So many ecological catastrophes are happening in Nevada right now, it’s hard to know where to start. From military takeovers of public lands; open-pit lithium mining projects threatening Native lands and rare endangered plant species; land sprawl bills in both major counties that would open up vast areas of public lands to commercial and residential development; wind energy projects in pristine and fragile ecosystems; to major new industrial energy projects and transmission lines lining up to plunder our public lands and deprive us of old-growth yucca, creosote and other plant life that are hundreds of years old, and even making Nevada the nuclear storage center of the nation. We are running out of water and the place just keeps growing.
Nevada has reason to complain. Life -long Nevadan James W. Hulse wrote the book on why. In Nevada’s Environmental Legacy: Progress or Plunder (2010), Hulse lays out the myriad of ways Nevada has always been the nation’s sacrifice zone.
“We have witnessed urban sprawl, a revolution in mining and smelting techniques, transformations of the rangelands, an expanded military presence, development of the Atomic Test Site, the m-x fiasco, a presidential decision to place a national nuclear waste depository in Nevada, and a proposal to make a massive water transfer from rural eastern Nevada to the Las Vegas Valley—among other challenging events.”
The only thing that has changed since 2010 are the number of threats and the breadth of the plunder have only increased. With the new Biden administration pushing for big infrastructure stimulus, and the push for renewable energy, those looking for a quick buck are lining up to apply for industrial energy projects on a scale never seen before. I plan to provide more details in separate articles, but suffice it to say that both sides of Mt. Charleston and the Amargosa Valley are prime targets, as is the corridor of the “loneliest highway,” U.S. Route 50; the I-15 corridor and much more. Vast transmission lines are planned to plunder all of this “green” energy to California. All of this will wipe out vast areas of desert habitat for an unthinkable number of plants and animals. That ain’t green.
Meanwhile the driest year on record for Nevada is leading to a Lake Mead just feet away from losing power production from the Hoover Dam. And yet our entire congressional delegation is pushing legislation to open up residential development to make way for 820,000 more people to move to Las Vegas. Business as usual? Yes, the only paradigm this culture is capable of thinking in is growth growth growth and of course profits.
The state is being looted and the political leadership doesn’t seem all that concerned. In fact they are pushing for many of these projects, if not simply remaining quiet about it. In some instances, even environmental groups are silent. Everyone has their reasons, but it’s not good for Nevada and the future of the planet. The time for sugarcoating and compromise is long past. No more rearranging the deckchairs. We are amidst what scientists are calling the 6th Great Extinction with extinction now at 1,000 times the background rate (the 5th Great Extinction was 60 million years ago when the dinosaurs disappeared).
It’s time we started treating current circumstances like the ecological emergency it is. No more ecological destruction in the name of industrial conveniences and profits. It is long time we started placing the needs of the natural world in the place of respect it belongs, because its needs are our needs. If the natural world goes, we go with it.
It’s time Nevada stick up for itself. We are not just a desert of nothing and dirt for the rest of the country to send its toxic waste and to plunder its resources. We are not their sacrifice zone. Enough is enough.