September 05, 2008

'Cadillac Desert' on clear display



The picture above is of high-altitude alfalfa irrigation, at about 6,500 feet, in Colorado’s Dolores River watershed. The Dolores is a tributary of the Colorado River in southwest Colorado.

It’s this type of use, or misuse, of water for high-altitude crops, and ones with only an indirect return, getting processed through a cow (or worse, fed to somebody’s pet horse), rather than direct human benefit crops such as dryland or semi-dry spring wheat or pinto beans, that Marc Reisner decried in “Cadillac Desert.”

I saw this while on vacation last month and was inspired to the following poem:

Fresh-cut green alfalfa —
Brick bales shit upon the land,
Grown in a land of little rain;
Grown in a land of short summers.

Short-season high-country rivers
Could be put to better use
Than supplemental feed for mountain cattle;
Supplemental water, rather,
To boost dryland wheat and beans.

Send it downriver? No.
Not until Los Angeles, Las Vegas and Phoenix
And Imperial Valley and Central Arizona farmers
Learn more water prudence.

Fresh-cut green alfalfa —
Brick bales shit upon the land,
Grown in a land of scarceness
For fat, lazy Americans to indulge themselves.

Maybe the wrong cows are being fed.

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