Drain It And Pave It
By David Carle, Park Ranger, Mono Lake
Tufa State Reserve
Believe it or not, once in awhile someone suggests
that the best thing to do with Mono Lake would be to
drain it and pave it over. Think of the benefits, they
have been known to say, of so much parking space, room
for skateboard rinks and basketball courts. After all,
what good, really, is that kind of salty lake?
Those people aren't really serious, of course. They
are just testing for a reaction. But I have also noticed
that the ones who are willing to make such suggestions
have usually never been to Mono Lake. Oh, they may have
seen the lake many times as they drove by on Highway
395. But I don't hear that kind of talk from people
who have actually stopped and spent some time. Most
of those real visitors to Mono Lake come away with plenty
of personal reasons to value this place.
This overheard conversation gave me a whole new perspective
on this issue:
"Drain it and pave it? Are you crazy? You want
to bring economic collapse to the western hemisphere,
promote criminal behavior and, worst of all, ruin your
"What are you talking about? What has Mono Lake
got to do with any of that especially my sex
"Ah, clearly you haven't given this enough thought.
Listen and heed: First, consider the consequences should
the lake dry up. (I will postpone consideration of the
paving question for a few moments). Without the water
of Mono Lake, with its unique chemical conditions, the
brine shrimp and alkali flies would die. Millions of
millions of lives would be lost tiny ones, to
be sure, but life nonetheless. Without the shrimp and
flies, over a million birds would no longer be able
to feed here. Without "
"Yes, yes. I see the point. What if I say I don't
"Please, let me finish. You don't see anything
yet. Your future happiness is in great jeopardy. Remember,
"Sex life? Right. Sure. This is crazy, but go
"So. If 800,000 eared grebes and 140,000 phalaropes
were no longer supported by Mono Lake, they might never
make it to winter ranges in South and Central America.
And without all that bird life down there, the predators
which feed on the birds would decline. With the decline
in hawks and foxes would follow an increase in rodents,
which are also controlled by the same predators. Thus,
rodents would overrun farms, producing famine. Also,
insects normally fed on by the grebes and phalaropes
would increase. Such insects could vector diseases.
The miserable humans affected by all this would flee
northward, flooding cities with immigrants. Disease,
famine, overcrowding...can crime not follow? Can economies
stand under such an onslaught? Can "
"Can I stand here and listen to this nonsense
"You're sitting. Don't forget about your sex life."
"Yeah, cut to the important stuff."
"But we still haven't dealt with the paving idea.
Consider. Mono Lake covers sixty square miles. If you
pave that much land, there may not be enough asphalt
left to maintain our highways. Yet gas guzzling machines
of every sort will be attracted to the area. Smog, congestion,
and noise will cover the hot baking surface of pavement
during the summer months. The heat will be so intense
that airplanes flying overhead will be buffeted by the
rising heat columns. Commercial flights will be forced
to circle around the basin to avoid the turbulence.
Of course, the desperate, starving folks from down south
will be having their effect on this area too. Pollution,
"Enough, already. You forced me to listen to all
this because of one very personal effect you predicted
for me. Are you ever going to explain about my sex life?"
"Oh, that. Yes. Well. You should realize that
those people who really know and love Mono Lake would
find it very hard to sit still and accept all of this.
Since I love you, I want you to know that if you don't
wise up, get out there, and see for yourself what it
is you so casually talk about destroying, then I will
personally see to it that your future sex life will
be as barren as that bleak, asphalt basin would become.
And then she dragged him by his ear out of his comfortable
seat (in a motorhome with a satellite dish on the roof),
away from his football game on the little portable television,
and marched him down the South Tufa trail.
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