Quixotic Quests and Questions
On the way home today, I was able to observe an electrical company erecting huge metal power poles along the freeway. They’ve been at it for awhile, apparently hooking up a gas-fired generating station about 50 miles away in the East to somewhere to the West of me. I had thought, and still wonder, that they were to hook up to a solar panel station scheduled to be laid out in the desert north of my armpit of a town. Now I’m not so sure, but I’m hoping- if the solar panel area goes on the grid, we’re promised a reduction in our price per kwh, and here in SE California, we can use the help!
The power poles, made of a shiny aluminum it would appear, are closer to my “town”, and also closer to the freeway leading to my town. They’re rather obnoxious, and they will obviously deleteriously affect my unobstructed view of the mountains to the south of me. Prior to their erection, this area of the desert only displayed some low-lying wooden poles that seemed, in comparison anyway, to merge into the browns and tans of our stark, bare peaks.
It’s pretty apparent that a once beautiful (to some- perhaps we’re desperate in the desert!) vista will basically be gone to those of us who are used to seeing it. Is this sad? Perhaps. Is it to be seen as a negative element in my desert experience? Of course. But, ultimately, is it wrong, or even “bad”? I’d have to emphatically say, “NO!”
Seeing the bottle of Pepsi my boys drink on the kitchen table for me is a negative experience. I want to drink it, but my inner health-o-meter and my doctor say, “No!” Is it bad or wrong that I see that bottle of sin beckoning me? No- in fact, it’s a rather good thing if I exercise the will to resist… which I’ve managed to do for a few days now. Don’t bet on my future- but I’m hoping the boys will have it drunk before I encounter it again! In the same way (sort of- I wasn’t vetting a philosophically tight analogy here… I just wanted to illustrate the idea) we should look at power poles across an almost virgin landscape (no, not really virgin- but you’d have to be awfully close to tell, or in the air) as a negative with very positive consequences resulting from their existence.
There are people closer to L.A. that are whining about power poles and towers near their domiciles, saying that it detracts from the “natural beauty” of their area. Many are the same ones advocating “clean” energy, yet they don’t want to be the ones to “pay” for that energy to get to them or their neighbors. I wonder where they get their hubris from? What makes their view more valuable than, say, mine? What makes a view of anything more valuable than people’s needs, anyway? Ok- I can easily concede that plastering billboards along the edge of the Grand Canyon is a terrible proposition- but that’s in regards to a view that’s publically recognized as important to preserve, rare, and precious. I can remember leaving my college in La Mirada, CA in the summer to go work in El Centro, CA, and driving through literal “amber waves of grain” around Corona along the 91 freeway. Now, shoebox houses climb the hills and there’s no evidence that grain ever waved there at all! Sad? Yes. But everywhere we live once looked different. And before we reminisce about Iron Eyes Cody and how sad it all must be for the Native Americans, remember that this country looked even better before those guys made it across the Bering Strait, and there were plenty of Wooly Mammoths upset that “those kind” made it into the neighborhood! After all, that’s Aunty Mabel they’re grilling over the coals!
What I’m really setting up here is the classic “conservationist vs. preservationist” debate. And I don’t want to do the debate, just my selfish side of the coin. As a hunter (which should indicate a conservationist), I concede that man is here to stay, and that, due to his brain power, instead of being on the bottom of the prey side, he is clearly a top predator, especially with a Remington 700BDL in .270Win (or so sayeth Jack O’Connor)! And my job as a hunter is to manage the habitat so that the animal population, whatever it may be, may exist healthily within said habitat. The Department of Fish and Game agrees with me, and tells me how many of said animal may be taken each year in order to promote health among the rest of the “herd” or whatever it may be. The preservationist, by contrast, is so full of denial that he wants to boot man from whatever it is the preservationist believes is being harmed by man; thus, for instance, preservationists of one particularly stupid ilk wanted to completely fence off the Sequoia National Forest, keep humans out, and sell postcards in L.A. made in China from lead-based inks. What would happen inside of the fence was up to whatever lived inside of the fence. Now, maybe this seems utilitarian, but what would the point be? No matter how natural it was on “the inside”, nobody could enjoy it… or could they? I guarantee you that the preservationist’s elitist bent would have donors that gave untold thousands to the project getting special “access’, cameras only, to the inside. The managers, of course, would go in and manage the place, without telling us they did it. Kinda like PETA killing thousands of pound pets in NC- we tell you one thing, but it necessitates us doing another. The DFG would offer depredation permits for government “specialists” to go in occasionally to blast away any runaway populations, but there would never be any hunting tags, much less guns, allowed in. And there would be no pictures- not of that. We would need to manage the public perception, but, of course, it isn’t propaganda.
We have a couple of ex-hippie idiots that live in our area. They’re famous for, among other things, stopping us from filling in a man-made hole with man-made trash. Even though the technology to protect us from the possibility of groundwater contamination is extraordinary, they’ve injected politics into California’s activist courts to tie up the hole-filling, which would have meant 85 jobs or so, in a population somewhere around 500 with nothing else locally to do. They’ve also harassed development projects and, although I’ve dreamed of a D-9 they might be standing in front of losing its brakes and suddenly flattening them, they still are around. They tried to block military exercises in a nearby abandoned (nearly) iron mine, and they’re on record as opposing the aforementioned solar panel project, ostensibly due to possible encroachment on the ubiquitous-in-name only Desert Tortise territory. These two morons want to “preserve” the desert culture, and they drive up to their mailbox in their pickup and send out papers made in mills probably in Ohio and use electricity to communicate by and clothes made by polluting machinery, all to get support for their cause. It is only a matter of time before Al “the Environmental Whore” Gore flys his non-carbon neutral jet out to make a speech only “Ole’ Woodenhead” would believe. But it’s their desert, and they have decreed that no one shall detract from their particular vision of it. Their vision, obviously, is more pure and undefiled. By what measure, you ask? By theirs- and don’t ask.
These mental paragons would slay the windmill beasts up by the freeway… if they had to look at them all the time. They’re about 11 miles away, so we must forgive their reticence. Gods can be capricious, even if well-intentioned. And if Sancho Panza would rather not be enamored of, who was it, Esmeralda, who cares? What such people refuse to recognize is that it is impossible for the world to exist without man, at least at this point. We ain’t gonna go! The windmills aren’t giants, and the sheep aren’t enemy knights. And if we lose a view in order to effectively provide for human needs, so be it. A lost view, though sad, pales in comparison to, say, illegal aliens that are found dead in our deserts for want of liquid sustenance(no, I’m not arguing for water stations), or people frozen to death when winter storms rage across the Midwest. If we accept the inevitable need for people to live, and to do so as efficiently as they and their money will allow, we can go visit Yosemite or the Grand Canyon for the view, and not be so selfish about our little corner of the world being more important than anyone else’s. And by the way, my wife has more legally-obtained Desert Tortises living on the side of our house than there are in this whole basin we live in!
We should do what we can to wisely steward our resources, including the views. But we cannot, nor should we, impede meeting people’s needs (their wants is another story). Even environmental whackoes recognize this, as when a wayward coyote snatches one of their kids out of their driveway, or a mountain lion shows up on a bike path in Camarillo and takes out a rider- we go and kill the killers,the animals, suddenly willing to do the awful, but necessary work to have us live in safety with our wild kingdom all about us. Those that refuse to stop human predation deserve what that one bear lover got up in the Kodiak or somewhere. When he stopped to lunch with the wild bears- he became lunch. Completely fair- after all, it’s only Nature! Meanwhile, here in my erstwhile oasis, I think I’ll get out of my truck and walk south of those power poles, and see the vista close up… and maybe look through a Leupold scope mounted on a .270 at a coyote and, if blessed by God with a shot, kill it.