Tuesday, May 13, 2014


Image from the net. 

Several years ago I blasted through Mary Renaults’ series of novels set in ancient Greece. I posted an entry about Greek cities and my opinion that our Greek and Roman ancestors would look at many of our so called cities, scratch their heads and go “?” followed by “I don’t know what this is but it’s not what I’d call a city.” Their cities were built around public market places where citizens could gather. There’s little left of the public market place left, it’s been strip malled to death. And the first time one of us agreed that we needed a permit to speak in what was left of public space; well that put the rest of the nails in the coffin
Which brings me to high fuel prices, depleted aquifers and more than fifty years of “do it your way.” It isn’t just a matter of big rigs with terrible mileage ratings. It’s decades of live here, work there, shop in four other places and bring water in through pipelines and canals.  Decades of land use decisions that encouraged sprawl, starved mass transit, trucked in food from across the country, allowed our rail lines to decay and depended on water from rapidly depleting aquifers or reservoirs on the Colorado that are shrinking faster than pure wool in boiling water.
Animal Vegetable Miracle author Barbara Kingsolver used to live in Tucson. One of the straws that broke the “where should we live” camel’s back was the notice that the water coming in through a newly constructed pipeline was ok to drink but don’t use it for your aquarium because it wasn’t good for the fish. !?!?!?!
 I haven’t done any research, but I suspect that many of the so called strip cities in the south west don’t have any kind of mass transit capability at all. And were in the middle of a freakin’ desert. Or damn close to it for cryin’ out loud. Too few of us asked the right questions when decisions were made nearly two generations ago. Too few of us realized that the business and civic leaders praising a certain type of development may have had vested interests in their success.
Too many of us didn’t ask questions when we were told we could live anywhere we wanted to if we could afford it.  We could have beautiful green lawns in the middle of a desert. We could still have fresh oranges when the new US crop was gone because they could be shipped in from Australia. Or we could have grapes in December because it’s summer in Chili. A couple can have eighteen or nineteen kids and not only are few eye brows are raised; they got a reality TV show. We could have anything we wanted and any attempt to question those wants was an infringement on our “personal liberties.” Too many of us didn’t seem to notice that the ones telling us about our trampled rights were the ones with their hands in our pockets and that the pea was never under the cup to start with.
There was an “oh shit” moment on The Weather Channel a few seasons back before NBC bought them out and fucked up the programming. For a short time there was a program called Forecast Earth that focused on threats to the environment. Part of a segment on diminishing water supplies focused on huge development being built in Arizona or New Mexico; more than five thousand homes. In near desert that’s been in moderate to severe drought for over ten years now. Trouble is, we don’t have records that go back all that far, and what we assumed was normal back in say, the seventies may have been unusually wet. What we’re seeing now may either be is truly normal or worse, aggravated by Climate Change.
Anyway, one of the prospective buyers, an older man, was asked if he was worried about water being available. His reply made me mad enough to spit. “There’s no water shortage as long as you can afford it.” His companion, presumably his wife, had the grace to look a little embarrassed but her comment was almost as bad. It was basically “well, they wouldn’t build it if everything wasn’t ok, would they?”
Honey, yes they would if they figured they could get away with it. The builder will have the money and be looking for more sheep to shear. As for you folks, you’ll be left holding the bag and/or the dry faucet.
That segment aired back in 2008.  Before the housing market went down the tubes thanks to the Great Recession. I’ve wondered sometimes how that five thousand unit subdivision has fared over the years. I hate to sound judgmental but frankly I hope he lost his shirt.  The fuel prices are still as high if not higher than they were when I posted this the first time and the drought is getting worse year by year.

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