"Which is to say: Today’s Joshua trees are likely some of the last."
The Joshua tree is a yucca, the yucca palm, yucca brevifolia; its leaves are daggers and they do not flower every year, but as rainfall allows. They bloom from about February until April the years they do, in that particular sun-warmed cream of all yucca, greener in the middle and on the pistils. Then their yucca moths flutter in and pollinate, laying their eggs in the bellies of the flowers. 13,000 years ago, now-extinct ground sloths would then hulk in and eat the ripe fruits, spreading the seeds across the deserts as they went along their way.
This particular yucca is particular to the particular region of the United States which includes portions of Arizona, Nevada, and California, and which of course includes Joshua Tree National Park. Due to climate change, researchers estimate that, of the total population of Joshua trees found on earth at the beginning of the century, only 10 percent will remain by the end of it.
Which is to say: Today’s Joshua trees are likely some of the last. Amidst the government shutdown, many national parks have remained accessible even with their workers furloughed and funding frozen. As you have no doubt read, it has taken less than twenty-four days to absolutely inundate these places with our garbage and our waste. To plough over delicate earth with our cars and to cut through these trees to make way for ourselves where we do not belong.
Land protected by national parks is stolen, and now only tenuously guarded from further destruction and depletion. And this land contains fragile and irreplaceable multitudes, beings that most of us could probably not name even if we were given three guesses, which will run out of places to run to as we stammer in ignorance of their existence. That we may also hike and camp upon such land is absolutely inconsequential to the stakes—but our choices matter when we do. Now, and ever, tread lightly. And if you don’t feel the stakes in your bones, don’t tread at all until you do.
This was originally sent out as a tinyletter on the morning of January 14, 2019.