It is the insane season with 18 months to come and while I will pay attention and try to point out when they are not making sense (most of the time), the real issues for America are not being discussed or even thought about. Of course I am talking about the election in 2016, but our future is right now. And instead of thinking about how to transition to our future, we have our heads in the sand. What got me thinking about this was an article in the Daily Beast basically hammering California for their lack of planning in our present water crisis.
The article by Joel Kotkin is entitled The Big Idea: California is so Over. While I agree with Mr. Kotkins major premise that the water crisis has been in the making for many years and was being ignored by everyone, he kind of glosses over the complexity of the issue with a bombastic attack* on progressives and greens where the real complexity of the issue is better laid out in the classic, The Cadillac Desert.
But his point, that California is basically an arid region, transformed by major water projects to allow unfettered growth, and then not continuing to invest in their water infrastructure to support growing populations and agriculture is dead on. Political interests are short-term, and water policy is both hard and long-term. And the bottom line is nobody wants to pay for dealing with reality, until reality makes you pay with a long-term drought.
But that is just one instance of failure to plan and respond rapidly to a changing world. I was reading a separate article about solar power in Hawaii and basically the gist of the article was that the utility companies are not prepared for home generated power being dumped back into the grid**. So they have power fluctuations they cannot manage and at times, overwhelms the system. Additionally, building and maintaining the gird are expensive propositions and the loss of income from home generated power could substantially impact their ability to invest and improve their infrastructure.
One could go on and on, looking at our other infrastructure, the rapid rise of sea level and our sit on our hands attitude until disaster strikes. It is America today. It is, I am sad to say, a reflection of conservative policy of maintaining the status quo (that is what conservatism means), cutting all spending (failure to invest in tomorrow that will not look like today), and assuming the market place will solve all problems. In a word, it is the attitude they have fostered on all of us that government is the problem, not the solution. That attitude and its policy implications have left us with an America totally unprepared for tomorrow.
These problems don’t have local answers, and they require planning and foresight. Remember the story of the Grasshopper and the Ants. The ants are busy socking away food for winter and working hard while the grasshopper plays. Then winter comes and the grasshopper is in deep doo doo. Well that is where we are in so many areas and why American life is degrading. Government has a major role to play here in doing the long-term forecasting and planning that the market place won’t do with its fixation on the short-term gain (the Grasshopper).
Just as an example, in California there needs to be aggressive action taken now and yet politicians sit on their hands. Not only do we need to get short-term water usage in check, we need a plan for our future using science and data about what nature could bring. The grid problem is not just in Hawaii, but everywhere solar is expanding. Local generation of power decreases our need for the grid (and susceptibility to terrorist or natural disruption), but we still need the grid and that is again the role of government to ensure that our national grid is properly financed.
The bottom line from this engineer, project manager, and as sometimes called, planning Nazi, is forecasting and planning for our future. Leaving that to the market place is a road to ruin. If we have not learned our lesson that once business has developed a cash cow, they block all change even though that cash cow will soon collapse and hurt our national interests, then shame on us. We have to empower government to take on this role and then to act forcefully when change is required. Right now we are seeing glacial movement in our political arena because they are controlled by the interests that will be most hurt by the needed change. But in the real world the glaciers are melting and they had better melt in the political world too or we are doomed to reactive fixes after it is too late.
*Mr. Kotkins gives real environmental concerns short shrift, and he fails to take into account how the market place and the federal government played into easy cheap water paid for by the American public that drove many of the unsustainable growth patterns. His primary focus is on water for the status quo, and that may not be sustainable either.
**Generally speaking, cost-effective home solar power is based upon local generation where the excess power generated is put back into the grid and the home owner is credited for that excess power. During hours of darkness and bad weather, power is delivered to the home through the grid. Local storage to make the home fully grid independent is not really cost-effective, but that is coming.