I Spend A Lot Of Time Thinking About Water

There’s an interesting piece about water rights in the March 2016 issue of The Atlantic that’s worth your time, especially if you live in the Southwest, which I did and the majority of my tiny readership (most likely) still does. Short version: it might be time to adopt a free market approach to how water rights are managed in the American Southwest. The whole thing is worth a read, but here are a few highlights that I found particularly compelling:

America consumes more water per capita than just about any other country—more than three times as much as China, and 12 times as much as Denmark. People in the driest states use the most: Residents of Arizona each use 147 gallons a day (not counting agricultural water or water used to generate power), compared with just 51 gallons in Wisconsin, largely by filling swimming pools and watering lawns year-round in the desert. This extravagant use continues despite scarcity because water is kept artificially cheap. The water bills that Americans pay cover a mere sliver of the cost of the infrastructure that delivers water to them. Some city users pay $1 for 1,000 gallons. On farms, water is even cheaper. One thousand gallons of agricultural water in western states can cost as little as a few pennies.

Have you read Cadillac Desert: The American West and Its Disappearing Water by Marc Reisner? It’s a good read, although you’ll learn more about dams than you ever thought you could possibly wish, but what’s most striking about it is how prescient Reisner was; he wrote about this in 1986, when climate change was still “the greenhouse effect” and acid rain was a really, really big deal. And here we are in 2016 and it’s all going pretty much the way he predicted, which isn’t good.

Back to the article; can the power of the free market fix the water rights problem in the Southwest? Well, I’m not one to argue for “the power of the free market” to fix all of society’s ills, but honestly, I also can’t see how a free market solution could be any worse than what we’re doing now. Give it a shot, I’d say. Let’s see what happens. The environmentalist finds common cause with the libertarian on this issue.

One more excerpt from The Atlantic piece, because I’m a vegetarian and this is my blog and I can tout stuff like this if I wish:

And, of course, growing more food requires more water. In theory, Americans could simply eat less meat: A vast majority of the West’s water is used to produce feed for cattle, and data from Water Footprint Network, a Dutch NGO, show that if Americans gave up meat one day a week, they would save an amount of water equivalent to the entire flow of the Colorado River each year. But that cultural shift might prove even more difficult than reallocating water rights.

The entire flow of the Colorado River each year. Just something to think about.

Thoughts On Cynicism And Idealism

There’s a lot of reasons that this blog could dive headfirst into the “cynical” half of its title and never resurface. There’s the whole “spying on American citizens” thing. There’s the VRA thing. The looming student loan thing. I could go on, but that would merely be unnecessary padding. We all know things suck.

Except that, for today at least, there were a few things in our country that didn’t suck. DOMA is gone. There was Wendy Davis’s epic filibuster in Texas. These are lights in a dark time. These are moments that rekindle that flame of idealism and keep things firmly in balance.

That’s not to say that tomorrow won’t suck; conservatives in Texas are already mustering for round two of the fight. Even the DOMA victory isn’t complete: a complete victory would not have allowed for states to continue to define marriage. A complete victory would be equal rights for citizens of all sexual orientations NOW, end of discussion, if you don’t like it, too fucking bad. That’s still the end goal. You shouldn’t have to go to a specific state to be allowed a right like marriage.

On the other hand, we should be invigorated that something is happening. A woman’s right to make decisions about her body wasn’t abruptly gutted in Texas. Our same-sex marriage seeking friends and family members are one step closer to equality. Most importantly, the message is very different now than it was ten years ago. Ten years ago, we didn’t have a light in the darkness. Ten years ago, we didn’t have much of a reason to be hopeful about anything.

Ten years ago, those fighting for equal marriage rights were doing so largely alone. Allies were few and the general atmosphere was either “don’t talk about it, don’t think about it, pretend it doesn’t exist” or worse “God hates you, you’re an aberrant mutant, stop existing.” We’ve come a long way from that. Granted, we’re still on the road, and no amount of progress will ever make up for the abominable way we’ve treated our fellow men and women just for being themselves. Nothing will ever erase those mistakes we’ve made as a country or recover the lives of those who were destroyed because of prejudice and isolation. We can’t take those things back, no matter how much we wish we could.

All we can do is work to make sure that the damage that’s been done is stopped. All we can do is stand together against prejudice and bigotry. All we can do is prove that, no matter how flawed we are as a species, we are capable of learning from our mistakes and that we’ll never stop trying to make tomorrow better.

And that’s why I think this blog is still worthy of the second half of its name.