to the Colorado River.

The high point of the semester in both years was the visit we got from Gregory McNamee (the first time in person, the second via Zoom) under the auspices of the Arizona Speaks, a visiting scholar program of Arizona Humanities. His presentation helped to fill in many of the missing pieces for us, particularly as concerns the history of indigenous cultures in the region. Also associated with this component was our visit to the Yuma Conservation Garden, guided by long-time resident and biologist Val Morrill.

A. Gregory McNamee, Life & Death of an American River edit

Guiding Questions edit

In this chapter, McNamee quotes our hero Aldo Leopold, who said, "A thing is right when it tends to preserve the integrity, stability, and beauty of the biotic community. It is wrong when it tends otherwise." How much of what has happened to the Gila River is therefore "wrong"? How much of what has happened to the Sonoran Desert? The world?

McNamee also quotes St Bernard: "You will find something more in woods than in books.... Trees and stones will teach you that which you can never learn from masters." How well does this concept fit into Western Civilization?

The chapter mentions several proposals to create new wilderness areas and to enlarge existing ones. What "paradigm shift" in our thinking would need to take place in order for such projects to come about? In what ways does McNamee challenge our assumptions about the role of government agencies such as the Forest Service and the Bureau of Land Management (BLM)?

In general, how practical - and how likely - are the solutions that McNamee proposes for reversing the destruction of the Gila watershed? "Should trees have standing?" Christopher Stone asks (P. 192). Should rivers have rights, as McNamee adds?

Once again, are you surprised by the many interacting components of an ecosystem, and disturbed by how easily it can all go wrong?

Student Discoveries 2021 edit

Most of human intervention into the Gila River and the Sonoran Desert is wrong, with a few exceptions. The most notable exceptions include those individuals emulating Leopold in their endeavors to restore different regions of the Sonoran Desert; however, the efforts of these few individuals will be in vain unless more “right” action is taken toward restoration. The most notable “wrong” action taken against the Gila River and most of the river systems in the United States is the abundance of dams as a means to “control” rivers from flooding and thwart their natural path to bring water to larger cities and industrial farms, miles away from the river. Most human intervention into nature does not work or help in the way we think it does; in fact, we do more harm than good most of the time. Unless we figure out how to stop intervening where it is not necessary, our wrong actions will lead to the extinction of environments and ourselves.

McNamee disapproves of using desert to describe this environment because the original meaning of the word is used to describe an uninhabitable place, while the Gila region is actually full of life. It also sounds like "deserted" so in more ways than one it probably is why many  people believe all deserts to be deserted.

Desert is synonymous with depletion, abandonment, emptiness which leads ironically to the depletion of that biome, it doesn't recognize its richness, its story, and the cultural value it has. Can you destroy what is already unexistent? This is an important idea since it's often a rationale used by many corporations to justify their industrial and agricultural expansion and be oblivious to the consequences, this is something that can easily be refuted by explaining the intricate biological community and its many geological factors.

Legends have come to show the efforts people have put to place an explanation for what has happened in nature. It comes to show just how much the human race has made an effort to connect with nature, and to bring in a sense of familiarity with it.

Many portions of this reading can be connected to our previous readings. One example would be when the author is talking about the formations of the “desert” and how many of the rivers and mountains were relatively recent in geological terms. Even as far as calling them infants. It also touches on the subject of rainfall and the rivers, and how people are slowly deteriorating the integrity of such important rivers. With time people are stopping the flow of the river which not only affects the life of the region but also the people that live within.

The Gila River has a complex history of landscape stability and erosion. Some of the most notable changes that the Gila River has gone through were unfortunately caused by human activities. Whether it was the disappearance of different species and animals or the tremendous erosion taking place in the Gila watershed for years, all these changes give us an idea of how much has happened to the Gila River.

In regards to how likely are the solutions that McNamee proposes for reversing the destruction of the Gila watershed well it all depends on the effort everyone as a community puts in. I like to be optimistic and think that everything is possible. Personally, I do believe rivers should have rights as well since they are overall everyone including plants and animals main source of life. We don't want to damage or destroy our main source so we ought to take care of it by giving it rights.

I’m very surprised about all the different components of the ecosystem and how many things can disturb that special balance. For example, I always thought cattle were very good for the environment but apparently that can destroy thousands of acres of land. I’m also surprised that even back then the government did very little to protect our environment. It makes me think that if there weren’t people advocating for the protection of our land just how much worse things would be.

Student Discoveries, 2020 edit

For example, with Aldo Leopold’s quote, “Man always kills the thing he loves, and so we the pioneers have killed our wilderness." It reminds and still shocks me on how beautiful and diverse the Sonoran Desert is but yet humanity keeps slowly killing it with either pollution, overpopulation, etc. and it doesn’t seem it's going to end until it is too late.

The quote, "A thing is right when it tends to preserve the integrity, stability, and beauty of the biotic community. It is wrong when it tends otherwise," is a strong statement. There have been many things that have affected the Gila River, and most of these problems arose from humanity. We have destroyed the land, hunted the animals that live around the river, and keep trying to expand our towns, which is destroying the habitat of many different animals. Besides just destroying the Gila River, we are also taking over the Sonoran Desert. We keep building and expanding our technology into the desert, and we are invading the habitat of many different types of plants and animals. Humans are slowly taking a piece of the desert to make more room for the increasing population. We are destroying beautiful sceneries, just because we care about showing it off. The world is taking over the earth in every possible way. Humans are the reason why this planet is dying, along with all the life on this planet.

As the human population continues to increase, the act of taking in more land will only get worse. Taking more land from the desert is destroying the wildlife the Sonoran Desert has to offer. This affects the animals and plants living in this region as they continue to have fewer and fewer areas to roam around in the wild. Not only are we taking in land from the Sonoran Desert, but we are destroying it.

Many animals live and depend on rivers and when a river is altered animals and plants that depend on it are affected too. One of the most important quotes McNamee mentioned in this last chapter is by Aldo Leopold, "A thing is right when it tends to preserve the integrity, stability, and beauty of the biotic community. It is wrong when it tends otherwise." Many wrongs have been done to the Gila River since the status of the river today reflects it. The Sonoran Desert has not been treated properly, there have been many changes done by humanity to "improve" technology and obtain natural resources by destroying the land. Gregory McNamee does a really good job at making me personally realize what is happening to our world in the present tense. Not only looking at it from a ‘what I have done’ but also as a ‘what I am doing’ and ‘what will I do’ standpoint.

The way McNamee writes is very clear even thought it is scientific, but it is passionate. We make connections to previous readings and even his own experiences in life, to help readers understand his point of view. He even brings in the fact that the Gila River supports so much of our plant and animal life in the desert. The Gila River has been taken advantage of for many years. People have been fighting over its water rights, have built dams that effect the environment and plant life. The Sonoran Desert has been effected as well. When we went to the Yuma Conservation Garden we found out because of global warming it cause the Saguaro to bloom months from its original time.The quote from St Bernard "You will find something more in the woods than in books... Trees and stones will teach you that which you can never learn from masters". I feel like this is very true because unless you are out in the environment getting first hand experience it wont really matter if you learned it from a book. Things can change over night and the only way for people to learn is to go out and see with their own eyes. McNamees thoughts on government agencies was understandable. The Forest Service and other agencies are run by people who have led us to where we are now. I understand why McNamee thinks they need to be "reeducated". Its because they are failing and they need to think outside of the box and come up with eco-friendly plans to help make our world a better place for the future. I feel rivers should have rights because they are very important to the environment. Many plants and animals depend on the river for food and water. If we continue to use the same amount of water and don't change who has access to it we can potentially lose the river and that will have serious repercussions.

The San Carlos Apache story is very similar to the biblical story of Noah. Because of the striking similarties between the stories of two different cultures, it is certain that the enviornment plays a major role in the lives of every culture. These stories tells us the importance of paying attention to the surrounding nature, and to not take it for granted. Today, many claim climate change is a hoax, but the science proves otherwise. If no action is taken now, humanity might endure something worse than a flood. I really like that quote, and I’m sure any of us that have spent time around a campfire with friends or loved ones could probably appreciate it too. I don’t know how well it fits into “Western Civilization” now. I find the concept of western civilization a bit difficult to understand. I always understood it as a kind of ubiquitous epithet or synecdoche that contained connotations for the worst parts of capitalism. Which in that case, it fits in poorly. However, having spent some time in eastern civilizations I might venture that it fits in equally as poorly there. They have all largely adopted capitalism (a broad claim, foregoing some places) and are equally as serious of polluters as ourselves and equally as corporately aligned. People could talk all day about the links between the widespread environmentalism and rising gdp vs pollution rates etc.. I find myself skeptical of most arguments and think there might be no way of knowing such things on a broad scale without committing serious logical fallacies. Anyway, certainly most eastern philosophy, when cherry picked, is conducive to environmentalism but I think the same could be said for many western ethical schools of thought if we would just commit to them. Certainly, Aristotelian virtue ethics at the least. If I had to venture what the quote fit in with the least, I would say, again at risk of sounding too iconoclastic, the c -word, capitalism.

I specifically enjoyed the way he wrote about absent rivers of the desert saying, “the desiccated beds of those once great rivers, spanned by unsteady bridges, mock their intended function, carrying runoff from the heavens only a few days of the year”. This led me to think back to the neighborhood in which I grew up in as there was a wash that ran right next to the small neighborhood. When there was lots of rain it would come down the wash creating a strong stream of water flowing through. Only in these spar circumstances was the bridge going across it ever useful.

In the reading, it says “without that rain and snow much of the interior west would quickly be depopulated. Cities like Phoenix, Tucson and Los Angeles – all dependent in some measure on the Gila – would quickly be swallowed up by the sand.” I remember how Professor Croxen was saying that groundwater takes twice as much time, if not longer, to “replace” itself when compared to surface water. The way I related these two is, both situation is critical. People whose primary source of water is groundwater or people who live in lower Arizona are in critical situation. It’s crazy to think that our source of water is very unreliable, considering today’s climate change. When looking at the Gila River and the amount of wrongness that we have committed towards it I would say that the amount of water that we have taken out of the river has caused it to become a decrease in the amount of plant and animal species. More so, studies have showed that there has been a decrease in the amount of water resources that we do have which could cause there to be an even more dry up than there already is. In addition, the aftermath of how the Sonoran Desert has become what it is now is from the kind of manmade constructions that have been built and caused a change not only in the weather but also the animal and plant species. All in all, what has been the consequences towards the Sonora Desert and Gila River has also happened around the world with climate change being the biggest as natural scenery’s in certain regions have started to reduce such as the glaciers in Antarctica/Izabeau.

B. Melissa Sevigny, “The Rights of Rivers” edit

Guiding Questions edit

How would you describe Sevigny's writing style?  What makes it an effective style for this purpose?

The chapter opens with a description of the mouth of the Colorado River from 100 years ago.  That's a location very close to where we live and a time not all that long ago.  How concerned does it make us about how different things are now?  Sevigny says she feels grief about it but not despair.  Is it time for despair?

According to Sevigny, the best-case scenario predictions are that a city the size of Phoenix will have to disappear from the Colorado River basin in order for us to have enough water 40 years from now - and that's if we continue to use it all.  What are we going to do?

Comment on this quote:  "The crisis we face is not one of water scarcity but rather a diminishing of the human spirit."

Sevigny makes a really interesting point:  We alway talk about sustainability - i.e. sustainable growth, sustainable practices, a sustainable future....  But is simply sustaining ourselves and the ecosphere really an acceptable goal?

What is the problem with the legal requirement known as "standing"?  Could/should it be expanded?  Or should it simply be replaced by a different legal ethic?  Is it realistic to operate according to "some deeper feeling"?

What is the argument against the movement to use only water that's available locally?

Like McNamee, Sevigny proposes a long list of solutions to our overuse of water.  How practical/likely are they?

Sevigny mentions "the Tohono O'odham to whom land and culture are synonymous."  What are the political implications of such a philosophy?  What are the ethical implications?

Water is what makes the Earth unique, and it has status in all the world's religions.  What if we simply decided to worship it?

Student Discoveries 2021 edit

The solution to the water problem that we currently have is really no solution at all, but is a “diminishing of the human spirit” as Sevigny puts it. We place values on things that do not have value, inherently devaluing our own lives because we do not know how to simply live. We pursue things we think will bring us happiness in life, but really, they are temporary distractions in a world where there is so much more available that can bring true meaning to life...Merely sustaining ourselves and the ecosphere appears to be an acceptable and admirable goal, but can only be acceptable and admirable when our intentions are honest and in pursuit of cultivating a relationship with the environment. Without these intentions, our actions are meaningless whether they are sustainable or not.

This type of writing style is helpful in creating awareness on these topics where many people may not be informed or educated on. Writing more of a narrative of the history of nature and current events makes it easier for most to understand what exactly is going on rather than pushing facts and data on people. Although being too poetic is also a deterrent for those searching to understand the environment because poetry can be too creative and wont depict a consistent message to everyone and come off as subjective rather than objective.

Sustainability refers to a balance between two elements, the way in which she questions emphasizes the idea that balance is not enough it should be given even more room for nature to expand and grow, to have the opportunity to adapt, and to give nature the fundamental rights of any human, as its integrity should be respected, it should develop, and prevail overtime not being sublimated. The current societal standards propose an ideology in which nature is our slave, not an invaluable component of the existence of any species.

I don’t believe that this concept fits well into the Western Civilization of constant expansion and innovation. While this isn’t necessarily bad, the way it is done has caused catastrophic effects on people and nature. Little by little people move away from nature to the point that they feel they are no longer part of it. This means that very few ever learn anything from nature and focus more on the “books” rather than the “woods”.

Our main worries back then were giving enough water to plants and helping them grow. Now it seems like our main concern is what filter to use or what angles should pictures be taken. I feel like this is ridiculous. There are bigger problems that concern the environment which should concern us, and we do not do anything about it now what future do we hope for future generations.

Sevigny suggests investing in the usage of local water can benefit us in the long run. However, limiting our supplies locally may not be ideal. Although, the author mentions how this isn’t an expensive goal there are still places that don’t have the funds or resources to make it possible. Sevigny proposes some solutions to the overuse of water. One of those solutions being the rise in prices to discourage people from wasting too much water. I don’t think this is very practical because people who have money continue using the water however, they want. It the people who struggle to pay the water bill every month who might have to go without this essential resource that will mainly suffer. While we can’t continue to abuse our water source it is a basic human necessity. For some tribal people like Tohono O’odham, the land is a part of his culture, and protecting it means a lot to them. If by worshiping water we mean taking care of and using the water with care then yes, I agree we could worship it. But if you mean worshipping water as is using more of then no it’s a bad idea. Maybe instead of just worshipping water, we could worship the earth as a whole because we need its resources to survive.

Student Discoveries 2020 edit

In reality 100 years is a lot of time but for something changing in the environment it seems really fast. It's scary and also, I do believe it is time for despair because if we continue to go on the path, we are going more and more cases similar to the Colorado River or even worse can continue happening. We’ll been slowly destroying our planet

One of my favorite quotes from the reading was when Sevigny writes, "the sun began to pour liquid gold over the river's many braids." This quote makes the Colorado River seem like the most beautiful river. The imagery in these first couple of paragraphs is incredibly vivid. Sevigny makes the Colorado River resemble like it's a place that you have to visit at least once in your life. The impact that the population has had on the Colorado River is heartbreaking. The river has changed in so many different ways. Now the Colorado River has had an increased number of dry areas and the relocation of many animals. The times that I have seen the Colorado River, I have not been impressed. The water looks brown and gross. I have only been to the Colorado River once, and I don't plan on going back. I have been to a couple more places that I can see the Colorado River; for example, the Grand Canyon and it was beautiful but brown.

I would describe Sevigny’s writing style as descriptive, articulate, and powerful. Sevigny’s writing was very passionate, to say the least. Reading the article, I was able to recognize that she was very concerned and defensive when it came to protecting the rivers. I enjoyed her writing style and felt the wave of nostalgia in her writing

I think that we should restore the planet to as best as we can to its original form. This is not an easy goal but I think this is the best goal to aim for.

"The crisis we face is not one of water scarcity but rather a diminishing of the human spirit." In my opinion, this quote refers to the lack of importance humans now give to their environment. The cause of water scarcity was caused by human harm to the environment and the inability to save water. The human spirit has changed to be selfish and not to protect nature. In many cases, there is also nothing being done to preserve water.

I think "The crisis we face is not one of water scarcity but rather a diminishing of the human spirit", initially means that we as humans do not want to save the water. We have lost a drive to stand up, speak and take action to save something that is helpful to us. I think this is happening because we have accepted the inevitable and have not wanted to make a change but accepted our defeat in the ways we have already established.

Sevigny's writing is similar to that of a narrative and is very descriptive. I feel that it is similar to a story because Sevigny creates this vivid picture in your mind as you read and it brings it to life. Reading this style of writing seems uncommon these days since most writers base it on facts. Sevigny allowed the words to help convey her feelings about rivers.

Sevigny's writing style is very descriptive. All throughout the reading, especially in the beginning, Sevigny does a really good job describing and creating a picture of what she is talking about. Reading the description for the mouth of the Colorado River from 100 years ago made it seem like it was one of the most beautiful places on Earth, "...the boat split green water, and it streamed away on either side in ribbons that faded seamlessly into the salt lagoon. The sun began to pour liquid gold over the river's many braids that dallied and dawdled..." I included this from the chapter because this describes the true beauty of the Colorado River back then. Looking at the river now it is still beautiful and the Sun still comes out and lights it up but its different. Now people don't see it as a beautiful place, many see it as dirty, nasty and crowded by people and trash. In Sevigny's time I think she felt grief because she was starting to lose how things used to be but now in our day and age there is so much damage that was done its time to face the fact that we are going to lose some resources that we take for granted. I feel like Sevigny had a good idea about having a city the size of Phoenix disappear from the Colorado basin but I don't think it is very realistic now. Phoenix is a very large city and if this were to happen I feel people would just use another way to get water and that would cause another problem. I honestly don't know what should be done because if people completely stop using the Colorado River what happens to the water supply and where would we get it then. Trying to sustain ourselves isn't the best option because eventually it will not work anymore and instead of trying to keep us at the same spot for years we need to come up with a solution. It might not be the easiest part but it will help in the long run. The problem with the legal requirement as "standing" and "some deeper meaning" is that just because trees, plants and rivers cant talk doesn't mean they don't deserve the same protection as any other thing. I feel like it should be replaced because there needs to be one specific legal requirement so people don't try and abuse this.

In the chapter, Sevigny exclaims that she feels grief, however I do believe now is the time for despair. Miller raised a great point the other day, our generation is too focused on social media than their surroundings. Don't get me wrong, Social Media can be a great platform to raise awareness for climate change.Social media led to the rise of climate advocate Greta Thunberg who is a great figure for action. However, a great amount of people that use social media just ignores these cries for help on the platform. Voter turnout for young people is also really low, and that is concerning. Climate Change might not effect everyone right now, but when it does it'll be too late to stop the effects. People my age have to let their voices be heard and try and change their futures. This one is a tough nut to crack, mostly because of the realistic part thrown in there. I personally feel there’s really pragmatic, logical, and morally right reasons that trees, rivers, heck entire ecosystems should have standing and rights. I notice I’m really guilty of a type of disconnect though where, out of a sense of reasonableness/virtue/moderation/whatever, I try to be a good moderate and say what I think is realistic/tenable and weighs in with the rights of people. It’s not working. You can be a moderate in Nazi Germany and still be way too far too the right and I think I get caught in that with the environment. The whole thing has shifted so far, it’s gotten so bad, that yeah maybe you have to be a radical to be reasonable at all. This dichotomy between what’s really happening and esoteric arguments in philosophy and political science rarely acknowledges how bad it is in terms of environmental devastation. So, for that sake, I’m going radical and saying we should forego sustainability, standing, and go as far as, “ as much total restoration as is humanly possible.” There, you made me feel unreasonable. I regret nothing. I kept thinking if only we could get together as students with the professors and draft some kind of rainwater collection proposal. It turns out Tucson already has one. Now we just need to generate enough noise and power to get something like that going in Yuma. It was said that the US Bureau of Reclamation reported in 2012 that 10-20 percent of the Colorado will disappear by midcentury which is very alarming. The impact it will have on the people living around it and those who are pumping water from it will be devastating. Water is very necessary for our existence and plays an important part on Earth and some of its religions. I found it very interesting that Sevigny said that “Of all the resources we consume water is the most forgiving.” This puts into perspective how water is a resource that although can be replenished, we are taking too much at once for it to keep up.

The place that Leopold described as "Wealth to the human spirit," I cannot imagine how much change he might have seen to say later on, "To return not only to spoil a trip but tarnish a memory." About the same exact place, he once used to love. For us, it's been more than a hundred, so change is inevitable. But to have seen that much change in less than 50 years is really concerning. Even animal life has migrated, "I want to tell them: No jaguars now. They may have vanished from this region before we even knew to look for them. No lagoons now to call the snow geese out of the sky." But even with all this change, I do not think that time is for despair. It should not be. The moment we lose hope is the moment everything ends. It's a good thing that we feel grief or some level of concern, that is when we can come up with some way to fix things. We need hope that things might change for the better.

The argument concerning the usage of water being only available locally is the worry of using it so much that it completely runs out which is understandable but should be considered. If we were to use the water that is only accessible locally it would create a stabilized unit that could preserve water in a way that is divided equally among everyone. With this being said Sevigny’s proposal of solutions to the overuse of water that we have is practical in which it is more on the basis of society preserving the water and using it only on areas that are needed rather than being locations are luxury based. For instance, luxury-based locations would be pools and golf parks in which they are more based on our own wants then being those that are needed for survival. Looking at the way water is looked upon other religions across the world in which the possibility for our society worshipping it has little chance of becoming possible because of the way that we use it now. I do believe that it is possible but in order for that to become a reality for us we need to look back on the locations that we do use it and separate from the ones we do need and do not need

C. Gregory McNamee, “Gila, River of History” (presentation) edit

Description 2021: edit

Gregory McNamee is the well-known author of several books, most notably, Gila: The Life and Death of an American Desert. He has been nominated for quite a few awards for his writing and won several others. The subject of this presentation was centered on the Gila River, specifically, its history.

The presentation by Gregory McNamee titled “Gila: History of Southwestern River” initially took me back to the idea of the pristine wilderness held by the European colonists, and how indigenous cultures like the Hohokam achieved sophisticated systems of irrigation along with many agricultural techniques that preserved to some degree the geological integrity of the land.

George McNamee came to create a sense of familiarity with the Gila River.

As many have said before, water is a sign of life as it is a necessary component especially when living in the middle of a desert. In this presentation, McNamee was able to tell us all about the rivers history, the people who originally lived here, how they were eventually pushed out, and all of it around this water source.

Reflection 2021: edit

The modern technologies we have allow us to remain in places we would have already vacated if we did not have these comforts. This is worrying because many of the things on which we rely are being depleted every day at all hours, in particular, water.

Water has always been an issue in this area since it is a desert, and I think the settlers who came here and took over the place had not experienced water issues before, since Europe does not deal with this to this extent. So, I think all they had to do was learn the ways the natives dealt with their water and do things the same. But as McNamee also mentioned, some tribes like in Maricopa had their own specific way of using the water in their farming, but when the settlers came, they forced them to farm the way they are used to even though the natives’ methods of farming have yielded very productive farms all while being able to take the summer months off.

We desire to take some kind of evolutive revenge on nature. It seems like an irrational idea, right? Well, because it is. It is an irrational idea for beings that most of the time are more irrational than they are rational. This desire to dominate nature because we once feared it, when it was something divine that was entitled to our allegiance and our prayers. By our actions it can be inferred that we want to say that we are not scared anymore, we are now the ones that deserve the allegiance of nature, and everything it offers, we are entitled to it. Humanity has what could be considered a “God complex.” As a species, we have lost the basic ideal of our sense of place. We are forgetting that those places we destroy, subjugate, and disappear are a large part of our identity they contain our history, the memory of millions, many socio-cultural practices, everything will be lost because we are destroying ourselves, humanity and nature are two inseparable entities. The moment when the last tree falls, we will no longer be humans. This is the reason I firmly believe we must do something to change, because it is our duty to preserve nature and when doing it preserve ourselves.

George McNamee makes you really think deep into what can be done to bring about awareness to the current environmental issues we are facing. How can we fix this? How can we spread awareness? What can be done to change other’s perspective of nature?

It was extremely interesting to hear about the history of the place where we live. It is extremely interesting to hear about the history of certain areas like Yuma and Gila Bend and such, and have everything connected to create one clear story. As most of the time, this are stories full of misfortune for the Indians.

Many people would think that the drying of the Gila ridge is a problem that has recently started but in reality, it is something that has been going on for years. From my point of view, it is concerning to think that there are people that argue that this is all due to climate change, because as McNamee mentioned, it is clear that most of it is due to irrigation and diversion in Arizona.

I agree with what he said that sometimes we ignore the fact that we live in a dry place and behave as we live in a place where rivers flow water everywhere, which is not valid. I always knew a natural disaster could cause people to lose their homes, but I never thought it could be the other way around (the town/city lose its people like Hohokam City).

During the period of great drought, the people would move to the eastern reign in the highlands. In contrast, the Hohokam people who lived in the middle Gila build an elaborate network of irrigation canals that stretched out westwards all the way to the present Gila Bend. The hundreds of miles of canal allow for year-round farming which freed the people from going hungry. The Hohokam had a very good agricultural understanding which helped during extended periods of drought and helped them settle down in one place. It was interesting getting to know more about Arizona before the Europeans settled in and before pollution changed its environment. Professor McNamee showed us many pictures to help visualize how the past looked like.

Description 2020: edit

In the presentation it explained on how the Gila River began to dry up due to local farmers were using the water to water their crops. Some people look at the Gila River and see it as a business. Beavers are important to the ecosystem of the river if beavers aren't around then the river changes. Gregory McNamee also mentioned that the Native people arrived here around 25,000 years ago. He also said an interesting fact about Phoenix; he said that years ago it used to be called Snake Town, and it went through droughts.

The Gila River began to dry up with the arrival of newcomers. They onced believed that the water would never run out.

Gregory McNamee made a presentation about the history of the Sonoran Desert and the people that lived around it. He also mentioned how things changed after more people started to come and settle.

"Water flows to money".

"Rivers are creations that go back millions of years ago."

The Gila River is a beautiful location with it having an abundant amount of life that inhabitant it. The amount of life that there is in the Gila River is incredible in which it was a truly magnificent experience to be able to have when learning the amount of information on the Gila River

Reflection 2020: edit

Gregory McNamee stated "in the rest of the world, what's one river?", essentially referring to the fact that we as humans put into perspective that if we are harming one river it is not that big of a deal in the grand scheme of things. It makes me think about how in the past, present and future, I have, am and will affect my home with my actions.

It was important that we got to hear part of Yuma’s environmental community discuss issues that take place in our area. Gregory McNamee was the key speaker of the semester. Even though I can admit his presentation was really good. In my opinion the presentation was not directed to me or the students in the class it was more so directed to the other external guests who know about the topic and had experience in the field. Because of that this presentation was not my cup of tea, plus I missed more than half of it because of other class conflicts.

The fact that we had a high profile author give a presentation at our community college is amazing. I could tell he put years of research into the topic he presented on, and he held a lot of passion for it too. The highlight of the presentation was McNamee's urge to let our voices be heard and vote. I agree, voting is an essential step to get real change done that could save the environment. Gregory McNamee could be described as the Aldo Leopold of our time. His presentation is something I wish every person in the Southwest, at least, could get to experience. His shadow guided our project using some of the same questions he used to create his timeless work. He really bolstered me, something about his confidence and steadfastness towards environmentalism made me vow to myself to never pause trying to help the environment myself. He is an ally and champion of the Sonoran and Southwest. Not only was his work amazing he was really approachable and down to earth, willing to talk with all of us. He’s like a cool Southwestern version of Gandalf. I could say more, but I would really encourage anyone who is not familiar with him or his work to become acquainted. I can't imagine what our professors did to get him here but I am really grateful to them and our college.

D. Cary Meister, Water in Arizona (visiting speaker, 2021) edit

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Cary Meister has made it his mission to protect, preserve, and reinforce the sustainability of water through marshes, lakes, streams, rivers, etc. In this presentation, Dr. Meister addressed where water can be found all throughout the state of Arizona.

It picked up on a variety of problems and themes that arose as a result of examining the history of the rivers as well as the laws and their effect on the distribution of water.

Cary Meister explained to us much of the history behind the many bodies of water that are found in Arizona. He took a more focused approach on the current situation and issues that are being faced as well.

For me, Cary Meister’s presentation was one of the more interesting and informational presentations. Many times, I hear the term Colorado River and how much of it is blocked by dams, but I can never visualize it. Before this presentation I was not even sure how far the river actually extended over not only the US but also part of Mexico.

Reflection: edit

I did not realize how selfish many of us are here in the desert; even though we have gorgeous native plants in the Sonoran Desert, we choose to have green grass outside our homes, in parks, golf courses, schools, etc. Deserts have already adapted to scarce water, but we have created a need for extensive amounts of water through our non-desert friendly lifestyles. All this consumption of a limited resource will be dangerous in the future if action is not taken to sustain and protect what amounts of water we do have.

If the city occupying the river upstream somehow won rights to a bigger percentage of water and built a huge dam holding most of the water, could that technically happen? It sounds like common sense that the government should not allow that to happen, but if officials of the cities have to submit requests for water every year or so, it just sounds a little ridiculous to have to fight for water rights. I do understand that if we just let everyone do what they want with the water it could be worse, like letting factories dump into the water.

In terms described by Immanuel Kant humans are the subject of unsocial sociability. This refers to our propensity to enter a society that is threatened by our mutual desire to act only taking as a reference our needs. By accepting to enter a society it is the acceptance that other beings have the same types of needs you have, and therefore interdependence is accepted as a result. In a case like the one shown by Cary Meister on the different conflicts that have arisen as the fight for essential resources and scarcity is made larger it is shown how individuals representing their respective states are unable to give even the slightest control of water to others even if they need it the most. It is a conflict of power, not of necessity at this point. This is something that threatens us as a society. The fact that at the same time we recognize and have a need to cooperate, our desire personal interest must prevail above everyone else’s which destroys the entire purpose of living as a society.

There is much history behind the many rivers and lakes of Arizona. However, it is amazing to see just how much of that history is not told, how many stories are left unsaid. It opened my eyes as to how much we neglect environmental education. If this information would be taught to us at a younger age, our appreciation for water, along with other natural resources, would be much different than what it is now.

This guest speaker was pretty interesting in that he let me see how big the Colorado River is and how many other rivers there are in Arizona. More importantly, we were able to see how many rivers there used to be in the past, which now lay dry due to the water demands of the area. It was also nice to learn more about the Salton Sea and its history. Even though we had read an article on it and the effects that it had on people today, I never saw it necessary to look up what actually caused the Salton Sea to happen. When Meister made it clear that it wasn’t an accident when creating a damn it actually made me go out and do the research on my own to see what happened.

Dr. Cary Meister’s presentation was about the water issues in Arizona. I believe that this an important theme in our region that should be discussed more in depth. There are a lot of concerns on where all the water is, what do we do with it and what are the possible solutions to the problem.

I found it interesting how reclaiming water was only used, as Cary stated in golf courses and such. However, now, they are trying to develop a solution to what I believe is to purify the water so that it is ultimately drinkable. What worries me now is, like Cary said, the contract was signed when the River was on its high end, and now it is coming up short, but no one wants to mention it since they are afraid that they will lose.

The cold hard truth is that our water sources is wasting away at a very high rate. If we continue to abuse these resources that formally perennial area will spread throughout our state. These rivers are not ever-lasting. Learning about the different locations of the Colorado River helped give me a sense of where my water comes from. Unfortunately, I was never taught about our beautiful Colorado River. Before Covid, I was able to travel down the river and visit its many different locations in Mexico.

D. Val Morrill, Yuma Conservation Garden (field trip, 2020) edit

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D. Val Morrill showed us Buffelgrass and explained to us that it is considered an "invasive species" due to it was brought from North Africa of livestock feed and it overtakes native species.

In Tucson, there is an area that is covered with the invasive species Buffelgrass. At one point, this invasive species was set on fire, but it wasn't eradicated. There are three categories of plants, which include, weed, invasive, and obnoxious species. She mentioned that the weed species are not always considered to be bad. The invasive species make up approximately 99% of the non-native plants. In the last category, the obnoxious species has an economic impact on the environment.

The fishhook barrel cactus is also known as the "Compass Barrel" because some barrel plants lean towards the southwest. It is an urban legend to drink barrel cactus water; drinking the water can make the individual very sick.

Val Morrill took us on a tour of the Yuma Conservation Garden and showed us many plants such as the Barrel Cactus which she gave us the fruit of. Val Morrill was a short tour through the Conservation Garden showing us native and invasive species in the area. The change in climate has had an effect on certain native species, for example, the Saguaro blooms in April when it used to bloom in June. We explored many parts of the conservation garden with Val Morrill. We leaden about plants such as the Palo Verde plant and how it is a very well known plant of the garden.

Going to the conservation garden was one of the the best experiences I have had. Having a local place to go to and learn about the different plants and animals is beneficial. At the garden we were also able to try different plants in the area that are still used by locals. The garden is a very colorful place and it was nice to see something different in Yuma besides dirt.

Reflection: edit

The Yuma community has so many species I had no idea about and this particularly tour made me realize I want to be more aware of my surroundings as a venture into the world.

Having lived in Yuma all of my life I have never been to the Yuma Conservation Garden. When we attended it was fascinating to see the different plants we have here. Learning about the different plants I was able to go out into the community and identify some of the same plants I saw at the garden.

Val Morrill’s tour of the conservation gardens was an amazing adventure into a small oasis in our concrete midst. I hope all school districts take advantage of this resource in teaching kids about endemic flora. I hope that we raise awareness and support for this project. What they have there could be a model for sustainable landscaping which is going to be something we have to implement on a large scale in the future, especially for Yuma, if the town and the Colorado River are to survive.

I hated the fact that I was not able to see the ducks because right before we reached that location we had to leave because of another class. I enjoyed these trip to the conservation garden. we got to try a couple of exotic fruits and learn about in the process. This field trip was a great time to learn about a variety of different plants and animals as well as trying various fruit that grow in the Sonoran Desert region. One fruit we tried was that of the Barrel Cactus and it was quite tasty.