Tuesday, June 03, 2008

More Is Less?

My dear wife sent me an article from the NY Times about how southern Spain is rapidly drying up into a desert for several reasons. Obviously, the first reason cited is that temperatures have risen more there than the world average and they're not getting the rain they're used to. However, what's interesting is that because so many businesses and people are still flush with cash, that region is still booming in development, meaning new water-thirsty golf courses, casinos and other tourist attractions. People are building their homes next to the beautiful beaches, as would anyone in such an attractive area. They want their lawns and trees lush and green. Farmers are planting more water-hungry crops like lettuce, strawberries and corn rather than the standard olives, lemons and figs that the area is known for.

The appearance of a strong economy is actually soaking up the resources available to that area faster! The water manager for that area says he can only allow 30% of the government-allocated water to go to each of the properties, businesses and farms due to the shortage. That has caused corruption with people digging hundreds of illegal wells and setting up a black market for water. Government loopholes allow people to claim that planting several trees in their yard makes their property a "farm", thus increasing their water consumption. The regulators are accepting these claims in order to make an extra buck on the side. The area has already outgrown the available resources and yet the government is still allowing the area to be further developed. This cycle cannot last forever.

This same cycle is happening all over the world. In the U.S., areas like California, Nevada, Arizona and Colorado are having or have had booming population growth that is unstustainable. In the last decade, we have been seeing the fruits of packing so many people in arid areas, which is much like how fruit would look in any arid area. The drying of the land has contributed to far more landslides and forest fires, which isn't helped by the fact that more people trying to get away from the city are moving the boundaries of that city to the hills and forests.

Due to the incredible growth of the last several centuries, mankind vainly figured it could engineer it's way out of these kinds of problems. Indeed, God blessed Abraham's, Isaac's and Jacob's children in a way that has made the rest of the world not only jealous, but envious to the point of copying our current land-leeching tactics or just outright taking our resources by bad financial policy and greed by our own country's government and businesses.

I recently heard about the so-called "water/diamond paradox" which is to say that diamonds are fairly useless overall, and yet they are priced extremely high, whereas water, which is useful in almost every way imaginable to sustain life, is priced ridiculously cheap. All in all, a booming economy may lead us to the illusion of prosperity where greed and lust eventually sucks the most precious resources out from under us because we continually take them for granted. The wonderful time-saving gadgets, fancy restaurants, huge homes and fast cars won't amount to much if we are completely starving and parched. "...But do not hurt the oil and the wine." God tells the black horseman to allow the most useless junk that we desire to be plentiful when our actual needs of basic food and water become completely scarce.

So keep an eye on the rivers, water tables and wheat production instead of the overall financial economy. Money, goods and prosperity are quickly becoming just a mirage on the desert that mankind has created for itself.

[UPDATE: I just read another article in the KC Star that says that irrigation artificially cools the air in that local area, so farmland hasn't felt the full effects of any warming trends that may be occuring elsewhere. However, many of the aquifers that help irrigation in places like Colorado, Kansas, California, even large parts of Asia, are drying up requiring more energy from fossil fuels to retrieve what's down there. That, in turn, continues to add CO2 to the air. So warming could be compounded by several degrees, on average, in rural areas as irrigation water begins to dry up.]

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