Flying periodically between Southern California and Washington, I constantly look down with awe and wonder. I love a good view, and window seat delivers well. Then, comes two usual questions as I stare down; where am I, and what is that?
I often notice these large man-made circles upon rural flat farmlands of the western U.S. These circles are large and many, very even, and filled with variances of light-dark earthy tones, often adjacent to each other. In clusters, the perfect geometric shapes are wonderous to behold, unreal as part of some gigantic artwork in the grand museum that is our modern world. Or if I imagine hard enough, a surreal game of Connect 4 played by giants.
I learned these man-made wonders are actually center-pivot irrigation circles, where farmland is watered in rotation from a rotating sprinkler anchored at the center. This supposedly cuts down on labor costs and remains an alternative to ground irrigation. I can’t say I understand much more. Irrigation is a complex subject with debates on what is best and the future for our world challenged with climate change and continuous droughts. But, seeing the patterns from above, I see the impact humans have upon the very landscape, where they are microscopic in comparison. Our impact for better or worse, is its own unintended art.
– Orion T