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The Water's Edge 

by PAUL K. HAEDER & r & & r & & lt;span class= "dropcap " & A & lt;/span & l Gore as the new guru of Gaia, inspiring us into a new way of thinking about global tipping points for our precious water? Seems preposterous, but his An Inconvenient Truth is making an impact on the public and media beyond most expectations.





According to one leader of the National Wildlife Federation at last month's National River Rally in Stevenson, Wash., more than 1,000 community leaders from around the country met with Gore last year and learned ways to give his Power Point presentation on global warming. Now these acolytes are fanning out across the land like mosquitoes hoping to infect the masses with a greater sense of urgency.





NWF and River Network are teamed up not only to tackle climate change's effects on our rivers, but also how energy can be saved through an intricate process of balancing all the human and non-human needs tied to watersheds.





"The slide show is a new model of training, and it's being packaged for hunters, anglers and various groups like the Audubon Society," said NWF's Susan Kaderka, emphasizing that birds are now becoming absent in many regions because of earlier spring and later winter starts. "Since January of this year, we've had over 5,000 presentations with more than 250,000 people being exposed to the message ... We want the whole country covered by 2008."





All the deception generated by fake think tanks, the so-called mainstream press and the Bush-Cheney oil addict's sideshow has put America at least 20 years behind in terms of our collective comprehension of the realities of global warming.





But the thick heads blocking the science of climate change are cracking. Jobs, education and Bush's war used to top the list of issues most people were concerned about, but since April 2006, when Time magazine ran a cover story on our climate, editorializing that "we all should be worried ... very worried about the effects of global warming," the issue has moved up and is now at the heart of America's new set of concerns.





& lt;span class= "dropcap " & S & lt;/span & ome of you might remember the analogy Carl Sagan gave regarding our precious atmosphere -- take an orange, call it Earth, and then paint a single thin coat of varnish on it. That thin coat is as far as our lungs go. We've also had detailed proof for years, thanks to isotopes trapped in 600,000-year-old ice. The significance of comparing those 280 parts per million of CO2 in the world's atmosphere 400,000 years ago to our current 380 ppm may have once seemed abstract, but political leaders are finally facing the facts.





Scientists of every stripe, including river experts, know that the projected 580 ppm of CO2 that will be part of the global atmosphere by the end of this century will mean at least another five degrees increase in the United States' average temperature.





The message was printed boldly at the Rally, in the EPA's booklet, "Protecting Water Resources with Smart Growth" and in "Balance in the Basin," which details the Columbia Basin Water Transactions Program.





Here in Washington, the Conservation Reserve Enhancement Program helps prevent the wasting of water by working with ag people. Ken Maxon, a farmer in the Walla Walla River basin, has a new attitude about his role in facing global warming and dwindling water supplies:





"I want our way of life to continue and be there for my granddaughter's grandchildren," he said. "My family wants to use our land to provide habitat for fish and wildlife and protect farmland from development. Conservation is much easier when you have help to pay for it."





Keeping a river wet is the goal of not only kayakers, fishers and ecologists, but also now of economic development wonks and various chambers of commerce around the region touting this area's settlement potential.





Wasteful irrigation saps much of our rivers' flow, and even dams are on the table in terms of their negative impacts. Arnold Schwarzenegger signed off on four new dam projects for California -- even when we know that an impoundment like Lake Mead loses more than a million acre feet of water yearly due to evaporation.





Pat McCully of International Rivers cited some pretty substantial science in his keynote talk about the four percent of total global warming gases being emitted by dams during their clearing of land, construction and irrigation.





"Some larger-reservoir hydroelectric projects in the tropics give off emissions greater than a natural gas or coal-fired electrical plant would," McCully told the crowd. Jaws dropped and heads shook.





& lt;span class= "dropcap " & F & lt;/span & or a state that has had so much invested in those last four Lower Snake River dams -- all the hundreds of millions of tax dollars to attempt to save the declining stocks of wild salmon -- these issues will become more and more prominent in the discussion about what the future holds for irrigating deserts that rely also on huge fossil fuel inputs in the form of tractor diesel, fertilizers and pesticides.





Stabilizing the future of water in the region -- for the record, the Columbia Basin is the size of France -- will require bite-the-bullet resolve. Heck, just taking into account the Columbia Plateau will demand retooling, since more than seven million acres are irrigated from stream flows. And guess what more than 65 percent of all that acreage is dedicated to growing? Wine grapes? No. Wheat? Nope. Organic produce? Sorry. We're devoting that huge percentage of our local water resources to the production of hay.





In the wars over water, things are about to get interesting.





This is the second part in Paul Haeder's response to last month's River Rally. To read the first installment, go to www.inlander.com/commentary/289068352744787.php


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