Wednesday, February 22, 2017

Water We Talking About Again?

As I sit here writing this blog in Los Angeles, we have just experienced the heaviest rain in years, mudslides, falling trees and powerlines, flash flooding and several deaths as a result. Our reservoirs are full, the Oroville Dam in Northern California – which supplies some of our water down here – is suffering what could become a catastrophic fail from too much water, and the entire San Joaquin basin is maze of hundreds of miles of feeble earthen dams and levees that weren’t built for rains like this… or the potential of a well-directed major earthquake. Is our drought truly over? Is global warming just another cycle that simply requires patience until God/nature implements a big fix? Not exactly.
The un-ending drought in Syria and Iraq loosed over a million of once-productive farmers – almost all Sunnis, now abandoned by their Shiite leaders in Damascus and Baghdad – many of whom were seduced by the protective cries of extremists like ISIS and al Nusra and triggering one of the most massive migration of human beings into Europe. That migration took the UK out of the European Union and has led to a massive rise in Continental populism, very much mirroring the anti-immigration populist policies we are witnessing here in the United States.
“The Horn of Africa has become a literal hotbed of misery as well. War and natural disasters are joining forces to put millions of people in danger of starvation across the Horn of Africa and South Sudan, where millions are on the verge of famine.
“More than 10 million people in Ethiopia need food aid, a figure the UN warns could double within months – leaving 20 percent of the population hungry… The crisis in Ethiopia is driven by drought, in Somalia by drought and war; in South Sudan, it is driven exclusively by war.” (August 2016).
Drought still lingers all over the American Southwest even as flooding impacts other parts of the United States. But drought is killing some pretty important regions in major economies everywhere. Australia is burning up. The Antarctic is melting(as well as the Arctic), some species of penguins have lost 85% of their population, and oceans are rising. Northeast China (the nation’s largest grain producing area) is experiencing the worst drought in six decades, and even next door, water shortages just might push even more migrants northward, Great Wall of America notwithstanding.
Bottom line: Greater Mexico City – population 25 million – is running out of water. As bad as air pollution is in that area, its water problems are worse. If the United States has a lot of failing infrastructure, Mexico has an even more difficult task and lacks the economic capacity to make the fix. Not only is it running out of ordinary water, but this has also resulted in a rather massive failure of the sewage system that was supposed to make this urban area livable and created structural issues that should scare its residents into leaving… fast.
“When the Grand Canal was completed, at the end of the 1800s, it was Mexico City’s Brooklyn Bridge, a major feat of engineering and a symbol of civic pride: 29 miles long, with the ability to move tens of thousands of gallons of wastewater per second. It promised to solve the flooding and sewage problems that had plagued the city for centuries.
“Only it didn’t, pretty much from the start. The canal was based on gravity. And Mexico City, a mile and a half above sea level, was sinking, collapsing in on itself.
“It still is, faster and faster, and the canal is just one victim of what has become a vicious cycle. Always short of water, Mexico City keeps drilling deeper for more, weakening the ancient clay lake beds on which the Aztecs first built much of the city, causing it to crumble even further... It is a cycle made worse by climate change. More heat and drought mean more evaporation and yet more demand for water, adding pressure to tap distant reservoirs at staggering costs or further drain underground aquifers and hasten the city’s collapse.
“In the immense neighborhood of Iztapalapa — where nearly two million people live, many of them unable to count on water from their taps — a teenager was swallowed up where a crack in the brittle ground split open a street. Sidewalks resemble broken china, and 15 elementary schools have crumbled or caved in.” New York Times, February 18th.
In the end, ignoring a huge and progressive problem or using Band-Aids to kick the can down the road almost always results in massively greater damage, a multiple in the hard dollar costs to deal with the consequences than would have been required to treat the problem in the first place. Pretending climate change does not exist and pointing to exceptions as the rule just won’t work. As I have said before, Nature just doesn’t care; she will continue to follow the laws of physics whether we like it or not. I am thinking about all those ancient civilizations that simply withered and died, some inexplicably. How many of those are we creating today?
I’m Peter Dekom, and I am incredibly ashamed at what my generation is leaving future generations to clean up… if that is even possible.

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