Friday, November 04, 2005

Long after writing The Book of Dead Birds, the Salton Sea area (where much of the novel is set) continues to fascinate me. It is such a compelling landscape, so bleak and beautiful all at once. The poor sea (actually an inland lake; one created by mistake in the middle of the desert) has been plagued by natural and unnatural disasters over the last few decades. Environmentalists and politicians have tried to come up with plans to save the sea, but so far, all of the ideas have been too expensive or too controversial to bear fruit. My friend Iqbal recently sent me this article about a promising development:
UC Riverside scientists are able to improve water quality by 90 percent in the rivers flowing into the Salton Sea, the largest lake in California, by using two kinds of water-treatment chemicals that remove phosphorus and silt from the river water.
Iqbal, who wrote the article as a press release for UCR, quotes Chris Amhrein, professor of soil and environmental sciences:
“The Salton Sea at one time attracted more visitors than Yellowstone National Park,” Amrhein said. “If nothing is done, this sea will shrink, exposing lake sediments that could generate dust and worsen air quality. Fish and fish-eating birds would disappear in 10-30 years, and be replaced perhaps by birds that eat brine shrimp. And the sea would continue to smell, which might even get worse. Doing something to address the Salton Sea’s problems on the other hand could greatly stimulate eco-tourism here and boost the economy of this region.”
I hope it will work! It would be wonderful if the region could come back to life (and less pungent life at that.)

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