Driving across the Imperial Valley in the extreme south of California yesterday on my way by motorcycle to San Diego I saw a storage tank beside the road with a large line painted about 15-20 feet above the ground and labeled, “Sea Level.” I suddenly remembered that this entire valley is below sea level.
The Valley’s rich agriculture is based on long hot summers and irrigation from the Colorado River since rainfall is less than 3 inches a year. And it is a major supplier of produce for the USA.
The “New River” flows north from Mexico through the Valley to empty into the Salton Sea, the huge lake formed 100 years ago by the Colorado River breaking its banks and flooding the area. The “New River” is reputedly the most polluted waterway in the USA dumping tons of sewerage, industrial waste, agriculture chemicals, and other bad materials into the Salton Sea.
To get to the Valley I passed through the Algodones Dunes which form a most impressive sight with dozens of off road vehicles criss-crossing the vast hills of sand.
All in all an environmentalist’s worse nightmare. Here man has definitely intruded on Mother Nature and God’s work. The whole economy is based on man-made agriculture. Pollution is at its worse. Pristine nature is being scarred by man. And man is living below the level of the rising seas.
But then man is building treatment plants to clean up the “New River.” Agriculture supports one of the few places in California where the economy is prospering and the poplulation is growing with room for new entrants in the job market. Rigorous rules are imposed on off road vehicles.
In essence the Imperial Valley is a minature version of the entire worldwide concern with our environment. The environment is definitely affected by man who has changed the very nature of the place. And man has left his debris and detritus. But rather than abandon the place and leave it for nature to reclaim, man will continue to expand his use of the land, while at the same time acting to correct his mistakes.