We can keep saving Mono Lake

Oh, one has to get discouraged at times. But overall, this has been a very encouraging campaign. It’s been wonderful to see how much people care, and how much people are willing to donate their time… In years to come, you know, it will be something we can look back on and say “boy I’m glad somebody did something to keep this wonderful, ancient place alive.”

David Gaines, Mono Lake Committee co-founder, 1986 Sierra Wave Media interview

The first sunrise I ever saw over Mono Lake is blazed into my memory. I was a kid at the time—I don’t even remember how old I was—but I remember what it felt like to experience it. It was electric. Sunrises here almost feel too powerful to fully take in.

I think I took the existence of Mono Lake for granted as a kid. I knew the story and I knew a very rough outline of the Mono Lake Committee’s history, but it never really occurred to me that there was a very real possibility that stream diversions wouldn’t have been regulated, and that Mono Lake wouldn’t have been saved. That in those early days they didn’t have 16,000 members or a State Water Board decision to back them up. All they had was hope and the belief that citizens could make a difference.

In 2022, we face challenges that could never have been anticipated 44 years ago. But what we do have is a history of legal precedents, and perhaps more importantly, a community of people we can rely on to keep believing in us.

Our past successes sometimes seem small and far away, but every day we have visitors come into our bookstore with a twinkle in their eyes and you know, before they even tell you, that they have been so radically touched by the beauty of this place. All of us who love this lake know that feeling of pure, unfiltered awe that is too real to even be described, and that keeps us going even when we can’t see the path forward quite yet. And the fact that, despite everything, we are still here and we are still fighting for this lake with all we have to give, is reason enough to believe that change is possible.

Because, fundamentally, Mono Lake is a story of hope. We recognize the daunting challenges we face, as drought continues to rock California’s water supply and wildfires blaze, darkening our skies and forcing us to adapt each and every day. But we will keep fighting because we have hope and because without hope, we wouldn’t be here at all. We will keep fighting because we are an organization and community of people who believe not only that Mono Lake is worth saving, but that together, we can save it.

Top photo by Elin Ljung: Sunset from north of Mono Lake on November 4, 2022.