Last week I’d been narrowly missed by a buck fleeing a coyote. Had the deer hit me, Pann’s and my situation would have been pushed over the edge into a very likely disasterous situation. Today we continue the adventure as we hike out of the back country with almost no water.
We plodded along, finally reaching water in the form of a trickle that crossed the rim trail as we descended it toward highway 89 after finally picked it up on our new trajectory out of the woods. It was about 1:00 pm.
I was desperate for a drink by then, and I first grabbed moisture by holding my hands against the rockface down which the water flowed and then licking the liquid off repeatedly. Later, by crawling upstream a little, we found a spot to refill our canteens.
Thirst hadn’t killed me, nor I killed my friend. There was even a little water still left in the canteen when we reached water, and Pann had received sufficient liquid to keep going that whole time. He continued on, in fact, to the highway, as it was all downhill by then. So he walked himself out of a very bad situation.
Years later, his options weren’t so good, but that’s a different story. One I’ll tell in due course.
There are several important lessons here, though. The one that seems most important to me involves our current environmental circumstance: as we, all of us, find ourselves on the verge of Climate Change, we need to get serious about conserving our resources. The consequences of global warming are going to be much greater than we imagine. Everything from food and water supply crises, to available living space as refugees from consequences of one form or another of extreme weather events crowd into less badly affected regions, to heavier regulation of all kinds of commercial activity, to revolutions, our systems will be taxed far beyond our current expectations. Most importantly, we risk depleting our most important resource: the ability to cooperate across nationalities and cultures.
Just as a lack of water threatened Pann’s and my survival, the potential of running out of resources threatens our whole species’ survival. It may start with wars over borders being crossed by hundreds of thousands of refugees fleeing rising oceans or unprecedented droughts. The stimulus for conflict may be the dearth of fresh water as, for example, in the Middle East. When the energy resources we have relied upon for two centuries or more either run out, or become widely recognized as the source of intolerably violent extreme weather events, people will band together in hostile groups to protect their own. Nationalism will come back with a gusto. Scrabbling to maintain lifestyles will drain all available resources. The resulting conflicts will likely dwarf World War II or the French and Russian Revolutions.
Recognizing possibly extreme consequences and putting in place infrastructure and plans to facilitate dealing with them can be vital to contending with them if and when they do develop. Genocide is not out of the question. Prejudice has already seen a resurgence in Europe of frightening proportions. Hate mongers rule talk radio, awaiting only a spark to galvanize an actively paranoid population. In the Rwandan tragedy of 1994 was, by many reports, triggered and exasperated by just these kinds of stimulants. So, the deterioration of civil society may have already begun.
When the average person on the street finally recognizes Climate Change as an already well advanced reality, like I did when I realized we only had one pint of water left, but possibly several days of need on Pann’s part, rationing what resources remain available to us will become everyone’s top priority. At least that’s my fervent hope. What I fear is that, instead of rationing and cooperation, we may devolve into hoarding and theft.
We will, at last, be forced to acknowledge that real environmental decline, like real thirst, is going to be ugly. If we don’t make the connection before dwindling resources force us into deadly competition, we will only accelerate the decline.
Nothing stimulates rationing like the realization that you’re going to need every bit of what you have left and the fear that even that may not be enough. The sooner one makes the jump to recognizing the dangers, the more likely they can be avoided.
My potential of life-threatening dehydration on our hike was not very real. But Pann’s most certainly was, even though he probably never got particularly thirsty that day. I was very surprised by his ability to walk himself out.
We were lucky. One more bad turn could have changed that very drastically. For example, if the deer and I had collided, all bets would have been off. Pann was totally dependent on me. Had I been injured, he’d have been stranded without the benefit of my greater experience in the backcountry and the remaining water probably wouldn’t have sufficed.
I was motivated by our situation to ration the water, and I’ve never consumed less in a comparable period of time, I assure you. What water we had left was Pann’s.
To be continued