Yes, It's The Department of Short-Sighted Unintended Consequences
Yesterday's L.A. Times had an instructive story by Deborah Schoch, "Water cuts taking a lsice out of avocado groves." Seems that years ago, farmers in the Fallbrook area, for example, "signed up for a program that gave them discounted water in return for their willingness to be the first in line for a water cutback.
"This winter is payback time."
So the farmers are either "stumping" (cutting down to stumps, painting them white to protect from the sun, all of which puts them into a long sleep/slow regrowth mode, thereby allowing them to preserve what water they have left for the trees that remain once the 30% cut back starts.
Translation? While the city dwellers are watering their non-edible lawns and filling their non-drinkable swimming pools with their allottments, the farmers, who are growing the food crops (avacados, oranges, whatever) eaten by the lawn-growing, pool-swimming city-folks, are being forced to cut back on their production. Or, if they've recently started farming and bought land at a dear price, will lose the farm altogether, meaning further food production loss.
"People need to know that in Southern California, water is a precious resource. But they'd rather water their laws and cut off the farmers." said Laura Blank, executive director of the LosAngeles County Farm Bureau. . . .
"Bob Polito, 57, who grows oranges in Valley Center, near Fallbrook, plans to take down as many as 1,500 trees, many with unripened fruit still on them. . . .
"Polito sells oranges, tangerines and lemons at the Santa Monica Farmers' Market and other area markets, where many shoppers haven't heard of the 30% cutback.
"That does not surprise him, since the water crunch is not being felt in the city, he said. "As long as they have enough water to put on their lawn and wash their dishes, they're happy."
Which Brings Us To Part Duh Of The Same Problem
The February 25, 2008 edition of The New Yorker, story by Michael Specter titled "Big Foot -- In measuring carbon emissions, it's easy to confuse morality and science."
Excellent article outlining some key elements of capitalism that might just save this planet IF the folks running the show behave in a smart, often seeingly counter-intuitive way. Consider the fashionable notion of "buying local" being better i.e. "greener" than buying stuff imported from vast distances.
Consider the work being done by "Adrian Williams, agricultural researcher in the Natural Resources Department of Cranfield University, England, commissioned bythe British government to analyze the ralative environmental impacts of a number of foods. 'The idea that a product travels a certain distance and is therefore worse than one you raised nearby -- well, it's just idiotic,' he said. 'It doesn't take into consideration the land use, the type of transportation, the weather, or even the season. "
"Many factors influence the carbon footprint of a product: water use, cultivation and harvesting methods, quanity and type of fertilizer, even the type of fuel used to make the package. Sea-freight emissions are less than a sixtieth of those associated with airplanes, and you don't have to build highways to berth a ship. Last year, a study of the carbon cost of the global wine trade found that it is actually more 'green' for New Yorkers to drink wine from Bordeaux, which is shipped by sea, than wine from California, sent by truck. That is largely because shipping wine is mostly shipping glass. The study found that 'the efficiences of shipping drive a 'green line' all the way to Columbus, Ohio, the point where a wine from Bordaux and Napa has the same carbon intensity."
And on it goes, counter-intuitive all the way, with the bottom line really being the bottom line: "No effort to control greenhouse-gas emissions or to lower the carbon footprint - of an individual, a nation, or even the planet -- can succeed unless those emissions are priced properly."
In other words, exactly what is "green," and what's it worth to you, bottom line? Put a price on the value to you to breathe clean air, drink clean water? It's an issue that really needs a very, very smart, real, on- the- ground, practical, consider- all- the- issues, often counter-intuitive approach.
And that's where the beauty of capitalism comes into play: "The lesson is important; price stimulates inventive activity. Even if you think the price is too low or ridiculous. Carbon has to be rationed, like water and clean air. But I absolutely promise that if you design a law and a trading scheme properly you are going to find everyone from professors at M.I.T to the guys in Silicone Valley coming out of the woodwork. That is what we need, and we need it now." . . . said Isaac Berzin, researcher at M.I.T. after hearing from a smarty-pants who's planning on putting a power plant next to an algae farm and using the algae to absorb, hence offset, the CO2 from power the plant while using the dried algae to power the plant -- closed loop.
Clever? Yep. Workable? Yep. Why? Because carbon is now a commodity and worth $$. And $$, as everyone knows, makes the world go 'round. It's something Amory Lovins, from his Rocky Mountain Institute, has been preaching for years. Is the world finally ready to listen to him? Let's hope so.
Excellent article. Far too long to do more there than just suggest you get a copy and read it.