FacebookTwitterGoogle+RedditEmail

Who Will Save the World? Travels Through the Texas Panhandle

The world can’t give
All its life and live
We must give back or lose it.

— “Music is the Food of Thought”, written by Tony McPhee

When The Groundhogs released Who Will Save The World in 1972, it followed a popular format in rock music at the time – theme albums. But the theme Tony McPhee chose for his songs may have been a first for rock music – “earth first.” The cover was designed to look like the action comics of the day. Up in the left-hand corner, where you might usually find a brand name like “Marvel”, it contained the phrase “When danger arises, up from inner space come the MIGHTY GROUNDHOGS.”

Recently I took a trip from Springfield, MO to Tucson, AZ. Much of the trip was along the same route I had made many times in the late ‘80s and ‘90s with my family, to CD and record trade shows in Los Angeles. On one of those trips, Don Henley was autographing copies of Heaven Is Under Our Feet, a collection of essays edited by Henley and journalist Dave Marsh. The book was part of Henley’s Walden Woods Project – an ultimately successful effort to save Walden Woods from development by purchasing the portions that weren’t already under protection. The Groundhogs weren’t nearly as successful in their efforts to bring attention to environmental concerns in the United States (the album peaked at no. 202 on the Billboard album charts) but did have noticeably better results overseas (no. 8 on the British charts).

I took my dog, Sally, on my recent trip. Sally, like many non-humans, not only takes notice of what’s on top of the ground, but what’s under the ground as well. I’ve learned to pay attention to Sally and follow her lead. Heaven is, indeed, under our feet. Hell can be, too.

As we passed through the Texas Panhandle, the landscape had changed quite a bit since those trips to L.A. Gone were the small wooden or steel windmills and their small collection ponds for cattle. Gone was the sagebrush that the cattle feed on. The cattle had moved onto feeding lots. It the sight of cattle, tens of thousands of them, corralled in tightly packed pens makes your stomach churn, you probably shouldn’t travel I-40 through Texas. But you should know they’re there and think about that the next time you bite into a hamburger.

But what of the sand and native grasses?

On those earlier trips out to L.A., the first giant windmills started showing up in the passes leading from the high desert into Los Angeles. “What a wonderful thing,” I thought. “Using wind power to light such a vastly populated area.” Passing through the Texas Panhandle last week, those windmills were everywhere. Thousands of them, stretching over millions of acres. But there were no cities to light. Hardly any houses at all. What there was were vast fields of vegetation – lush green vegetation. Looks can be deceiving.

You see, the largest aquifer in the world, the Ogallala Aquifer passes directly under the Texas Panhandle – the entire width of it.

From Wikipedia: “Large scale extraction for agricultural purposes started after World War II due partially to center pivot irrigation and to the adaptation of automotive engines for groundwater wells. Today about 27% of the irrigated land in the entire United States lies over the aquifer, which yields about 30% of the ground water used for irrigation in the United States. The aquifer is at risk for over-extraction and pollution. Since 1950, agricultural irrigation has reduced the saturated volume of the aquifer by an estimated 9%. Once depleted, the aquifer will take over 6,000 years to replenish naturally through rainfall.”

What Wikipedia doesn’t say is how much of that 9% has happened in just the last decade or two. Or how long the aquifer can last under such an accelerated draining. Capitalists can sure fuck up a good idea. When the aquifer reaches a point where it can no longer be exploited, Capitalists will do what they always do – abandon it. They’ll leave behind a legacy of destruction that dwarfs the slag heaps outside of Pittsburgh, burning rivers in Cleveland, lead mines in western Missouri, and even the Dust Bowl of the 1930s. Dust Bowl? Fool me once, shame on you. Fool me twice, shame on me.

The Mighty Groundhogs didn’t save the world. But they served notice. Now it’s up to you and me.

 

 

More articles by:

January 23, 2019
Paul Street
Time for the U.S. Yellow Vests
Charles McKelvey
Popular Democracy in Cuba
Kenn Orphan
The Smile of Class Privilege
Leonard Peltier
The History Behind Nate Phillips’ Song
Kenneth Surin
Stalled Brexit Goings On
Jeff Cohen
The System’s Falling Apart: Were the Dogmatic Marxists Right After All?
Cira Pascual Marquina
Chavez and the Continent of Politics: a Conversation with Chris Gilbert
George Ochenski
Turning Federal Lands Over to the States and Other Rightwing Fantasies
George Wuerthner
Forest Service Ignores Science to Justify Logging
Raouf Halaby
In the Fray: Responses to Covington Catholic High
Kim C. Domenico
No Saviors But Ourselves; No Disobedience Without Deeper Loyalty
Ted Rall
Jury Trial? You Have No Right!
Michael Doliner
The Pros and Cons of Near Term Human Extinction
Lee Ballinger
Musical Unity
Elliot Sperber
The Ark Builders
January 22, 2019
Patrick Cockburn
On the Brink of Brexit: the Only Thing Most People Outside Westminster Know About Brexit is That It’s a Mess
Raouf Halaby
The Little Brett Kavanaughs from Covington Catholic High
Dean Baker
The Trump Tax Cut is Even Worse Than They Say
Stanley L. Cohen
The Brazen Detention of Marzieh Hashemi, America’s Newest Political Prisoner
Karl Grossman
Darth Trump: From Space Force to Star Wars
Glenn Sacks
Teachers Strike Dispatch #8: New Independent Study Confirms LAUSD Has the Money to Meet UTLA’s Demands
Haydar Khan
The Double Bind of Human Senescence
Alvaro Huerta
Mr. President, We Don’t Need Your Stinking Wall
Howard Lisnoff
Another Slugger from Louisville: Muhammad Ali
Nicole Patrice Hill – Kollibri terre Sonnenblume
The Scarlet “I”: Climate Change, “Invasive” Plants and Our Culture of Domination
Jonah Raskin
Disposable Man Gets His Balls Back
Thomas Knapp
Now More Than Ever, It’s Clear the FBI Must Go
January 21, 2019
W. T. Whitney
New US Economic Attack Against Cuba, Long Threatened, May Hit Soon
Jérôme Duval
Macronist Repression Against the People in Yellow Vests
Dean Baker
The Next Recession: What It Could Look Like
Eric Mann
All Hail the Revolutionary King: Martin Luther King and the Black Revolutionary Tradition
Binoy Kampmark
Spy Theories and the White House: Donald Trump as Russian Agent
Edward Curtin
We Need a Martin Luther King Day of Truth
Bill Fried
Jeff Sessions and the Federalists
Ed Corcoran
Central America Needs a Marshall Plan
Colin Todhunter
Complaint Lodged with European Ombudsman: Regulatory Authorities Colluding with Agrochemicals Industry
Manuel E. Yepe
The US War Against the Weak
Weekend Edition
January 18, 2019
Friday - Sunday
Melvin Goodman
Star Wars Revisited: One More Nightmare From Trump
John Davis
“Weather Terrorism:” a National Emergency
Jeffrey St. Clair
Roaming Charges: Sometimes an Establishment Hack is Just What You Need
Joshua Frank
Montana Public Schools Block Pro-LGBTQ Websites
Louisa Willcox
Sky Bears, Earth Bears: Finding and Losing True North
Robert Fisk
Bernie Sanders, Israel and the Middle East
Robert Fantina
Pompeo, the U.S. and Iran
David Rosen
The Biden Band-Aid: Will Democrats Contain the Insurgency?
FacebookTwitterGoogle+RedditEmail