The Colorado River. And tubeworms.

Is this Michelle Nijhuis piece on the Colorado River terrific because she’s willing to go against the grain and argue for an optimistic future?

[D]eputy secretary of the U.S. Department of the Interior David Hayes, ecologist Osvel Hinojosa Huerta of the Mexican conservation group Pronatura Noroeste and University of Arizona paleoclimatologist Jonathan Overpeck all described something that sounded suspiciously close to adult behavior. The outlook for climate and water supplies on the Colorado is grim and getting grimmer, they agreed, but the basin states have reached a few important cooperative agreements in recent years, and are even involved in promising discussions with Mexico about getting more water across the border and to the river’s dried-out delta.

I was skeptical. (That’s my job.) But Hayes, Hinojosa, and Overpeck each insisted, in public and in private, that the progress was real. Part of the reason, Hayes said, is that the veteran adversaries along the river have developed a grudging trust: “These people have worked together for so long,” he said, laughing and shaking his head. “They know each others’ tics, they know each others’ food preferences. They’re like a family.”

Or is it terrific because of tubeworms?

Cooperative relationships, he says, are especially important in harsh conditions: Deep-sea tubeworms, for example, lack mouths and guts, so they depend on colonies of obligate symbiotic bacteria to fix hydrogen sulfide into food for them. (See? I promised tubeworms.)



  1. To me, the piece is terrific because it is well researched, well written, and reasonable. I like that. I will no longer read pieces that are proof texts in which the author has a fixed conclusion and only presents the fragments of the data that support the conclusion.

    As to the situation for the Colorado, it seems that we will either have

    ‘A hanging focuses the mind.’


    ‘What else can I do. I’m a scorpion.’

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