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Excerpt from Endgame

Glassy Winged Sharpshooters (p. 146)

From chapter "Choices"

Today I’m driving through northern California. I started at the coast, passing through patches of afternoon fog that slid between the tops of tall redwoods like so many ghosts. Traffic was light, and in the two-lane stretches the slow cars inevitably (and unaccountably) used the turnouts, as they’re supposed to.

Sometimes insects arced into my windshield, white or black dots that came upon me too quickly for me to swerve, then splattered yellow, orange, white, or transparent against the glass. I thought often, too, of the insects I did not even see, but killed nonetheless. Roads are free-kill zones for anything that enters.

I crossed the Klamath River, running much fuller now: after the salmon had been safely killed, the feds released water into the river. Federal biologists…continue to claim—no surprises here—there’s been no causal connection shown between the lack of water and the death of fish, and I continue to fantasize about accountability.

The road moved away from the coast, and the day warmed. Traffic remained light. I crossed the Eel and Russian Rivers, which are little more than braided streams good for warm foot baths and for little children wading. The Eel once had runs of lampreys great as the runs of salmon it also now no longer has. I don’t know if the Russian ever had runs of Muscovites.

Then I entered wine country—Mendocino and Sonoma counties—and saw the reason for the rivers’ deaths: great seas of grapes extending as far as I could see. Even though everyone—including teetotalers like myself—know that non-irrigated grapes make better wines, the rivers have been effectively dewatered to grow these grapes, and more importantly to grow the bank accounts of those wealthy enough to own wineries: a few huge corporations control production, as always, which means they also control politics, as always, which means they also control land use policies, as always.

Last year an insect called the glassy-winged sharpshooter made news through the region, because it was helping to spread Pierce’s Disease, an illness that threatened (or promised) to decimate grape plants. Federal, state, and local governments went all out to eradicate this threat (or promise), shoveling fistfuls of public moneys toward protecting these private (and especially corporate) investments.

But I must confess something else. Every time I see these dewatered rivers, and every time I see these miles upon miles of grapes (which are not used for food, nor for anything but an absolutely nonessential item commonly used for conspicuous consumption [note that I’ve nothing against luxuries; I do have something against luxuries that come at the expense of the landbase]), I think the same thing, that I’m in the wrong line of work. I need to quit writing, I think, and start raising glassy-winged sharpshooters to release in these fields.