Monthly Archives: August 2010


Two weeks ago, lying on my back at 7,400 feet watching the stars peer down at me through a canopy of piñon and juniper, it struck me — once again — that I have been fortunate.

I was in the White Mountains, trying to fall asleep after a day of meeting with some of my fellow desert protection activists, and as usually happens on my first night sleeping on the ground it was a little hard to drift off. My mind replayed the conversations of the afternoon, the beautiful places threatened and the brilliant attempts to preserve those places, the politics and the annoyances of politics, and every now and then I would wake from a half-doze with a start and find the conversations in which I’d been enmeshed were just replaying in my head, chatter in my excited mind as the Pleiades slipped up over the eastern horizon.

Three or four times I woke that way, and last waking brought with it that realization, dredged up out of my semiconscious mind somehow.

I looked at my life, my work and home and writing and love, and then I thought of where I was three years previous. Three years ago I was broken, a life’s love dead, another on its way to dissolution. My heart had gone out. I had been coasting through my life for a long time. And then the crisis came, and the break. A smarter, more prudent man might have scrambled to save little bits of his life. There was much good in my marriage. The Bay Area was the first place that ever felt like home. I had a lifetime’s worth of friends and a garden and a widely popular website and a life that was in all physical ways comfortable.

I look at things I wrote even before Zeke died, and my isolation and my alienation fairly leaps off the page, a longing for the chance to walk away from all of it and start over. I wrote those feelings off, back then; romantic maunderings of a middle-aged man. Who doesn’t imagine another life? Who doesn’t wonder, when traveling, what it would be like to vanish into the new town they’re seeing, to rent an apartment and fill out those change of address forms? Fantasy.

And then the break came. Two years ago I jumped. House and garden, family, job, trails I loved and mountainsides I saw with a heart’s shudder each day, I left it all. I headed away from the place I’d made my home, moved to a house I knew I’d have for three months, no leads for further employment and scant savings.

A smarter, more prudent man would not have, and oh, what he would have missed. I have a community of colleagues who eat and breathe the desert. I have a mission rekindled in my life.  I have a temporary home in a new city that provides me with something new to delight in most days. I have sweet new friends I never would have met. I have a cat.

And I have The Raven, who sees me better than anyone ever has.

I would have none of these if I had done the smart thing, the prudent thing.

Some years ago today The Raven came into this world. We spent the day together celebrating, a quiet joyous day with close friends I did not know not long ago, sweet details and happy errands in a new-familiar landscape, and I thought again of that night two weeks ago, up in the Whites. I leapt and I found new friends, new homes, new tasks to stoke my passion but mostly I leapt and I found her. She does not complete me: she merely makes me a better man.

Happy Birthday, beloved. Many more.

Some real science on desert energy development

Via Basin and Range Watch’s Laura Cunningham, the Independent Science Advisors draft report to the Desert Renewable Energy Conservation Plan for the State of California. Laura says:

You can’t get better scientists, and they recommend good things, like not placing any solar projects on desert ecosystems, not to ever translocate tortoises, don’t block sand corridors, etc. …
Good synopsis of the key ecological values of the deserts and how renewable energy facilities should be sited to avoid further harm to them.

DRECP ISA Report Public Draft August 06 2010

Non-depressing Ivanpah item


The alluvial fan pictured here is about five miles north of Nipton. I always meant to go for a little hike through the canyon that feeds it, and probably ought to soon.

Anyway, Geoblogger Kyle House has some interesting observations about this oh-so-familiar (to me) landform at hsi Posterous blog, here: The Barbie Fan: A pathologically perfect Nevada alluvial fan. He mentions the Ivanpah Valley Mapping Project, about which I would love to learn more.

How you can help save Ivanpah — a concrete action

The California Energy Commission has indicated that if they get more public comment on their proposed decision to approve the Ivanpah Solar Energy Generating System, they may have to delay their decision.

I can’t stress how important even a short delay might prove. The contractors basically have to have the tortoises moved off the site by the end of October. If they don’t do so, they can’t start construction until next spring. If they don’t start construction by December 31 2010, they lose their ARRA (stimulus) funding.

In other words, a few weeks’ delay might severely impair the project, perhaps truncating or even preventing it.

How often do you get a chance to really make change by writing one letter?

The more detailed and hard-to-answer questions the CEC gets in comments, the more likely they are to delay their decision. I can provide you with topics to cover, and you can choose one or more to write in your own words. The more varied voices we have here the better.

But don’t think you have to be an expert in anything relevant to contribute a comment. You merely have to be concerned about the privatization of public wildlands for industry. And you have to be able to write it and submit it in the next few days. The deadline is September 3.

Obviously, more detailed and expert and devastatingly argued is better, but I’d rather people submit comment even if all they have time and energy for is one sentence, even if that sentence is just “Don’t approve the Ivanpah SEGS.”

If you think you can do this, let me know: leave a comment here or email me at .(JavaScript must be enabled to view this email address)
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. I can provide you with material that will help.

I’m begging you. Please do this with me.

Driving stakes into the heart of the desert

image A note from Laura Cunningham of Basin and Range Watch just popped into my inbox:

Hi Chris,

Kevin and I are at Ivanpah, and BrightSource has starting staking out the entrance road, Colosseum Road, for tortoise exclusion fencing! We are not sure they can do this, but will look into it. Also it appears Phase 1 has stakes put into the desert.

Please spread around as you see fit. Thanks!



Carbon sequestration by desert landscapes

…is what this post was supposed to be about, except that I wrote it in a browser window without a backup copy, because I am an idiot, and ExpressionEngine failed to save it properly. I need to reconstruct the entire post, which took a couple hours, and though I have to do that in the next day or so for other reasons I am unwilling to do so tonight and now I hate everything.

So here’s a picture of a bunny.