|Sangre de Christo Mountains, near Espanola, New Mexico|
January 6, 2012, marked the one hundredth anniversary of New Mexico's admission as the forty eighth state of the American republic.
On the sixth day of 1912, about 330,000 people lived in the state, clustered around the small river town Albuquerque and the old Spanish imperial outpost at Santa Fe. Today, a massive concentration of urban infrastructure along the Rio Grande is home to over a million people, with two million in the state as a whole.
There is virtually no chance that this state will have a population of two million or more when it celebrates its two hundredth anniversary in the early twenty second century. There isn't enough water for that population today, much less after one hundred years of climate change and ecological collapse have decimated the rivers, aquifers, and biosphere of the American West.
Consequently, the massive influx of migrants that came to New Mexico in the years 1912-2012 will reverse itself, over the next century, to an outflow that promises to be at least as dramatic. During the next hundred years, waves of heat, drought, plant disease, and ecosystem disruption will annihilate the mountain forests; refashion the lowland scrub brush; and denude the lush bosque growth along the dwindling rivers. The roads and buildings of the twentieth century boom years will gradually fall into disuse, to be dismantled, cannibalized, or abandoned.
The middle Rio Grande valley on January 6, 2112 will be a ghostly landscape of decayed, crumbling foundations, inhabited by scavenging animals and a few remaining clusters of human communities able to live on vastly reduced supplies of water in a landscape of burning dust and rock. Most likely, the surviving towns and villages will cluster around the base of the mountains, where temperatures will be cooler and whatever precipitation endures will be more plentiful. There may or may not be an authority ruling those future communities that calls itself the United States of America.
People will be born, grow up, love and work, and then die. In the meantime, we have our own world to manage, as best we can. The future comes quickly, the former things pass away.
Generations of men are like the leaves.
In winter, winds blow them down to Earth,
But then, when spring season comes again,
Budding wood grows more. And so with men --
One generation grows, another dies away.
The Iliad, 6.181-5