The decision was made for us by those in command decades ago.
Not that we haven’t performed some mighty efforts to fool Mother Nature.
We have diverted rivers to make the desert bloom, from alfalfa in Fallon to fountains gushing in Gomorrah South’s sea of neon. We recently allowed the strip mining of Mount Tenabo, a Nevada peak sacred to the Shoshone. But who cares? We stole their land fair and square centuries ago, didn’t we?
For the past 500 years or so, everything — good, bad and ugly — has been done in worship of the goddess of progress. Apparently, nobody asked toward what?
The nation’s problems appear marginally solvable. Dear Nevada’s, not so much.
We’ve been kidding ourselves, thinking we could turn this fragile desert into sagebrushy ‘burbs with limitless Bermuda grass. We’ve been willing to pay just about any price to prove that we can be as boring as Peoria.
Remember the old saw about “Las Vegas has more churches per capita”? Nobody asked “more than where?” Another urban legend carefully nurtured by a respect-starved cat house.
The Silver State, worse than many others, suffers from the Hollywood cowboy mythology, a religion more popular than any other. Its dogma is simple: You are a rebel, a rugged individual, sitting tall in the saddle, a loner able to survive on no more than can be carried in a stylish leather saddlebag. You can sleep on the ground, laying your head in your saddle with only a thin blanket and the spirit of John Wayne to keep you warm.
Actually, Nevada’s head has always been up its saddle. Heartless casino mogul Steve Wynn gloried in glomming water for his wasteful theme casinos because of the show value of erupting fountains in a desert environment. Good for his wallet. Lousy for the environment.
Las Vegans are now in a race to construct an upstream straw into dwindling Lake Mead before their water pipes run foul with their own downstream sewage. Yes, they use the man-made lake as their toilet. Who says God has no sense of humor?
Our lust for respectability has made us the most urban state in the nation. About nine in 10 of us live in Clark County or the Sparks-Reno-Carson-Douglas strip. So why not strip water from the rurals? They don’t have the votes to stop us. Ditto with the backward Shoshone who inexplicably object to bulldozers on their lands.
If any place typifies what Dubya and his Dunces once termed “compassionate conservatism,” we live in it. “Doonesbury” creator Garry Trudeau best defined the term: “Compassionate means we care, conservative means you’re on your own.”
I prefer the definition of “conservative” as once espoused by a real one named Travus T. Hipp: It means conserve. Take care of this wonderful place and its people.
Last week, word came from the biennial petting zoo we call a legislature that hope has faded. State services, especially our bottom-of-the-barrel educational system, will be gutted. Apparently no one wants to raise enough tax revenue to bridge the gap.
Our three major employers happen to be exploitive industries — gambling, mining and the federal government.
They take more than they give and we are out of tricks to make up the difference.
The bottom line: People are going to die. Maybe not you or me, but someone we know. Somebody weak or sick or small. The person in dirty clothes we pass on the street and pretend not to see.
They will pass away largely unnoticed because our major newspapers now charge for obituaries. Unless the death of the faceless becomes newsworthy, like a body washed up in the mucky Truckee, the deceased become the equivalent of a tree falling in the forest. It may have made a sound, but nobody noticed. Because nobody has to.
The system was rigged to fail decades ago. We are the compassionate conservative state. You are on your own. May God help you because no one else will here in the macho state of solo souls.
Be well. Raise hell.
Andrew Barbano is a 39-year Nevadan, member of Sparks-based Communications Workers of America Local 9413/AFL-CIO, political action chair and webmaster of NAACP Reno-Sparks Branch 1112, producer of the César Chávez celebration and editor of NevadaLabor.com. As always, his comments are strictly his own. E-mail email@example.com. Barbwire by Barbano has originated in the Tribune since 1988.