Water? No,Watering.

It’s a crazy thing, this idea that there’s a thing called settler culture, this notion that the foundation of a culture was set in colonial times and that’s that, but it’s really like that. For instance, here’s a view of Okanagan Lake a couple months back, while the northern swans were sunning it up on their way to the Arctic.

Just a lake, right, with birds. And ice? Alas, no. This is a watering, a welling of energy out of the land that carries what we call water out with it, and leaves it in a deep trough in the Earth, for the sky to take away. And it does. Over a metre of this 135 kilometre-long lake disappears into the sky each year. The land and sky replenish just enough above that to keep the Okanagon River flowing. The thing is, a lot of water falls from the sky, much, much more than that, but it never makes it to the lake. Heck, it never even makes it to a stream. In fact, among other things, it looks like this:

Now, in settler culture, this is know as “grass”. And that’s a stretch, because in settler culture, grass really looks like this:

So, a croquet pitch translated into an outdoor carpet! Pretty nice, indeed. Now, here’s the thing. This kind of “grass”…

… requires an artificial environment to survive in this valley. Compare:

The green “lawn” loses 40% of all water applied to it to evaporation, because the air is dried out by the mountains to the west. The bunchgrass around the coyote, however, which looks dead, is actually holding its year-old stalks into the air to catch any water that comes by, so it can drain it down into the ground and store it. Much of the “water” that is not liquid in this valley is stored in the roots of these grasses. When spring comes, there is no run-off from the slopes, not because this is a desert (it isn’t), but because the grass is holding it in its roots and sharing it with its sisters. So, look again:

What you are looking at here is water. It is being held by these individuals, who are sharing it with each other (but not with anyone else.) This is the real “lake” in this valley. The other stuff, well, it’s important too, such as here looking south from Antler, but, well…

… it’s just the stuff that got away.

Surplus, like. That’s just a little demonstration of one dimension of what Settler Culture looks like in this place. The very idea! That water flows. Pshaw.

2 replies »

  1. There are a number of agricultural “initiatives” about climate change and adapting to it. After giving some attention to soil, water, air, etc., they move on to improving irrigation methods. (The generalization is, of course, too broad, but . . . . )


    • It is not that the water methods are inappropriate. It’s that the water model itself is inappropriate. Although it seems so logical, because it’s just “the world”. Thanks for the note! I get the fun of trying again to be clear. 🙂


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