Watershed Moments

It is time to show our democracy, our humanity, our compassion, and our resolve. It is time to say no to the murders of journalists, worshippers in synagogues, African American churchgoers, schoolchildren, theatergoers, yoga practitioners, and disco dancers. It is time to VOTE. Please take a moment of silence for all victims of ever-senseless and hate-fueled violence inspired by the rhetoric of the current U.S. Administration…


…Thank you.

I embrace the privilege to write this column each month, a right to free expression for which Washington Post journalist Jamal Khashoggi died. VOTE.

I am honored for the opportunity to take part in AAG Regional Division Meetings this fall, and am grateful for the freedom of assembly, a right for which 11 worshippers died in the Pittsburgh Tree of Life Synagogue. VOTE.

Now, the U.S. President believes he can change the Constitution by executive order, to erase the birthright of American citizenship. Furthermore, the Administration is working to erase transgender identities, lift protections for endangered species, and is sending National Guard troops to an imaginary invasion at the U.S.-Mexico border. VOTE.

Remember to speak out against alternative facts, to light the candle in the dark. During Dr. Christine Blasey Ford’s powerful testimony in the Kavanaugh Confirmation Hearing, Sen. Patrick Leahy stated “Bravery is Contagious.” VOTE.

When you exercise your right and civic duty to vote on Tuesday 6 November, remember that our great grandmothers fought for that right in suffrage. Communities today still fight voter suppression. This is a watershed moment in our history, it is now or never for freedom of expression, for civil and human rights, for the environment, for the future of the planet. Of course, your choices are your own: be heard. VOTE.

Deepwater Horizon beach cleanup. (Photo by National Institute for Occupational Safety and Health)

Meanwhile in the Colorado River Watershed we are not safe either, and are not being helped by a gutted and demoralized EPA…It is humbling to live in the very modern city of Austin, Texas, with the advantages of modern water treatment and sewer systems, to receive a 5 am text with a boil water order for our metropolitan area of nearly a million citizens. Our water treatment system was overwhelmed by flood waters traveling down the Colorado River Watershed. This 50 year magnitude storm event took out a 49 year old bridge in the Hill Country. Austin and its suburbs were without clean tap water for over a week and we still face restrictions of not being able to water yards, fill pools, or wash cars. Such a first world problem with regards to pools and cars, and water conservation is the increasing norm for drought-prone central Texas. Imagine never having clean water or sanitation in the first place. 844 million of the world’s citizens today have no access to safe water, and 2.3 billion people live without access to sanitation. And in the U.S., Food and Water Watch notes that half a million households had their water shut off for the inability to pay their water bills in 2016. How do we ensure water security, both from an economic and humanitarian perspective, and from a production capacity perspective? This is a grand challenge for Geographers to work on. As climate change continues to bring more extreme events, our infrastructure is being overwhelmed. If this is the case in one of the most developed nations on the planet, how will less well-off countries cope with looming environmental challenges? In the U.S., the Trump Administration rolled back protections for clean water in 2017, relaxing limits on toxic water pollution from coal-fired power plant ash, among other senseless environmental protection rollbacks. VOTE.

It is encouraging to be receiving AAG Members’ thoughtful geography abstracts for the AAG Annual Meeting major themes: Geospatial Health Research; Geography and Human Rights; and Physical Geography in Environmental Science. Thank you. There is still time to participate the paper abstract deadline has been extended to 8 November 2018; Poster abstracts are due 31 January 2018. Consider submitting your research to be presented at the AAG Annual Meeting in Washington DC in April 2019. While you are in Washington, visit your legislators, share your science, speak up and be a part of the change: make a difference with Geography. And on Tuesday 6 November, make a difference with your citizenship: VOTE.

Please share your thoughts with me at slbeach (at) austin (dot) utexas (dot) edu.

— Sheryl Luzzadder-Beach
Professor and C.B. Smith Sr. Fellow in U.S.-Mexico Relations
Geography and the Environment, University of Texas at Austin

DOI: 10.14433/2017.0047