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Individual dreams add up to societal problems.

James Reeves, writing at Atlas Minor about his recent move to the desert:

Here I am at last, living in the landscape I’ve craved since the first time I drove across the country. Twenty years ago, the desert appeared through my windshield, and it felt like driving into a cartoon: a yellow rectangle beneath a block of electric blue. To my Midwestern mind, accustomed to damp fields and pale skies, the Mojave was another planet. Although I was only twenty-five years old and not yet thinking about god or regret or reinvention, I heard a spiritual hum beneath the silence of the mountains. Tribes of dune buggies crawled across the dunes, and I thought I saw the future. I’m going to live here someday, I said. 

While I’m not here to criticize individual choices like Reeves’ (he can decide where he wants live), it did strike me while reading his post that when too many people start making decisions like this, the collective weight of those decisions has an impact.

Sure, the desert is lovely and—for some folks—inspiring. I can understand why they want to move there. But deserts are notably inhospitable places, and as the population in and around desert areas increases—again, because a lot of individuals are choosing to move there for their own reasons—so does the need for infrastructure.

Water has to be piped in over long distances. Food has to be shipped in as well, or if it is going to be grown locally, even more water needs to be piped in. Electrical generation and transmission needs also go up as the growing population hooks more ever more air conditioners, and that rate of increase is likely only going to keep increasing as a result of climate change.

It seems similar to how people want to live near the coast because it’s lovely and fun to live by the water, but the more people that are there, the bigger the impact and cost of weather and flooding events.

Again, I don’t necessarily want to criticize people for their individual choices, and I get that not everyone moving to someplace like the desert is doing so just because they like living there.

That said, this sort of dream/ideal seems like one of the many things we will need to reassess as a society.

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