Chris Clarke leaving the desert: las golondrinas chronicles

Yesterday’s post on “WeBLOG adobe las golondrinas” prompted me to go to Chris Clarke’s Coyote Crossing blog to see what is going on with his desert activism.  The ever-present need for economic vitality has visited Clarke with a vengeance upon his life in the desert so that now he is leaving the Mojave for urban Oakland (more than likely Oakland, he writes).   He has worked tirelessly to alter the building of the vast solar array out in the Mojave for alternative solar projects on home rooftops, vacant parking lots and probably the cathedral-like roofs of Goldman Sachs, Morgan Stanley.   Do they really need helicopter pads on those roofs?  Chris has stopped his car alongside desert roads to aid tortoises get to the other side of the road.  There’s no tortoise soup on Chris’s menu.

Here’s a poster from Chris’s website that shows his activism at Mach 1 supersonic speed:

I do like the slap-in-the-face-with-pig-bladder approach on the poster.  Not much room for debate, just good straight-forward compromise that favors the people.  Davy Crockett would be proud of Chris Clarke.  See also Andrew Jackson, Sam Houston who also favored the commonweal.  I’m an historian, so you gotta be a little tolerant of my diversions here.

Chris is still going to be active in saving the deserts from a new location. He writes that he has been active on the issue from afar and he will do it again. I will be giving Chris Clarke and Coyote Crossing a Prairie Sagebrush Award 2011 soon. The award doesn’t bring him any money to stay and proselytize, but it will illustrate his fine writing and love of the Mojave.

Do tortoises weep?


Notes, corrections and additions:

Correction from first posting:  Chris Clarke has not helped move the tortoise out of the construction area.  (That sentence has been removed.)  He has stopped his car and aided the tortoise across the roads.  See Clarke’s correction in the comments.


Filed under Mojave Desert, Solar Energy

12 responses to “Chris Clarke leaving the desert: las golondrinas chronicles

  1. I’m so glad to have been made aware of Chris and his blog. I know a couple of other bloggers in places like Llano who might not know about his efforts. Now, they will.

    Even urban tortoises need a little help now and then. We’re nearly to the time when they’ll be crossing our roads, heading for their hibernation mud. The good news is that if they aren’t snatched from the road soon enough and get hit or rolled, there’s a turtle rehabber in town who will nurse them when needed, or repair their shells. You’d be surprised how many folks here drive around with boxes and old towels in their cars this time of year.

  2. Linda, I’ll be darned! Never knew. Never know about the goodness of people until your folks drive around with boxes and towels. I am happy to hear that sensitivity for tortoises. That reminds me: I saw a young woman several months ago stop out here on SH 108 and she was helping a tortoise across the road.

  3. I think the contrasts of the photos can be found all across America today. The greed of the elite is being very well fed by extravagance and waste. There seems to be no end to the spiral of “I want”. I’m constantly reminded of the Tolstoy story “How Much Land Does a Man Need?”. We never stop begging the question of our mortality.

  4. Jack, I’m touched. Thank you for the kind words.

    One minor quibble: I haven’t tried to move tortoises out of the path of construction, except perhaps metaphorically. I have helped them across the road, though.

  5. The tortoises weep, the land weeps, there is a mourning, a pouring out of sadness for the loss of our mother earth and yet there is the other side, those who cannot see the loss or the tortoise’s tears. The cry must be louder. Chris’s poster is that louder voice, a graphic reminder of what is happening.

  6. Bill Kerrigan

    I appreciate the sentiment, and Mr. Clarke’s effort to protect desert ecoscapes that too many write off as “wastelands.” But I think the poster is not 100% true. Many of these subsidies are supporting solar projects in human communities, including on the campus of the small Ohio college where I work. Currently, high sulfur coal provides most of the electricity where I live. Extracting it has despoiled the landscape and burning it sends carcinogens into the air. Now the hydro-frackers are descending upon our poor Appalachian region, promising easy money and telling us not to worry about its potential to contaminate the water table. In this context, I embrace subsidies for solar fields, in the cities and suburbs but also to a limited extent in deserts. It is important to educate people about the environmental costs of solar fields, but also recognize the huge environmental costs of all of the other (also subsidized) sources of our energy.

    • Bill,

      You make some valid points here but I’m till concerned about the siting of these “alternative” energy industries. First, forking over public wilderness areas to private corporations is never OK. These are lands owned by the citizens of this country and deserving of protection. Second, siting an alternative energy industry where there are rare and endangered species is never OK when there are alternatives, and there are!

      Like you I fully support alternative energy when placed near infrastructure and especially if it utilizes previously degraded areas, but allowing the corporations to place thousands of acres of alternative energy facilities on public land in areas where endangered species exist is simply unconscionable.

    • Hi, Bill, thank you for your comment, quite enlightened, deep and studied, I must add. I do believe that subsidies — some of them — do support the human communities rather than corporate execs and shareholders. The high sulfur coal wastes is just downright deplorable and the need for solar and wind sources are on the right track. I even think nuclear energy with its attendant dangers is preferable to the coal. The hydro-frackers are all over the place here in central east, central west Texas and earthquakes are beginning to abound (loose connection I know, but nonetheless some authorities point to fracking as the cause). It is important to educate people about the various energy sources that minimize impact. Chris’s work has been to attack the Mojave complex. It’s huge. Solar we need, but there are rooftops and parking lots and other spaces that can be utilized without significantly (should be rigorously defined and debated, this significant factor) impacting the tortoise, the mouse, the owl. I sure do like your comment, Bill, and I hope you come back to read my spiel from time to time. ~ Jack Matthews, Sage to Meadow.

      • Bil Kerrigan

        Jack and Chris,

        I appreciate your responses. Solar has a great deal of promise but also raises new issues. Urban folk in general have smaller ecological footprints than rural folk, but there are so many of them that all the rooftops in a city are probably inadequate to meet that city’s energy needs. On our small campus, the proposed solar field will take out a softball field, a nice green space where I walk my dogs and will require installing solar “carports” over a few parking lots. There’s no doubt its going to be ugly, and still it will only provide a portion of the college’s energy needs. But ultimately I support it because I have seen firsthand what coal mining has done to Appalachia, and I know I have been a direct beneficiary of that degradation, as it powers my computer and my lights.

        I am glad there is someone out there fighting for the Mojave, Chris. I grew up in the desert on the edge of Phoenix (my childhood desert playground has since been erased by sprawl). I think the problems coal and solar fields in the desert present are common ones–they both put energy production “out there,” beyond the eyes of city people, allowing them to live in blissful ignorance about the environmental costs of running their lights, computers, air conditioners.

        Jack, I love your blog and have been reading it for a long while. I got my Master’s degree at TCU, and while I am quite content living and working in a Mayberry-like village on the edge of Appalachia, I often miss the big skies and open landscapes of the west. When I read your blog I can feel the heat of the southwestern sun warming my neck and shoulders.

  7. Jack, I want to ask you something, which has notning to do with this post. I’m transferring my blog Flora and Fauna to my main blog Thyra in a few days. I would be so glad if you would move your “followship” to Thyra ??
    Grethe `)

  8. Thank you so much Jack. I would be sorry if I missed you as a follower. It’s such a cosy feeling that you are there, although you’ve got a bison’s face.
    Grethe ´)

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