In the water debate, the state’s Central Valley big ag and L.A. developers continue their push for more and more water to be shipped South while urban users, fish, Delta farmers, and communities raise objections and concerns about the various projects and plans being proposed to continue to do so. There’s the biggest project, the Delta Tunnels, but also numerous studies and proposals considering gates and obstacles throughout the Delta to try to manufacture a North-to-South pipeline.
The alternative, limiting agriculture expansion and huge housing developments in the desert, is never up for discussion. Can California have it all? Is there a way to support “growth” given the current climate changes?
The Governor and the Pope
The Sacramento Bee July 19th reported Gov. Jerry Brown going off to the Vatican to talk with the Pope on climate change.
“But as much as their visit highlights shared concerns about the environment, the politician and the pontiff come at climate change from very different points of view.”
“Like many Democrats, Brown argues that governments can enact greenhouse gas reduction policies without inhibiting economic growth.”
“On the day this month that Brown attended an exclusive gathering of media and technology moguls in Sun Valley, Idaho, Francis was in Bolivia, quoting from a fourth-century bishop: The unfettered pursuit of money, he said, is the dung of the devil.’ ”
Francis lamented politics saying “there are too many special interests [which] easily end up trumping the common good.”
In particular, he criticized programs (like the plan for the tunnel construction pollution) where polluters pay to offset polluting emissions which, Francis wrote, “may simply become a ploy which permits maintaining the excessive consumption of some countries and sectors.”
If We Try to Have Both “Growth” and “Climate Solutions”, We’ll Have Neither
In another article, the writer, Gaius Publius, also believes Brown is wrong. He states:
“The meme of the wealthy is that (a) climate proposals are a threat to ‘growth’ — by which they mean literally GDP, but also by implication they mean “your big-screen, smart-phone lifestyle.” And (b) losing “growth” is a line no consumer will want to cross; not the rich, not the poor, no one. …
In response, climate solution advocates counter with an argument that says, in effect, “But wait … we’ve got a way to keep ‘growth’ and also fix the climate problem.” To which I say, “Not a good answer” …Saying “we can have (consumer) growth and a climate solution” is only true … if it’s actually true. What if it’s not true at all? Then what’s the solution on offer? (Hint: There is none.) California Drought, the “Bigger Water Crisis” & the Consumer Economy,” by Gaius Publius.
Publius also states: “Those ‘Senior Water Rights’ Are the Tip of the Social Contract War. Consider — the population of the American Southwest, not just California, continues to grow. Water continues to be less and less available. Competing interests — some very very wealthy, like the big farmers and the big oil companies doing the fracking — are in a classic neo-liberal struggle for resources (and the source of their wealth) with ordinary people, like the urban dwellers of Los Angeles, San Diego, Phoenix and Las Vegas. Urban people need water to live, and by and large, they’re willing to share the sacrifice with others in the state. The entitled wealthy, however, the major corporations, the mega-rich farmers, some of which are hedge funds, by and large aren’t.”
Publius continues, “Any attempt to have (consumer) ‘growth’ and a climate solution means we’ll have neither. Put differently, all fast, effective climate solutions will involve some sacrifice of the consumer economy.”
He also criticizes a solution some are now proposing (I read about it in the Sacramento Bee last weekend as something we can learn from Australia): “competitive water markets.” Publius says, “It’s the preferred solution of people with most of the money. It’s also a trap, a way to delay real solutions.”
“The only way to guarantee ‘growth’ in the consumer economy is to have a slow and ineffective solution — until it all comes apart.” In other words, there is no true, long-term strategy without limiting growth. Related to water, that means less big ag and restricting new land development.
“Growth” versus “Water Resources” in the Climate we Enter Now
In today’s “On the Public Record” post, “Someone who thinks about climate change and markets the way I do (3 of 3)“, “On the Public Record” says “Exactly. We are entering a climate that provides much less wealth. Modifying our infrastructure to be comfortable in that climate will cost additional money. Adaptation is not going to involve growth. Smart adaptation will mean managed retreat. No adaptation will mean even more retreat and more pain in the process. We start from a rich baseline and are using water in some real dumb ways, so there can be comfort and enjoyment of water for Californians for a long ways to come. But I don’t believe in any solutions that propose both growth and managing water resources in the climate we enter now.”
He adds, “Publius is talking about attributing drought to climate change, but that same reasoning is why I estimate that three million acres of irrigated ag will go out of production.”