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Thoughts on watersheds and stuff

I started to answer lambert's question Could a watershed, an airshed, or an aquifer be considered "public property"? If so, what would that look like and how would it be managed? in a comment and it sort of snowballed...

Watershed... you mean, like the Mississippi River?

It's a huge watershed, and those two links are about the huge problems (and solutions) involved in managing just one issue: nutrient runoff into the Mississippi River (and, consequently, into the Gulf of Mexico). Rivers are used in a lot of other ways too, as this list of "stakeholders" demonstrates. That's an organization that was formed in response to the Florida-Alabama-Georgia water wars over Lake Lanier that have been winding their way through the court system for 20+ years but were exacerbated by the great drought of 2007. In the same week that the Supreme Court declared Obamacare constitutional, it also declined to rule on the Lake Lanier dust-up, basically giving Georgia license to use more water, leaving Florida and Alabama with less water.

As an aside, for anybody who's attracted by the Libertarian idea (also favored by some anarchists) of protecting the environment and natural resources via "properly enforced property rights" and using the court system to "settle disputes" (or worse yet, relying on the "free market"), you should take that as a cautionary tale.

Speaking of free markets, I was recently standing in line somewhere (waiting to give money to some corporation or other iirc) and struck up a conversation with the person standing next to me who works at the Savannah River Site. That's its shiny new image; if you're an old school treehugger like me, this is what you think of when you hear the words "Savannah River Site." And yes, naturally, the conversation turned to Yucca Mountain and the nuclear waste repository issue, which led to mentions of dry cask storage and...

So, just how do you store nuclear and toxic waste for basically forever?

[It occurs to me that I could have made this post into a list, with bullet points.]

Speaking of public lands, and uranium, you might remember that people (because corporations are people too!) want to mine uranium from the landscape around the Grand Canyon. And it's not just the Grand Canyon that's under threat from the extractive industries, other public lands are too. The extractive industries are pretty much running amok these days: mountaintop removal (look! we're making new Grand Canyons! what's not to like?), valley fill, coal ash ponds, black lung disease, oil well blowouts.... the list goes on (and on, and on).

Circling back to the grand Canyon, and water, and air... There's a river at the bottom of the canyon, and the environmentalists, power industry and tourism industry, just to name a few, all have different ideas about that. There's air, and airspace, in the canyon too. Here's George Will going all concern troll over how the government's heavy regulatory hand, in trying to make the air cleaner, is oppressing the Native Americans' right to mine and burn the coal that's on their reservations. And did you know that the transportation bill, along with keeping student loans affordable, saved 1250 jobs in the Grand Canyon area, but basically gutted federal regulators' ability to control noise from the proliferation of air tours.

In other Grand Canyon news, a black bear has been spotted at the rim of the canyon (also a baby condor, if you want some good news), probably looking for water. Drought, it's not just for Texas anymore.

We survived the Dust Bowl of the 1930s, what's a little extra drought in the more advanced 21st century? Seriously, What is Jim Inhofe, climate denier extraordinaire, doing on the Senate's Environment and Public Works Committee? WTF is up with that??? Oklahomans, you have a chance to vote him out of office in 2014. Save yourselves.

How would it be managed?

Well, it already is, largely by government bureaucrats and civil servants, and in spite of the various scandals you read about, and in spite of the Republicans' salting of the entire structure with idiots and evildoers, and in spite of Obama's not doing very much to get rid of the Republican plants, we do not have to devolve to this just yet:

As the struggle went on, the aristocracy did their best to delegitimize the king and the central government, while the civil service and its supporters did their best to delegitimize the aristocracy; both sides succeeded beyond their wildest dreams, and managed to strip the last traces of popular legitimacy from the French political system as a whole.

I'm with lambert, it can get worse. Stop hating on the teachers, the firefighters, the public employees' unions, the bureaucrats and regulators, and get rid of the aristocrats while you can still do so fairly peaceably.

Yes, I'm a fan of the federal government, especially for the big things, yes, even the Agriculture Department, with its kowtowing to Big Ag, is managing to get some some good things done. Thank you President Obama, for the Everglades Initiative (although that's not going to be enough to get me to vote for you in November).

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Submitted by lambert on

... leads me to believe that mismatches between "sheds" and jurisdictional boundaries are inevitably gamed by extractive industries, to the detriment of everybody directly affected except for a small cadre of quislings in the targeted local government.

For example, my town does not "abut" the jurisdiction in which the landfill is sited, and hence has no place on the committee that "advises" the state about it. Nor do the citizens in my town have standing to sue, even though our "truck shed," "odor shed," and "water shed" are all affected, not to mention that our vision of Maine does not include becoming a dumping ground for out of state trash. (The entire landfill was also put in by a corrupt Democratic administration, so Fuck you, Democrats.) I'm sure the exact same "home rule"/"local sovereignty" issues come into play in fracking and other extractive projects; they all use the same playbook.

If I had to make a recommendation for how to start an IVCS project, I'd start with shed-based jurisdictions (and I don't see any reason why they couldn't be nested in a sort of Venn diagram fashion).

I understand the nostalgia for a functioning big state, but I'm afraid the Constitutional order is rapidly changing away from any notion whatever that the state serves a public purpose, or the rule of law, or any of the Civics 101 material we grew up with (subject of post soon to come.) This is tragic, but we may be able to deflect the current dynamic to something more humane, anda although I'd love it if the Greens were right, I'm not sure a second New Deal would end up looking anything like the first one.

Submitted by hipparchia on

show me several functioning examples of small states and non-states that you would actually like to live in.

Submitted by lambert on

I'm ready for Maine to secede. Ha ha only serious.

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Nor do I see your argument as responsive. You say a future without an FDR-sized/FDR-functioning government is worse than the present. I say that such a government may no longer be possible. Those are not mutually contradictory propositions.

Submitted by lambert on

I'm not against "big" as such. I can see the Missippi River basin being a jurisdiction. That's big. But I believe the big we have now is not long for this world, because the jurisdiction/shed mismatch works against us and the planetary being* of which we are a part -- I can't believe I just said that, so maybe it's being around Buddhists --- and it's a question how the direction we deflect the falling debris....

Have you ever read Woman on the Edge of Time by Marge Piercy? It's a wonderful book, and the only sensible utopia I have ever read. It's really even better than The Dispossessed, and that's saying something. I can't recommend it highly enough, and I'm sure a used paperback is cheap.

NOTE * There's a wonderful SF story about scientists who develop a magic ray that can see deep into the earth, and so they go down, down, down until finally a massive grid structure appears, meaning intelligence, and so they make contact with the fire beings living down there in the magma. So the fire beings come up and take a look around and go "ZOMG!!!! Look what you guys are doing!!!!" And then the earthquakes begin... And the droughts... And the weird weather....