Monday, January 03, 2011

If you think it has rained enough, guess again.

In a recent feature on CA water, (subs req'd) High Country News contributing editor, Matt Jenkins, brings us back to a harsh reality.
Nothing can be done in California that will keep its farms and big cities thriving at today's levels and also keep the fish and the De;lta alive. There's simply not enough water to go around anymore.
The print edition has a different title "California Dreamin'" followed by Twenty years of wishful thinking have twisted the state's water politics -- with national repercussions. Every time you hear a local meteorologist opine that we have had enough rain, or that the ski areas love the snow pack, just understand that it isn't enough and never will be.

Jenkins feature article gives a truly (not faux) fair and balanced view of what is happening with this one piece of the CA water puzzle. It is by far not the only piece nor should it be the sole focus of Green ecological advocacy. Water is one part of a nexus of issues which, along with climate change and energy, are so intertwined as to defy any separation.

There is another aspect to this which Greens should consider. In the most recent (Jan. - Feb. 2011) issue of Orion Magazine, Derrick Jensen writes about just how idiotic it is to expect to have it all.
I'm continually stunned by how many seemingly sane people believe you can have infinite economic growth on a finite planet. Perpetual economic growth and its cousin, limitless technological expansion, are beliefs so deeply held by so many in this culture that they often go unquestioned.
We see this so clearly in the Obama administration's economic policy. If Larry Summers has had Obama's ear, then he has surely heard this bit cited by Jensen:
There are no… limits to the carrying capacity of the earth that are likely to bind at any time in the foreseeable future. …The idea that we should put limits on growth because of some natural limit is a profound error.
I would rather think that the idea that a consumerist culture is not bound by natural limits is an act of profound hubris, but the Obama / Summers economic policy requires that growth to solve our problems.

The question for Greens is whether we can find the political will to unmask the meme of perpetual growth and help society to live within it's means. If we return to the issues of water, climate, energy then we have to immediately confront the myth of perpetual growth.


Ross Levin said...

I'm glad to see you quoting Derrick Jensen - he's from your area and I've been reading a lot of his stuff lately. The problem that Jensen brings up for Greens is, how far are we willing to go? He doesn't believe in civilization. Can we honestly believe that civilization can be sustainable? Has there ever been a sustainable civilization? Or are we being intellectually dishonest and we either don't actually believe in sustainability or we don't believe in civilization, while never revealing our true beliefs to ourselves or the people who support us?

Wes said...

Ross, I don't agree with all that Jensen says, but in this case, I can't think of anyone I could quote who lays out the problem that succinctly. Maybe where Joe Romm calls the idea of perpetual growth a ponzi scheme.

We all know that problems. I am looking for a Green candidate who understands that our economy needs to work off our our ecology and has the vision to see a way to get there. It wasn't Nader. It certainly wasn't McKinney, might not have even understood the scope of the problem. We must do better the next time around.

Ross Levin said...

I guess if you're talking presidential candidates rather than society (and I do think Jensen is worth considering, just as anarchism is worth considering if you're a libertarian), I think our presidential candidate matters much less than local candidates who can build strong bases for the party in individual cities/counties, and who can actually win.

Martin Zehr said...

Water politics has a diverse landscape and urban growth scenarios are just one of the settings we confront. We have the potential to map out a Water Assembly in our regions to begin to localize input and establish sound recommendations for water use and administration. We cannot generalize in water and we cannot be static in our proposals or generalize for all times and conditions. When we are in a drought our action will differ from when we experience heavy rainfall and deep snow packs. That is not something to lament. It does provide context and validates our need for adaptive governance.

In urban areas population and growth are issues, just as in rural areas. But options differ. resource management confronts many new challenges, but when we bring users and stakeholders together, we can begin to hear what others have been saying for years. As it is, everyone brings their own axe to grind and disregards the input of others.

Growth and development means our communities need to establish priorities for water allocations and parameters for electrical usage that provide sound policies for governing. No one person can do it by themselves. No one region fails to impact on other regions. Yet if we begin with a premise of sustainability being based on self-reliance of our regions, we can begin to establish a new template for the future in addressing the multitude of issues impacting resource management.

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