It’s a desert, asshole!

sam kinnison screamI recently had reason to search for a quote from the comedian Sam Kinnison. When he was alive I didn’t much care for him because of his screaming delivery. He’s been dead since 1992 and now that we have the Internet and have access to his written words I’ve discovered that, damn he was funny.

One of his most famous bits had to do with people starving to death because they live in deserts. One line is…

“We have deserts in America, we just don’t live in them, assholes!”

After reading that and smiling a bit I took time to consider the words and quickly realized it’s not true. We do have deserts in America and we do live in them. Several of America’s largest cities were, in fact, built in the American Southwest, the heart of dessert America.

Los Angeles is a prime example and one I have first-hand experience with. The LA of the 1960s consisted of the city surrounded by 96 other independent cities and occupying God knows how many hundreds of square miles. Those square miles were not temperate, forested square miles, awash with pristine flowing bodies of fresh water. They were and are dessert square miles. The water that keeps LA alive comes from hundreds of miles away via pipelines and aqueducts. The city of LA gets it’s water from the Colorado River on the other side of the state. It gets its water from the rivers and melting snows of Northern California, even further away. Mega pumping stations lift this water over the mountains and into the arid basin those very mountains help create.

So Mr. Kinnison, here we sit today with California water reserves drying up, the winter snow pack a fraction of what it once was, the forests on fire, and the crops of the Central Valley buried under the dust of drought.

Who’s the assholes now?

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