Wednesday, February 24, 2016

Water, Water, Nowhere, and Not a Drop to Drink

Photo: C C Beimet
By now, you would know about the serious water emergency in Flint, Michigan and its effects on the people of that city.  The lead contamination affects everyone in the area, but children worst of all, impairing cognitive abilities and health.  How could this happen in America? 

In Minnesota, the Governor has taken action to insure clean, safe water for everyone in the state. Minnesota is known for its lakes, of course, and the headwaters of the Mississippi River. I've never thought twice about the quality of the water in Minnesota, but I believe that there are issues that need to be addressed regarding chemical contamination from run-off, pollution from old pipes that should be replaced, and effective sewage treatment.

In the western states, the issue is water supply. It's quite possible to forget that the western states are mostly desert and mountains, and don't have the abundant water supply that the Midwest and East enjoy.  I'm quite amazed, actually, that the current population of the western states remains what it is and more people aren't moving to find a better water supply.  There's been a severe drought in California for the last few years as well.  But most of the water supply issues are man-made.

In the March 2016 The Atlantic, Abrahn Lustgarten in "Liquid Assets,"  writes about how the buying and selling of water rights in the West has caused some areas to dry up completely.  I see this as Capitalism Run Amok.  When making money is more important than providing human beings with the basics needed for survival, Capitalism fails the humans who revere it.  I've thought since about 1995 that humans need to transition to a different way of thinking about money, i.e. finally see how money has become a failure in terms of moving humanity forward.

Water.  Our bodies are 72% water, and water plays a crucial role in all body functions. Humans cannot survive without water.  So why do we put a price on it?  We need to be able to survive without money.

The Flint fiasco is also about money, i.e. saving it.  The problem in Flint begins with officials choosing not to treat the water from the Flint River with corrosion control treatments and ends with the river water corroding the pipes that carry it, allowing lead to leach into the water.  In an effort to save money, Flint officials created a situation far more expensive than continuing to receive their water from the Detroit Water and Sewerage Department.

After reading Lustgarten's article in The Atlantic, I could imagine a day when humans were dying by the hundreds every day from polluted water and air because of Capitalism's dominance over human need. Businessmen seem to think that taking care of our planet isn't in their best interests, but if they make decisions that create pollution that sickens them, wouldn't it be in their best interests to reverse their decisions?

And then there's the political angle, of course. As the presidential primary season proceeds, I've become more and more dismayed by what the candidates deem to be of the utmost importance to the country and its future.  Is a reliable supply of clean, safe water not more important than attacking the other candidates because one particular candidate would rather attack his rivals personally than rise above the situation, be a statesman, and focus on issues like water, clean air, and so on.  I find all the candidates on all sides short-sighted in the extreme.

Photo: NASA
Do you want a reliable supply of clean, safe water now and forever?  Is that important to you?  Is it important to you that our air is clean and doesn't suffocate us?  What are you going to do about it?


Daughter Number Three said...

I highly recommend Paolo Bacigalupi's near-future water dystopia novel, The Water Knife. Set in Arizona after the Colorado River has dried up. Whew.

Gina said...

Thanks! I put it on my TBR list at the library.

Nancy/BLissed-Out Grandma said...

I have been supporting efforts to stop the proposed Enbridge oil pipeline expansion from Alberta through northern Minnesota. Friends of the Headwaters is active on Facebook, and a national organization whose name I forget is also getting into the fight. Risking contaminating the Mississippi with tar sands oil seems like a bad idea.

Gina said...

Nancy, thanks for your comment about the Enbridge oil pipeline. I had no idea this issue existed. The pipeline that gets all the press is Keystone and that seems to be dead now. I'd hate to see the headwaters of the Mississippi or the river itself under threat from tar sands oil. I wonder why this issue hasn't gotten more press?