I look up from the grey highway ahead of me to the mountains. Their usually beautiful face is obscured by a huge cloud of dust.
“What is all this? I’ve never seen the mountains like that before,” says the girl in my passenger seat.
“It’s the wind. Everything is so dry, it’s just picked up all the dust,” I reply.
Even though it snowed last week, the parched ground has already devoured the moisture and is begging for more.
What will this view look like in ten years? Though I would like to pretend, like many of Albuquerque’s inhabitants, that this is just an anomaly, I know the wind will blow harder, the dust will become looser, and the water will seep farther away. My friend comments about another Dust Bowl, and I can’t argue her point. The very earth of the town I grew up in is blowing away.
Water shortages already trouble the Southwest, but exacerbated by climate change, the Stockholm Environmental Institute predicts the cost of climate change affecting water will be $1 billion in the Colorado River basin alone. The receding water will force already struggling farmers to abandon the ranches their families have worked since spanish settlement. The multi-ethnic agricultural heritage – corn mazes, harvest festivals, haciendas – will wither with the crops that brought it such vibrant color.
We’ve seen the numbers. NASA stated that 2010 tied 2005 for the hottest year on record; the amount of CO2 is 115ppm higher than 200 years ago; we could have up to 1 billion climate refugees by the end of the century.
We’ve heard the newsreports. Pakistan is under water; Russia is burnt; reconstruction continues in the aftermath of Hurricane Katrina.
We know the consequences. But the issue, even for those who take action, is wrapped in scientific observations and political polarization.
The visceral reaction to seeing the effects, sweeping away the soil and obscuring the beautiful desert mountains brought in to focus just how close to home climate change will strike, for millions of other youth, who look out their windows to see the devestating effects of a problem they didn’t create wiping away the face of their homes and communities.