Part 2 of this interview with Geologist from Animal Collective, originally for The Quietus. See the whole lot here.
Living in the area can affect your health.
I studied cancer clusters in Tucson and focused on a different population, the minority. It’s weird to say that Hispanics are the minority, but they’re still the poor part of society. The big Mexican and Hispanic neighbourhood is down by the airport in Tucson. They use this chemical called TCE, a solvent to clean metal parts, and for years in the 80s before the advent of environmental law and superfund sites it was just dumped on the ground. It made its way into the plume that goes from the airport to the groundwater. It was welled for the community, and there is a cancer cluster there. It’s been hard for people to prove that it’s a result of the airport, but it seems plain as day to most people that study epidemiology. So we would go as part of a study with the University of Arizona where we’d go and just knock on doors and try and conduct a survey of how many people, their drinking water habits, how much they drink from the tap, and then talk to them about the history of cancer in their family or if they, or anyone in the household had cancer. I think the study’s still on-going and I’m not sure if the results are published but, it was just in an effort to prove that this cancer cluster is beyond the probability of chance.
With increased amounts of visitors to areas like the Painted Desert and various National Parks, conservation and tourism must strike a balance.
I’m a big Scuba Diver. There’s some compromise you have to make in terms of dropping a boat anchor on a reef or something. I think it’s a very site-specific sort of thing. I don’t think there are any two parks the same, and I’m not like Edward Abbey who wrote about a lot of those parks in the South West and said they should remain completely road-less so it’s only the dedicated people that would hike there – I don’t go that far, I think it’s important that some people do see them and they would never do it if there wasn’t some kind of easier access. Me and my girlfriend did a road trip in Northern Sweden, and I remember feeling frustrated because we only had a week or two and we didn’t really show up with the idea of serious back-packing or whatnot. But most of the parks up there are completely road-less and it was a bummer not to be able to see them, so I’ve experienced both sides.
The storms and sunsets are amazing.
The best is when they happen together. The storms are never like monsoons where I lived, the Biosphere was 4,000 ft higher than the basin where Tucson is. On most days you could see far down into the basin because we were up in the foothills of the mountains, and you could see the thunderstorms. They were these really intense, violent, but very centralised things with different parts. At sunset you could look out at the basin and see that there’s a thunderstorm, but then the sunset comes through and then there’s another thunderstorm over there. The diffraction of the light when there’s moisture in the air becomes even more intense, it’s a pretty magical moment. It only happens for a few weeks a year. All the tarantulas come out after sunset when it rains.
Hippies did a lot for the area.
The Biosphere was created by a sort-of hippy cult. It’s used now by universities for climate change research, but those hippy people still hang around. The town that it’s near is populated by a lot of ex-Biosphere people, they have a Harvest Festival every year that I worked at one year as a barbecue chef. I don’t mind to be called a hippy, it doesn’t turn me off completely – so long as I can have a normal conversation with people. There were some arts ranches out in the desert, it doesn’t bother me so much to be part of that.
I’m not sure I’d go back there.
I talk to my girlfriend about this [moving back to the desert], because we talk about where we might want to settle. I do really love it there, it’s one of those places where as soon as I get off the plane, or get out of the car if I drive there something totally happens where I feel at home, and your insides swell up. But I have a problem with being really far from the ocean.
Ultimately, people aren’t supposed to live in the desert.
I truly believe that human beings in mass should not be living in environments like that, because they do nothing but destroy it. There’s no benefit to us being there… except getting a tan or something, maybe solar energy. Tucson is dealing with the fact that their water supply is supposed to only last for another 20 years or something, so they’ll have to divert another river to the city. There are no wild rivers left in America, every single one of them has a dam on it, mostly because people live out West and they shouldn’t.
Listen to Animal Collective here. You know they’re ok, yep?