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Articles by William deBuys

Writer and conservationist William deBuys is the author of A Great Aridness: Climate Change and the Future of the American Southwest, as well as six other books, which range from memoir and biography to environmental history and studies of place. He lives on the farm he has tended since 1976 in the remote village of El Valle in the Sangre de Cristo Mountains between Santa Fe and Taos.

Featured Article

A firefighter battles the "Cabin Fire" in the Angeles National Forest near Los Angeles, Calif.

Long ago, I lived in a cheap flat in San Francisco and worked as the lone straight man in a gay construction company. Strangely enough, the drought now strangling California brings back memories of those days. It was the 1970s. Our company specialized in restoring the Victorian “gingerbread” to the facades of the city’s townhouses, and I got pretty good at installing cornices, gable brackets, and window hoods, working high above the street.

What I remember most, though, is the way my co-workers delighted in scandalizing me on Monday mornings with accounts of their weekend exploits.

We were all so innocent back then. We had no idea of the suffering that lay ahead or of the grievous epidemic already latent in the bodies of legions of gay men like my friends, an epidemic that would afflict so many outside the gay community but was especially terrible within it.

It’s unlikely that many of those guys are alive today. HIV was already in the population, although AIDS had yet to be detected or named, and no one had heard of “safe sex,” let alone practiced it. When the epidemic broke out, it was nowhere worse than in trendsetting San Francisco.

By then I had r... Read more

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