Writing a conservation-themed blog post on Mother’s Day is easy. We’ve all heard of Mother Nature. We think of our planet as our mother. Even though it’s a metaphor, it’s clear that the natural world around us nurtures us like a mother, so it’s not so hard to associate each of our moms with the earth.
What about Father’s Day, however? When I was a young child growing up, I always assumed Mother Nature and Father Time were a couple, so let’s run with that and think about how Time plays a role in our conservation efforts.
The most important factor when talking about conservation, in my mind at least, is the sheer length of time it takes to accomplish, well, anything. We’ve all heard about the absurd time it takes for plastic, Styrofoam, and other artificial products to break down after they end up in landfills.
Time is a factor with water conservation, too. We’ve already touched base on residence times and how the water cycle moves very, very slowly. So even though it’s inevitable that polluted water will eventually evaporate and be cleaned by the water cycle, this very likely won’t occur in some bodies of water until long after we’re all dead.
Then, there’s the question of recovering lost water sources. Owens Lake was once over 100 miles, but now it’s a dry lake bed. Mono Lake has lost several feet of water. Both these terminal saline lakes will recover someday, but that day is not today and may not arrive for decades or centuries. The real question comes down to how much longer cities like Los Angeles will continue to divert water sources from these lakes.
And then there’s the question of drought. Depending on whether you count El Nino or not, California is either currently mired in or just emerged from a five year drought. Even with the heavy rains in late 2015 and early 2016, however, predictions are for more dry years to come, and a single precipitation-heavy year hasn’t offset the dryness we’ve experienced so far. The worst news, some of California’s historic droughts have lasted over a century, so the dry times might just be beginning.
Listing everything like that, it may seem that Father Time is our enemy. That’s not the case, though (or at least not how we see it). Yes, the damage from water mismanagement can take a very, very long time to mitigate, but on the other time, that also means we have time now. We can change now. We can conserve now. And we can still take steps to unite Mother Nature and Father Time so that we, their children, can honor them by treasuring our precious resources.