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Indybay Feature

Living Within Our Natural World

by Steve Pleich
2nd in a series of short essays
“A man’s got to know his limitations” This is one of the more enduring contributions made to our popular culture by that well-known resident of the Monterey Bay area, Clint Eastwood. And although Clint was not addressing anything but the nearest bad guy, I like to think this maxim of modern life has a broader application.

Lately with the question of whether or not our community should spend tens of millions of dollars on a proposed desalination plant occupying my mind, I have been thinking about what it means to live within the limitations of our natural world. Interestingly, I have found that consideration of this issue raises the additional questions of how we define our natural world and how we measure our consumption. Imponderable though they may be to both Clint and me, I will nevertheless “take a shot” at elucidation.

Some say that living within the limitations of our natural world involves merely consuming only as much as we produce, a concept often called our “ecological footprint”, but surely this is far too simplistic a metric to be of any real world use or enlightenment. Rather we must come to the common understanding that we live in a world of finite resources and we must conserve what exists today and generate what we can for tomorrow in an effort to balance the natural book. This approach is sensible and responsible yet a consensus of thought and action in support of this principle sadly remains beyond our grasp. Indeed, the rejection of such a sensible solution is what has placed our community upon the precipice of desalination.

So maybe Clint’s right and we must all admit that limitations do, in fact, exist. That would make at least wo of us who think that's the right idea, and that's a start.

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by G
Developers want yet more money. Water is necessary for their short term goals. The inconvenient truth of global climate change will be getting in the way of rain making.

Understand the new and improved Twinkie and you may begin to understand the future of Santa Cruz, and the USA...
by Leigh Meyers
The Central Coast ag industry has chosen to grow the two of the most water intensive crops in the world here. Iceberg Lettuce, which is almost ALL water, and Strawberries (cabbage is also common). Because they're very profitable.

According to Marc Reisner in his treatise on Western water politics Cadillac Desert (1986 Viking), the water subsidies supporting these farmers are slowly but surely running out despite a recent deal with Mexico regarding the Colorado River and it's IMMENSE aquifer, and they expect taxpayer funded desalinization plants to take the place of that 10c on the dollar subsidized water.

How about they learn to grow less water intensive crops local to the region... Which in this climate is just about anything. The Strawberry/Lettuce/Cabbage choice is purely profit margin related and has nothing to do with soil capabilities, which in the Pajaro Valley at least is so chemicalized it barely resembles soil and causes toxic tornadoes every time the wind blows over Watsonville or Pajaro's fields.

by Mike Novack
Those comment so NOT address the primary point of the article.

With respect to us humans coming to grips with living within the limitations of the environment it is besides the point to jump up and down pointing out how in a capitalist system there are capitalist and big business reasons for our inability to face the reality of physical limitations.

Not unless you propose to present arguments why within your preferred alternative to capitalism there would not be DIFFERENT (non-capitalist) reasons for an equivalent inability to understand that there are limits.

Don't misunderstand what I have just said. That is NOT a pro-capitalist argument. Just pointing out that making the case that there can be no solutions within capitalism is NOT a case that some other particular alternative would be better on ENVIRONMENTAL grounds (however better it might be on human justice grounds).
by G
I can't speak for Leigh. I can, presumably, speak for me. My comments were addressing (in my opinion) Steve's habit of composing questions whilst ignoring the obvious, most influential elephants impacting the issue under consideration. In my opinion, your attempt to paint me as non-capitalist is misguided. I wasn't pointing out the problems of capitalism, I was pointing out the problem of greed, something common to many forms of governance. Perhaps there are solutions within capitalism that could help, perhaps even profitable solutions. I suspect that is a 'hard' problem, in the 'computational complexity' sense.

Specifically, the problem with the frame "with the question of whether or not our community should spend tens of millions of dollars" is that it ignores whom is trying to get whom to pay for what for whom. My impression is that Leigh added to that specificity (the high water usage lettuce/strawberry component of the agricultural industry).

If you want a statement on general policy; I would suggest following the guideline popular amongst the pre-European. Plan and act for far future generations, when self interest has been dilluted by generations of non-relatives. Given the population boom, generating generations has become a systemic risk, so even that guideline is becoming insufficient.

Now, to applying your requirements to yourself, how have your comments addressed the comments you seek?
That IS the crux of the biscuit (as Frank Zappa might have said). It could be said of Downtown Santa Cruz' shopping district too, which probably doesn't put one usable-by-the-citizens penny into the city coffers after the smoke clears, with the massive amount of police, emergency services (The skanky bar scene's much to blame for this more than the houseless bashing campaign continually in progress), trash pick ups, in the summer spiking due to the low grade of tourist visiting with their garbage laying about downtown in heaps... etc ad nauseum, .

Just sayin'... It's ALL rigged so the rich get richer and the sooner everyone gets it through their heads that electing new masters every four years who represent the same UNTENABLE system, does not make one free, or safe, or anything, the better.

by Leigh Meyers
I cribbed this a few years ago... The problem isn't going to get better. Eventually it will be necessary to use all available water resources VERY VERY wisely.

by Walter
Other options beside Capitalism? I am not an expert on economies, yet I do know that the design of Capitalism encourages greed, and that greed, will bring about the fall of our society. A great analogy for Capitalism I once heard, It is like a 747 flying high in the sky, or any plane for that matter. A plane can only stay in the air as long as it is moving forward. When it stops moving forward, it crashes to the ground. WE can not move forward infinitely in a finite world! We can not continue to build for the sake of jobs, which is what is going on. Just look at all the little areas of open space, they are being built up with housin no one can afford, or retail shit that will remain empty for years.

Capitalism, for some reason has run a muck in the US. Other countries seem to be able to have a limited or regulated version. There is a balance of socialism and capitalism I think. Citizens are more taken care of in times of need. They more understand the idea of finite resources. Here, UCSC continues to expand in a city that has a finite amount of space for students. In the mean time, the local families can't afford to live here because of greedy landlords and the "free market" system. We have run out of water to continue population growth here. So now we'll build a desal plant to give us more water for more people!

Fuck it! Build it! UCSC, EXPAND!!! The sooner it all comes to an end the better. In the mean time....

Fuck it! Let's go bowlin!

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