Texas Book Festival — San Antonio Edition
Interview with Char Miller
Published: April 10, 2013
At War Over the Environment: Two Experts on the Politics of Parks and the Natural World with George Bristol and Char Miller
Moderator: Weir Labatt
Public lands might not seem like the type of topic to get your pulse up, but after listening to conservationist George Bristol and historian Char Miller, formerly Director of Urban Studies at Trinity University and currently head of Pomona College’s Environmental Analysis program, you might find your heart racing. Miller is particularly adept at tying our common sense of place back to critical issues like water conservation, immigration, natural disasters, and even beer, demonstrated adroitly in his new collection of essays On the Edge. Hear him, Bristol, and moderator Weir Labatt, a longtime champion for water conservation issues, discuss some of the biggest environmental and social challenges we face today. 2:45-3:45 p.m., RHR Lecture Hall, Navarro Campus.
Interview with Char Miller
By Callie Enlow
Can you give us a preview of your panel topic?
I think the larger sort of thrust of the book, and thus what I’m interested in talking about, are the central social and environmental issues, and the intertwining of those issues throughout the Southwest. The subtitle of the book captures some of that – water, immigration, and politics. I would add to that climate change and what that might do to the landscapes themselves, to our supply of water, to the pressures that are on places like El Paso, Albuquerque, San Antonio — seeing I-10 as the spine for this larger story. Everything that’s attached to that from Los Angeles to San Antonio is sort of functioning at a similar kind of situation. Using that narratively, but in environmental and social situations ask ‘what is going to happen?’ What are the historical precedents that might help us understand some of these dilemmas? One of the key aspects in that respect is that the Southwest has long been dry, it’s pretty arid, that it gets drier only adds to the difficulties that we face. But it’s also true that as we face these problems, the region is able to teach and exemplify for areas that are not used to this but will be going through it. We have a really interesting set of challenges, but also an interesting set of opportunities for trying to live more carefully in a landscape of diminishing resources.
I’m so glad you brought that up. Water issues seem to finally be on the table in the Texas legislature this session. Do you have any advice for our politicians here looking to deal with water issues? It’s a bit contentious so far.
It is contentious, and I think the contentiousness of water issues in Texas, lawsuits with NM and OK for example, those are going to escalate. Whatever border you’re on, including the Rio Grande border with Mexico, those legal battles are going to increase dramatically in relationship to the fall of rain, that is to say the lack of it. That’s one set of complications. While we think about the fight to get whatever we can get our hands on (in terms of water), the other piece of this story, which SA has in some ways been on the cutting edge of, is recognizing that the water under our feet is the lifeblood, and protecting that heart, in a sense, of the community is absolutely essential. That means conservation, conservation, conservation. It means, unfortunately, ratcheting up the cost because the market is one of the best ways to drive use. It means therefor that all the good stuff that SAWS and others have done is just going to be accelerated more across the century, when we expect the drought that South Texas has been experiencing is going to get a bit more intense.
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