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Editor's Note - Mixing water and oil

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By Tom McDonald

The other day I overheard a man and a woman talking about the water situation in Las Vegas.

The man asked the woman, what if the city runs out of water, and she said she’d move to her family ranch.

He replied that he’d do the same, then went into some detail as to the water he has on and under his land.

Then their discussion turned to the problem such a move would cause, including how expensive it would be to get to and from work if living at their ranches.

Interesting but not surprising, I think, that in a single casual conversion they touched upon two of the most important natural resources issues of our time — gasoline, a derivative of oil, and water.

If Las Vegas goes dry — and to be fair, Utilities Director Ken Garcia contends it’ll never happen; he says the city would impose tougher and tougher restrictions to prevent it — these two people won’t be the only ones to move away. Water is what’s keeping our city alive, and the fear of a dried up Rio Gallinas is causing people to think about other places to live.

Such fears seem all the more real after a November without a drop of precipitation, save a little up in the highest elevations of our northern New Mexico region.

Now comes a study by an international group of scientists that states the polar ice sheets in Greenland and Antarctica are melting at a rate three times faster than they were in the 1990s. That’s raising sea levels, which has sweeping implications for geographical and climate changes all over the world, including places like land-locked New Mexico.

As the ice sheets melt, rising seas aren’t the only consequences. Weather patterns will be affected in numerous ways, and extreme occurrences — like hurricanes Katrina and Sandy and the super tornadoes that have been hitting the Midwest and the South — will become all the more common.

What’s more, the warmer temperatures are sucking moisture out of the soil as well as lakes, rivers and streams, making drought conditions even worse. Right now New Mexico is in of one of the worst droughts in its recorded history, and there are no real signs of its letting up.

This latest report on the ice sheets is but one more warning that humanity must act quickly to offset momentous climate changes. The scientists are clear in their conclusion that global warming is being fueled by our burning of fossil fuels, especially coal and oil. Anyone who continues to deny this is simply sticking their head in the sand.

Call me a Chicken Little if you want, but you’d be wrong. The sky isn’t falling, but temperatures are rising, and unless humans act quickly our world is going to become far less inhabitable.

The real tragedy, however, is that we may still have time to reverse an all-out climate shift, but we lack the political will to do so. Our politicians operate in the here-and-now as if tomorrow is someone else’s problem.

The economy is our top national priority, right? And yet, unless we act to reverse global warming, the environment alone will destroy our economy — and much, much more.

Turns out Las Vegas isn’t the only thing that could dry up and blow away. So could life as we know it on Earth.

Tom McDonald is editor and publisher of the Optic. He may be reached at 505-425-6796, ext. 237, or tmcdonald@lasvegasoptic.com.