Thursday, March 3, 2011

Water Water Everywhere, and Nothing but Karma to Drink

Shortly before Christmas 2009 I found myself at the Glendale, California Hilton. It's a suitable enough hotel, conveniently located, but skip the hotel restaurant and head for the rooftop bar instead which has a panoramic view of the area and some nice balconies upon which one can have a drink, a smoke (if so inclined) and some passable bar food instead.

More to the point, though, in the washroom of my hotel room was a water conservation hangtag that gave the current status of Los Angeles' water supply in a gauge similar to the fuel gauge on your car, only with added colors corresponding to severity. The arrow pointed to the yellow/red border on the gauge (the equivalent of a quarter tank of gas) and stated "Los Angeles has a serious water shortage. Please voluntarily restrict the amount of time you spend in the shower and conserve the amount of laundry requests from this hotel."

It's the first part of that statement I'd like to focus on. Los Angeles doesn't have a water shortage, what it has, like Phoenix and Atlanta, is a population overage. Simply put, these cities have outstripped their capacity to support their populations based on the natural resources of their area.

As always, Gin and Tacos has a more succinct set of thoughts on this than I. But the numbers distilled in this report should be enough to give residents pause.

What matters for you, assuming that you live in the Great Lakes area, is what happens when cities with too many people and not enough water stop suing each other (as Atlanta did repeatedly in 2007) and start looking north and east.

If you want to accentuate the positive, you could posit that those people currently residing in those areas could cash out and re-stimulate the economies in this area as the cost of infrastructure becomes prohibitive in the American south and southwest. Surely, some percentage of mobile people will pick up stakes from Tuscon and endure a snow and cold winter with the rest of us, if for no other reason than lack of water. And, judging by the influx of Angelenos cashing out and moving into the Denver area (helping turn Colorado blue) there may be some truth to that.

Certainly, there will be some hairbrained schemes to syphon water off of the Great Lakes and pipeline it to those parts of the country that are drying out their aquafiers. A Chicago sourced pipeline pops up as an idea by some Congressman from time to time, as does the idea of a Cleveland based pipeline to points south. The impracticality of this idea should be apparent. It would be prohibitively expensive, against the Great Lakes Basin Compact and, frankly, would be subject to constant sabotage.

If you've ever been to a country without a reliable water supply, you understand the prevalence of bottled drinking water. The most omnipresent brand in India is Coca Cola owned Kinley bottled water. So the realistic scenario for those of us who live in the Great Lakes is to watch our natural resources die a death by a thousand cuts as companies like Nestle seek to replicate what they did in Mecosta County, Michigan; work with Republican governors to drain natural resources and resell them to help perpetuate unsupportable population growth one lake and aquafier at a time.


It's the winter of 1995 and I'm having dinner with my then girlfriend, her family, and friends of her family at the friends' brand new house. The husband and wife are relatively affluent (working for Marathon Oil) and the house was your typical North Dallas Special.

At some point after dinner, the following conversation transpired:

"This is a nice house."
"But isn't this whole neighborhood a flood zone?"
"Well, it was, but Congressman Oxley worked to get this area removed as a flood plain last year so we wouldn't have to pay the national flood insurance premiums."
"But doesn't this area flood fairly frequently?"
"Hasn't flooded in 20 years. We aren't worried."

The girlfriend is long gone (she didn't inherit her mother's wonderful personality or sense of fidelity, as it turns out). As Findlay braces for it's third round of flooding in four years, I can't help but wonder whether that couple has survived and persevered the ravages of the Blanchard.

The real reason I like to talk about Findlay is the fact that it's as red as red can be; the fact that President Obama managed all of 30% of the vote in the 2008 Presidential Election tells you all you need to know about Hancock County. They live the hypocrisy of modern day Republicans; they eschew "big government" but have a tax free enterprise zone - a gift of the first Bush Administration; they hate big government but are the first to run to the trough for emergency federal aid when the banks of a river that floods repeatedly overflows into a town that willfully builds and rebuilds too close to it.

By hook or by crook, the Ohio Senate managed to pass SB 5 which, among other things, takes away the collective bargaining rights of public employees.

This is, 1) ill advised electorally, as Republicans are now going to get their collective asses handed to them in the next election cycle, 2) bad morally, as you are callously and very visibly negatively stripping a standard of living from an entire segment of the middle class and 3) bad for the economy as you are negatively impacting the buying power of the same middle class people.

To top it off, I highly expect that these benefits will be restored once the restoration ends up as a constitutional amendment/ballot issue in either 2011 or 2012 anyway.

All of this is done in the name of a Republican strategy of satisfying their corporate donors while sucking up to an aging shrinking old white demographic base. It's not just bad policy, it's not just morally wrong, it's bad long term strategy for a party rapidly running out of ideas and almost devoid of PR. Not that I'm complaining.

I'm not going to burn your time and effort debating these points. If you're here, you get it. The situation in Wisconsin is getting enough press that you should be familiar with the issues at hand. Ohio's budget situation is somewhat worse than Wisconsin's, but that's about the only significant difference.

What I find interesting is this. I have a couple of friends and/or family members who have made their life's work maintaining the cognitive dissonance of being Republican/Liberterian public union members. I respect the work they do in their respective fields, but talking to either of them about the issue is akin to asking a robot to solve pi, eventually sparks start to shoot from their neck as the logic chain breaks down due to this unsolvable conflict they've had all of their adult lives. One of them said to me, with a straight face, "I hate voting for Democrats, because I don't believe in social programs." Which is interesting, considering his chosen career path is a social program.

As a liberal, I've spent the better part of 30 years shaking my head at people who are perpetually not observant enough to see the forest for the trees, wasting their vote on people who were bound and determined to undermine their standard of living because Jesus said so/evil lazy minorities/I like this guy because I'd have a beer with him/brown people are coming to attack us.

So here we are, watching the chickens come home to roost. It's certainly an interesting ride.

So what do water, flooding, and SB 5 have in common? My own personal moral compass resides somewhere between Deism and Buddhism, and I'm a big believer in Karma. Huston Smith's The World's Religions teaches us that the only universal rule among all religions is The Golden Rule.

Personally, I try not to revel in the misfortune of others. The fact that I'm not gleefully reveling in the misery of others any longer is a testament to my wife. A successful marriage and a good job does wonders for your outlook on life. But as I had a free afternoon this week, I drove around Detroit to see what was left of the places I used to frequent in my late teens and early twenties as a reminder of where I came from. The economic prognosis was not good.

And so, as I read about water shortages in the south and west due to overpopulation, NAFTA's impact on devastating the Mexican family farm and causing the current illegal immigration crisis along with the devastation of the midwestern industrial base; how the Blanchard River is flooding Findlay, Ohio yet again, so residents who continue to vote against their self interests cry out for government help again; and how no small number of those impacted by SB 5 have voted against their own self interests under the assumption that the union and the state would continue to protect them, I couldn't help to denote that Karma is very clearly in play. And while I try not to revel in the misfortune of others, I'm not immune to a smile. Perhaps, in some small way, some people will start to learn a very hard lesson in all of these struggles and change for the positive.

1 comment:

  1. Very good post Mr. Cromartie. Well said and right on the point...