Friday, January 26, 2007

Personal rights and the commons

We are heading into a time when there are hard decisions to be made about issues of personal right, collective rights and rights held in common. While that distinction may seem to be rather arcane and philosophical to most, what we do about it will help determine whether or not we are successful as a party. It is not without reason that the number one blog site for Greens is called Green Commons.

Let me give two current examples that illustrate what I am talking about. David Cobb most recent OpEd piece in the Eureka, CA Times-Standard talked about a "hate fest" featuring a writer named Holly Swanson. One might easily pass off Swanson as being a professional agitator who is taking advantage of any and all opportunities to enrich herself by railing against Greens, pink-Communists, environmentalists and everyone else who does not listen to right-wing AM Talk Radio. That would be a mistake.

Swanson is currently focusing her rhetoric on Greens.
The concept of sustainability, the idea of leaving the world a better place, is not the issue. The problem is that public support for the general concept of sustainability is being used to impose the Green’s political agenda. A prime example of this is Education for Sustainability. This program, although presented as non-partisan, reflects the goals of the international Green parties. - from her web home page.
Swanson is a very visible spokesperson for the wise use movement in the West. Along with Chuck Cushman of the American Land Rights Association, she puts a public face on a set of principles that many would like to see die out. They are both part of the wise use movement and represent a philosophy that anything you do on or with your own property is OK. The idea that there is any part of nature that we own in common, such as fresh water or the air we breathe, is a total anathema to the them.

The questions regarding water in California are also going to demand that we address the idea of what we own in common. The basic law of water in the West is one of prior use. If you have had the right to use the water, that right can not be taken away from you. Now, it is recognized that fresh, drinkable water is not infinitely available and various interests are lining up to get their share before someone else does. However, even as I write the, we have to understand that water is over allocated now. That was recognized in the last century (1999).

To take this back to Humboldt County, where I started, nowhere is this playing out more obviously than in the Klamath River basin. Demands on the water for farm irrigation have crossed paths with demands for the water to sustain fish populations. The last time, farmers prospered and not, we subsidize the fishing industry. Private Dams control the flow of water, generate electricity and profits for the 2nd richest man in the US, Warren Buffett. Greens should be involved just to support the rights of indigenous people. We should be involved because the only viable solutions are those which are sustainable, no matter what Holly Swanson might say.

That issue of what we own in common is in the middle of the Delta fight as well. The battle will go on between Southern California Developers, Local (Delta) developers and Central Valley agriculture. Of particular interest is the fact the the increase in water exports from the delta results in increasing salinity, especially in the West Delta where the pumps headed South are located. The Stockton Record (Jan. 25, 2007) had an informative article on the salinity problem. One sentiment posted in response was that we should ...
Warn SoCal that in ten years water from the delta will no longer be exported to them. Let 'em build desalinators along the coast and pay several hundred dollars per month for household water. That's what those living in the desert southland should expect to pay for water!

Greens have an opportunity to make a difference in this fight. We just have to figure out whether it is important enough to devote our energy to it. Right now, we are not a player and I see no evidence that we are going to be. Yet, this is to California's future what the Iraq War in to America's future.

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