Weather Blues

Freshly-laundered blue jeans = environmental catastrophe, apparently.

Well, so much for snowing all day. All of three days, in fact. I really don’t understand how the weather services, every last one of them, can be generally so accurate with their temperature predictions and so very far off on snow amounts.

As late as Sunday we here in Gunnison were told to expect up to three inches daily in a non-stop storm that was going to deluge us Monday through today. Then the arrival time of the snow got pushed back and back, and we went though most of Monday without any snow. It did snow overnight, our standard inch or so, and kept going through much of Tuesday morning — but then it stopped. In the middle of our non-deluge the sun came out and shone so fiercely that every gain we’d made melted. Right as everyone else in the state was being warned to be wary of frigid temperatures.

The snow was supposed to start again yesterday at 5, or 7, or 9 p.m. — and we were still waiting at 11. We did finally get our requisite overnight inch, but as I type it is before 8 a.m. and clouds are already parting to expose blue sky. It will not be snowing all day, and we are not getting the three to four inches predicted as of late yesterday.

Crested Butte may have done better, may be doing better, but no matter how much water courses down the Gunnison River this spring, that does very little to alleviate the ground parching at our end of the valley.

Now those scientists we never believe are telling us the western United States (a rather ill-defined area) is in the worst drought in 1,200 years. That would apparently be even worse than the ecological mishap that caused the people of Mesa Verde and other parts of the not-yet-American Southwest to abandon their cities, because that happened around 1300 AD/CE.

Five hundred years before that was apparently even worse. As bad as it is once again becoming. And forecasters who keep bolstering our foolish hopes aren’t helping.

This is what I’ve decided about people and climate change, based on watching people and pandemics: some percentage around half the population will believe it’s happening and try very hard to follow guidance, even as it keeps changing under them. Some percentage, perhaps 25, will doubt the science, or fear it, and not do anything. The remaining quarter will actively go out of their way to exacerbate the situation.

Even as they ought to be able to see that we aren’t having the winters we used to, and are struggling to find places to haul their snowmobiles, they are probably making active plans to purposely overwater their lawns this summer, just to show the rest of us they can’t be told what to do.

For the past two years I have practiced a self-righteous indignation toward this group of people, and probably, no matter my efforts to change, I will continue to do so, but the other day I read an article that completely tested my patience and in theory ought to make me more sympathetic toward this minority that scoff at the efforts the rest of us put forth.

I tried to find the article again, which I read on Yahoo!, and my 10 seconds of research this morning show there’s a whole school of thought on this, but I didn’t find the convoluted article I read the other day. I clicked on it because the headline was something along the line of saving the planet by not washing my blue jeans.

The poorly-organized article started with the notion of not washing jeans but didn’t bother to explain why, and then veered toward championing some woman who started winning science prizes as a middle-schooler, I think for her work on the re-use of gray water.

“Gray water” is water that has gone through a household use such as showering, laundry or dishwashing. The re-use of this water for, say, lawn watering or even toilet flushing can be viewed as environmental stewardship.

My friend Jim Barry handed me a book once, and I tried mightily to read it, but it depressed me at every turn and I never made it all the way through, even though he assured me there were positive outlooks at the end. I of course can’t remember the title of it, but it was on the history of water and its uses.

I do recall two things from the part I read: one is the intriguing, possibly gross, notion that every drop of water you and I use was once dinosaur pee. The other was that our society is so rich (and/or wasteful) that we use potable water to flush our toilets. So why not recycle our shower water to flush?

But if you think about sewer systems, as I occasionally do, all non-septic-system household water is getting recycled, treated and then sent back out into waterways to give the next town downriver water to use. Never mind dinosaur pee; all our water probably was once human urine.

The main point, before I sidetrack myself too far (just like the article I read did) is that I think we’re already re-using the bulk of the household water. But in a drought there is less water to go around, although so far a lot of us are still acting like everything is normal.

Then along comes an article telling me not to wash my jeans in order to save the planet. After reading the entire article, I still have no idea how this works, nor why we are singling out blue jeans.

Before any of us buy a pair of blue jeans, a huge amount of water has already been used, starting with the raw cotton growing in the field. It’s a thirsty crop that is rarely watered efficiently, particularly in systems like our country’s, where there is every incentive to use your entire water allocation and almost none — other than a system-wide mega-drought — to conserve.

But the cotton issue should apply to almost my entire wardrobe, not just my pants. Perhaps more water goes into the making of my denim than my T-shirt, but I still fail to understand how laundering one but not the other gets me to a virtuous place.

Are there people out there who wash their jeans one pair at a time? That’s the only thing I can guess, as the article worried about using 19 gallons of water in a regular washer and counseled Energy Star appliances that use 14 instead. But if I’m washing a week’s worth of clothing in my Energy Star machine, that works out to less than one gallon per cotton item, which seems like less than I would use handwashing my jeans, which was what — I think — the article wanted me to do instead.

Or not: it told me no more microbes are added to the clothing if I go for 15 months unwashed, and apparently I solve the “offensive odor” portion of this approach with a little Febreze.

At which point I am forced to conclude that either I have gone about my jeans incorrectly lo these many decades, or that some people really do lead wastefully extravagant lives if they wash every pair by itself. But I am reasonably sure, no matter what, that not washing my jeans is going to do nothing to save my portion of the planet — and everything to offend the olfactory senses of those around me.

One thought on “Weather Blues

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