Festivals bring increased tourism and controversy to the Morongo Basin

Bhakti Fest 2016

Bhakti Fest 2016

Joshua Tree and the High Desert have become synonymous with festivals, celebrations, and concerts as well as being the home of the Joshua Tree National Park. Some people love the unprecedented rise in visitors, while others pine for the good old days.

The Morongo Basin hosts concerts, meditation festivals, yoga festivals, motorcycle camp-outs and rallies, vintage car rallies, art tours, art residency programs, dark sky and astronomy events and a host of other smaller events. Vacation Rentals are booming; restaurants are packed with waiting time extending 20 to 40 minutes. Local businesses are feeling the benefits. The Joshua Tree National Park has hosted 2.4 million people this last year. Tourism is turning many visitors into new residents as people are buying up abandoned homesteads as second homes or vacation rentals. Real-estate prices are on the rise, campgrounds are full almost all year long, and Joshua Tree is now called the new Brooklyn, bringing artist from all over the world.

The events range from the magical to the famous like the Paul McCartney concert at Pappy and Harriet’s, and the Childish Gambino event at the Joshua Tree Retreat Center. The controversial Desert Daze festival took place for the first time this last fall. There are the yearly and bi-yearly events like the spring Shakti Fest and fall Bhakti Fest. The Joshua Tree Music Festival at the Dry Lake Bed, in the spring and the fall every year. The Weekend ride-throughs Like Babes on Motorcycles that have evolved from a small group to currently over 2,000, and.
Well-known local events like the Grubstakes Day Festival on Memorial Day Weekend, The Gay Pride Parade that had been around for several years, but not last year. There are small local events like the Firemen’s Pancake Breakfast, and a new festival was held this past year – Healing Hearts with Roots Rock and Reggae. The Morongo Basin Orchid Festival has been around since 1996, and the Highway 62 Art Tours are held over two weekends every fall began in 2001. The Morongo Basin Conservation Association hosts a house tour designed to focus on water-wise gardens and Reach Out Morongo Basin holds a parade of homes tour on Presidents Day. Modernism Week is reaching out to the high desert with a house tour of unique desert architecture is the collaboration with their traditional Palm Springs tour.

The increased tourism and recognition bring an economic surge to the area as well as challenges. Many of the visitors don’t understand the desert ecology; plant life is being threatened, water use is always precarious, there is overcrowding in the park and an increase in park accidents. Many locals are unhappy with the increase in noise, and traffic. All of this is causing a disruptive split throughout the area.
The festivals bring sophistication and diversity to the area. Babes Ride Out, a yearly ride and camping trip host women from the UK, Japan, South Africa, South America, Canada, and all over the United States. Meghan Morris, from San Francisco, and a participant in the fall 2016 ride, has a company that helps farmers make incremental revenue from their secondary produce.

Morris said, “I love it here and have been here several times. It’s so picturesque, and it’s affordable. A lot of my friends are moving here from all over and building their utopia.”

Police reports during the Childish Gambino Concert and the Desert Daze festival were mostly about noise and a few drug or intoxication arrests. The Paul McCartney concert that sat 300 saw 2,000 hopefuls drive in from Santa Barbara, San Diego, and Los Angeles.

In preparation for the Gambino concert, the Retreat Center clearcut desert lands to make way for more parking causing a flurry of comments and discontent throughout the valley. Fraizer Hainey, the Director of the Mojave Desert Land Trust (MDLT) has made a public statement questioning the practice. Permits were handed out in a hurry, and although the process was legal, there has been pushback from the community.

This trend shows no sign of lightening up and groups are gathering to figure out the next step.

The Joshua Tree Gateway Communities Vacation Rental Association gathers once a month to review ways both working with the community and with the county. Ideas are being discussed as for how to inform and educate visitors.

Is progress good or bad, what are we losing in the tradeoff, who benefits and does the economic transfusion filter down to the residents? There is still plenty of work that lies ahead to find a way to balance the surge in new visitors and events with the lifestyle and charm of the area. For now, the high desert is a unique place with many attractions.

America has just voted in an Authoritarian leader.

Ok. Here is the elephant in the room.

America has just voted in an Authoritarian leader.


1 favoring or enforcing strict obedience to authority, especially that of the government, at the expense of personal freedom.
2 synonyms:
3 autocratic, dictatorial, despotic, tyrannical, draconian, oppressive, repressive, illiberal, undemocratic; disciplinarian, domineering, overbearing, iron-fisted, high-handed, peremptory, imperious, strict, rigid, inflexible; informal and boss
Showing a lack of concern for the wishes or opinions of others; domineering; dictatorial.

What will the Trump leadership do to the soul of America?
SAGE Journals

The moderating role of authoritarian leadership on the relationship between the internalization of emotional regulation and the well-being of employees
Li-Chuan Chu⇑
School of Health Policy and Management, Chung Shan Medical University, Taichung; Department of Medical Education, Chung Shan Medical University Hospital, Taichung, Taiwan
Li-Chuan Chu, 11 F-2, No. 1219, Jhongming S RD, Taichung, 402 Taiwan, ROC. Email:

This study explores whether the internalization of emotional regulation affects well-being. The study showed that controlled emotional regulation through external regulation is significantly negatively associated with such indicators of well-being as mental and physical health…”

Is Donald Trump an authoritarian leader?

Politico Magazine
By Matthew Macwilliams January 17, 2016

“In fact, I’ve found a single statistically significant variable predicts whether a voter supports Trump—and it’s not race, income or education levels: It’s authoritarianism.”

“That’s right, Trump’s electoral strength—and his staying power—have been buoyed, above all, by Americans with authoritarian inclinations. And because of the prevalence of authoritarians in the American electorate, among Democrats as well as Republicans, it’s very possible that Trump’s fan base will continue to grow.”

What has he done to indicate an authoritarian disposition?

An article in Vox topics:

“Hetherington and Weiler published a book about the effects of authoritarianism on American politics. Through a series of experiments and careful data analysis, they had come to a surprising conclusion: Much of the polarization dividing American politics was fueled not just by gerrymandering or money in politics or the other oft-cited variables, but by an unnoticed but surprisingly large electoral group — authoritarians.”

“Their book concluded that the GOP, by positioning itself as the party of traditional values and law and order, had unknowingly attracted what would turn out to be a vast and previously bipartisan population of Americans with authoritarian tendencies.”

“Trump embodies the classic authoritarian leadership style: simple, powerful, and punitive.”

To me, his reaction to Hillary Clinton is a perfect example of an Authoritarian personality.

Donald Trump issued a remarkable threat against Hillary Clinton, telling the Democratic presidential nominee he would seek to imprison her if he was elected next month.

“Trump’s threat — which he has made before on the campaign trail — is extraordinary even by the standard of the vitriolic 2016 campaign.”

“Asked about the remarks, Trump campaign chief Kellyanne Conway said the candidate was taking his cues from angry supporters.”

Always blame someone else, never take responsibility for your actions.

Jason Stanley
THE STONE NOV. 4, 2016

“The goal of totalitarian propaganda is to sketch out a consistent system that is simple to grasp, one that both constructs and simultaneously provides an explanation for grievances against various out-groups. It is openly intended to distort reality, partly as an expression of the leader’s power. It’s open distortion of reality is both its greatest strength and greatest weakness.”

“Donald Trump is trying to define a simple reality as a means to express his power. The goal is to define a reality that justifies his value system, thereby changing the value systems of his audience. Two questions remain: What is the simple reality that Trump is trying to convey? And what is the value system to which this simple story is intended to shift voters to adopt?”

What do we do? Is anyone listening? I heard a friend say, “He has done more in his first few weeks than any other leader.” That’s true. He is defiantly setting up the government the way he wants to, not only with his cabinet but with his constant bridge of misinformation. But, and here is the real question, is it the government we want?

The New York Times Opinion Page:
Why Does Donald Trump Lie About Voter Fraud?

Huffington Post
Paul Ryan On Donald Trump Tweeting Lies: ‘Who Cares?’

“The House speaker can’t prove Trump’s allegations of voter fraud, but he doesn’t think the lies are a problem.”

In the article, Paul Ryan said, “It doesn’t matter to me. He won the election,” he said. “The way I see the tweets you’re talking about, he’s basically giving voice to a lot of people who have felt that they were voiceless. He’s communicating with people in this country who’ve felt like they have not been listened to. He’s going to be an unconventional president.”

“Who cares what he tweeted, you know, on some Thursday night, if we fix this country’s big problems?” he added. “That’s just the way I look at this.”

I feel like I’m watching history, a history that has happened around the world but not in America. We are all watching and it is happening before our eyes. It isn’t the America I want. What do you want? And more importantly, what are we going to do about it?

Transitions Joshua Tree host Cadiz representatives

Thursday, June 16th, Transition – Water Group hosted a meeting about the Cadiz Water Project.

On June 16th, the Transition Joshua Tree Water Group made up of residents committed to water issues in the high desert, held the second of two meetings on the Cadiz Valley Water Conservation, Recovery, and Storage Project. The first TJT Water 101 took place on April 13th of this year. At that meeting, Seth Shteir, the Desert Program Manager of The National Parks Conservation Association (NPCA) spoke about the NPCA’s findings and concerns about the project.

Cadiz Representatives, Hydrologist Tom Henderson and Cadiz Operation Manager, Leslie Thornburg were present at both meetings but did not have a chance to speak at the first one.

Cadiz Inc is an agricultural and renewable resource company with 70 square miles of farm property and underground water resources in the Mojave Desert. The farming side of the business has been in operation since the 1980s.

According to the Cadiz website, The Cadiz Valley Water Conservation, Recovery, and Storage Project is designed to capture and conserve billions of gallons of renewable native groundwater in California’s Mojave Desert. It goes on to say, much of this water is being lost to evaporation and salt contamination at nearby dry lakes.

“Through the active management of the aquifer system and employing a state-of-the-art groundwater protection program, the Project will reduce the loss of groundwater to evaporation from the dry lakes, put this water to beneficial use and create a reliable water supply for Southern California.”

Cadiz and the Santa Margarita Water District plan to build a 43-mile pipeline that would transport groundwater from the Fenner Valley to the Colorado River Aqueduct.

Opponents of the project believe that it will extract more groundwater than can be replenished by nature and there is concern that removing this water will dry up springs on the Mojave National Preserve.

This Project has garnered a lot of opposition and has fought and won numerous court cases. The company is currently fighting for approval to lay their pipeline on existing railroad right-of-way. The BLM has informed the company that it will need Federal review.

Members of Transitions JT have received Henderson’s presentation on the project and were given two tours of the agricultural operations.

Transitions member, Matthew Smith, who invited Thornburg and Henderson, said, “we decided this [issue] needed more discussion, and that we should get the public involved.”

With the intention of giving the public a chance to hear the science from both sides and to encourage them to form their own opinions, the group held the second meeting and invited Henderson and Thornburg again. The meeting started at 6:00 PM and ended around 9:30 PM. It included the general meeting. At times, passions flared, and the discussion became heated. Water issues are very personal for both sides.

After the second meeting, Smith said, “I believe we should explore other options. Our group is ethically opposed to the water from Cadiz leaving the High Desert.

Rebecca Unger, elected member of the Joshua Basin Water District Board and a representative of the Joshua Tree Chamber of Commerce, said “If the Cadiz water transfer infrastructure project ever goes through as planned to Orange County and Barstow, it will be Mullholland-esque in scope and effect. I commend  the Transition Joshua Tree Water Group for bringing the Cadiz proponents together with a group of ultimate project stakeholders, from Twentynine Palms to Pioneertown, for some trenchant Q & A – on both sides of this controversial project.”

Joseph Fairbanks, Facilitator, Water Group (WG) of Transition Joshua Tree (TJT) said, “I think the debate was constructive in highlighting the wide variation in recharge estimates for this project. There is nothing as critical to our own well-being as water. We should be having many more discussions as local water districts make plans for how they will provide us water for the next 20 years, and how much they will ask us to conserve.”

At the end of the evening, both Thornburg and Henderson thanked TJT for the opportunity to speak about the project.

Thornburg said, “Tom and I were very grateful for the opportunity to present the Project to the TJTWG and engage in a discussion about what the Project is and isn’t. We know there are a lot of myths out there, but it’s important for the community to know that the Project is based on sound science, field work, and a serious commitment to2I7A7289 protecting the desert resources we all hold dear. We were so thankful that the group was willing to listen.”

Thornburg continued, “Cadiz (and I) have been here for 30 years, and we are a good steward of our land and water resources. We will continue to be as the Project is implemented. As a neighbor, I look forward to continuing to answer any questions and involving the local community as the project moves ahead.”

For more information on the project check out these websites:

Cadiz website is
Transitions Joshua Tree Water Group website
National Parks Conservation Association, article by Seth Shteir:


I am looking forward to reporting more on this issue.