Cheat-Seeking Missles

Friday, November 10, 2006

Green Is The New Red

Peter Bosshard has a perfect name for a greenie (you know how they love to bully us into following them), and that's appropriate since a greenie he is: He's the policy director of International Rivers Network, which bills itself as "an environmental and human rights group" that's based (where else?) in Berkeley.

"Environment and human rights" is codeword for Socialist. Groups like this use environmental arguments to push a Socialist agenda and today, Bosshard is pushing hard in a piece in the other CSM about dams. The conclusion is not that bad -- use lots of small dams in poor countries to recharge the aquifer and provide irrigation, and use drip irrigation -- but his thought track for getting there is right out of the Communist manifesto.

And who provided Bosshard the research he needed to espouse this dam manifesto? Why the UN, of course:

In a major report on water published Thursday, the UN Development Program (UNDP) takes a radically different approach. The Program's 2006 Human Development Report rejects the gloomy arithmetic. It argues that the poor's lack of water is caused by their lack of political power, rather than by the limits of nature. "The scarcity at the heart of the global water crisis," the UNDP maintains, "is rooted in power, poverty, and equality, not in physical availability."

More investment in water supply is urgently needed. Yet storing water in large, centralized reservoirs concentrates political power. The benefits of big, capital- intensive water investments tend to be captured by the rich and powerful members of society. "The danger is that the claims of the politically and commercially powerful will take precedence over the claims of the poor and marginalized," the Human Development Report warns.

It's all about political power, the rich depriving the poor, the need to equalize income distribution. Workers (and water drinkers) of the world unite!

But wait. Working in Berkeley as he does, Bosshard gets his water from East Bay MUD (that's Municipal Utility District, not a comment on the clarity of the water they deliver), which uses -- guess what? -- capital-intensive dams to provide him with water. EBMUD is not a concentrator of political power; it dispenses its water in an equalitarian manner and is managed by an elected board.

And it provides the only utility that is essential for life at a cost far lower than cable, electricity or gas; he's probably paying about $15.41 a month for all the water he needs.

So there's Bosshard, sitting well-watered in his Berkeley affluence, wanting to protect some river valley in Botswana more than he wants Botswanans to enjoy the comforts he enjoys. To justify th is incredible selfishness, he has to paint the world in reds and greens.

But there's another way to look at it. If his concern truly is the good of the people, he should look no further than his home state. 150 years ago, LA was a dustbowl of poor farmers who eked out a living by hoping and praying rain would come.

Then a bunch of white capitalists built dams and canals and the people became exponentially more wealthy (even the poorest Angeleno is a robber barron compared to the folks who lived in LA at its founding). The people who brought the water didn't get rich off water; they don't fill the top floors of high-rises determining who will get how many drops and how much they'll pay for it. Yes, they did get rich off real estate, but that's another story.

In evil, capitalist America, water still belongs to the people. I happen to think there's a lot of good in small-scale water projects for poor country and am with Bosshard on that. But if those countries are ever to achieve the quality of life we enjoy here, they also need the American way and some great, big dams -- or the folks who live there will be stuck forever in a dusty, agricultural existence while Bosshard fills his tub and water bottle with a simple twist of the faucet.

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