Monday, February 27, 2012

Living with drought

Out here in California we're having what an optimist might call a "mild winter." In a more pessimistic assessment, we could be heading for another drought year.

In the middle of last week a friend posted a lovely photo on Facebook of a sight I had the pleasure to witness on my bike ride home from work: a crystal-clear sky at the cusp between twilight and full-on night, moon diminished to a near-expired crescent, Jupiter and Venus brightly aligned above.

This is a great week around the world to watch the sunset. MSNBC posted an article Saturday, 4 planets & moon dominate weekend night sky, with a similarly gorgeous photo taken in Mooresville, North Carolina. Catching the sight live here on the Left Coast was breathtakingly beautiful, as our sky is frequently in the Bay Area. Makes a person grateful both for the lovely place we inhabit and for senses to take it in.

But despite the lovely sunsets this winter, for all the sweet night skies, what we "should" be experiencing at this time of year, what we "need," are leaden skies and steady rain. As of the end of last month California reservoirs were reasonably full, but we'd had little more than half of average rainfall, and snowpack held less than half the average water content.

In the moment it's easy to relish our sunny days, our nightscapes, the blooming plums and cherries that stay brightly flowered for weeks on end in the absence of rain to wash their petals to the ground. It would be churlish not to be grateful for these pleasures.

For all my steady insistence, in this blog and elsewhere, that a responsible human and citizen is obligated to reckon with costs of our pleasures, to account for our debts and to pay them, I won't deny that I'm enjoying our 'mild winter' as much as anyone else. (At the same time, I won't complain if the light rain forecast for this week is heavier or more protracted than expected.)

Mild winters in California don't imply there won't be a reckoning. Near term, if and as last year's generous precipitation runs out of the state's reservoirs, we'll once again face rationing. But greater reckonings lurk ahead, as the slow swings of weather patterns make it harder and harder for humans to live as densely as we do here on the rim of the Pacific Ocean (and elsewhere on the planet too, perhaps sooner and more dramatically there than here).

But that night sky...........

Related posts on One Finger Typing:
Paying what things cost
Autumn in Berkeley
Flowery front yards in Berkeley

Thanks to dogenfrost for his lovely photo, shared via Flickr and Facebook, of the night sky on 23 Feb 2012 seen from the Berkeley Hills; and to Matthew Felix Sun for permission to use his photo of the heavens through the trees, taken from our back porch on 25 Feb 2012.


  1. The first picture is breathtakingly beautiful. Thank you for sharing.