The population of Texas, close to 25 million, increased by 20% in the past decade, at the expense of pretty much every other state. My wife and I are included among that 20%, debiting Wisconsin where we lived at the time of the last census. It’s easy enough to understand on a glorious shirtsleeve weather winter solstice day like today; what’s more, unlike Florida we actually have some resources and industries, and unlike California we have plenty of flat land to expand our population onto.
Of course, this is unsustainable. At this rate the population of Texas will be 127 million by 2100, and will exceed a billion just after 2200. I have heard that reaching 50 million in the foreseeable future is considered a best estimate by the Texas Water Development Board.
Texas, of course, is the source of much climate skepticism. This may be real estate boosterism, Texas being hot, dry, and flash-flood prone with much of its infrastructure and property value barely above sea level. Texas is foolish in this regard, with its access to wind and solar power and energy infrastructure expertise. We ought to be leading the world in the transition to sustainability. Nobody here is willing to face the fact that when the really big problems start to get handed out, Texas will be near the front of the line.
But the culture has never had much respect for the land, which is harsh, scrubby and inhospitable, or the fauna, which tend to be as ornery as the short-tempered folk who famously first occupied this territory not too terribly long ago. The idea of farming was never to create a legacy for future generations. The early farmers would “use up” or “wear out” a farm and move on. And of course the real cowboys spirit opposed the fencelines in the first place.
This is not a place which takes kindly to limits. It respects its peculiar legacy but doesn’t go out of its way to respect its posterity, and never has. Texans have somehow managed to prosper (mostly due to the happenstance of fuel-rich geology, though the mythos speaks endlessly about persistence, diligence, and effort, and hardly at all of dumb luck). That this prosperity is barely a century old, that it carries no warrantee, that it stands to vanish as a result of the very activities that began here and are the source of the present prosperity, warnings like these are unwelcome. The sky, we say, is the limit.
The world sees the northeast and California as the sources of American culture. Indeed, in a remarkable way they are the source of Texas culture; the myth of the west having grown up simultaneously with the west, first in newspaper reports and then in movies and television.
GeronimoSitting Bull went from being a real chief to being a circus entertainer, seemingly hardly missing a beat. But the mythical Texas they created lives on, stitching together the cultures of the west and the south, to a remarkable extent forging the identity of the strange, isolated, proud and arrogant, joyous and angry, pious and profane, vicious and generous culture of the American heartland.
Convincing this boisterous, extroverted culture that it is leading the world in a headlong rush to crash against its actual limits is tricky business.