Monday, May 18, 2015

Water on the Brain


Back in 1897 English novelist Louis Tracy (1863-1928) published An American Emperor: The Story of the Fourth Empire of France.  Very briefly, a very rich American (in the popular English fiction of the day, there were two types of Americans: the bold rich entrepreneur, and the bold poor frontiersman, both of which were present in An American Emperor) has the idea, for various complicated and romantic reasons, of spending his millions to benefit humanity, specifically the Republic of France.

Louis Tracy, novelist, journalist.
His idea — perfectly feasible with 1890s technology — was to desalinate seawater to irrigate the Sahara Desert, presenting France with millions of square miles of fertile land to replace their colonial empire of sand and unpopulated wasteland.  He set up gigantic solar-powered stills that were soon pouring water into North Africa, creating a vast, new empire for France to restore her former glory.

There was also some kind of love story in there, too, but the real point of the novel was to apply “modern” technology to a serious problem: Europe was experiencing serious crop failures at this time, especially wheat . . . and within historic times North Africa had been the breadbasket of the Roman Empire.  Why not again?

The San Fernando Valley?
Of course, it all worked out marginally well in real life without irrigating the Sahara.  Crop failure in Europe and bumper crops of wheat in the U.S. in 1897 and 1898 brought the U.S. out of the Great Depression of 1893-1898 . . . and helped destabilize Europe’s political structures, setting the stage for World War I, but picky, picky, picky. . . .

So how does this apply to the world situation today?

For one, there’s still the problem of desertification in North Africa, and it’s spreading.  The region could be incredibly fertile — it once fed an empire — and yet famine and starvation (along with the political instability that comes from such disasters) are rampant.

Closer to home, there’s the California drought . . . in a state with nearly a thousand miles of coastline (nearly 3,500 if you count the inlets, bays, and that stuff) along the single largest body of water in the world.

Now consider the fact that the technology already exists to supply water anywhere — especially a state with one of the longest coastlines in the world — and has existed for well over a century.  So what’s the problem?

Water, water everywhere, nor any drop to drink?  Not!
From a technical viewpoint, there is no problem.  The only thing lacking is the political will to implement a viable solution.  Frankly, even politically it’s mostly a matter of financing and structuring the deal.  This could easily be done in a way that benefits all the residents of California economically, turning what has the potential to be the biggest pork barrel in history to benefit a few, into the greatest economic initiative since the Homestead Act of 1862 to benefit every child, woman, and man.

The financing is actually the easiest part.  The commercial banking system and the San Francisco Federal Reserve can supply all the financing needed.  The project would pay for itself, making it self-liquidating (sorry) and non-inflationary.

Jobs?  The jobs created to build the necessary infrastructure would just be a bonus compared to the real gain: direct citizen ownership of a profitable project supplying agriculture, industry, and commerce, to say nothing of Just Plain Folks, with a critically needed and fully replenishable resource.

"The desert shall rejoice, and blossom as the rose." — Isaiah 35:1.
Structuring a project to provide California with unlimited water as a for-profit co-op with certain ESOP features would give everyone a personal interest in its success.  The “Citizens Land Bank” concept proposed by the Center for Economic and Social Justice could easily be applied . . . once the political will exists.

All it needs is a leader with vision, and surely there must be somebody in California, say, in the 48th Congressional District represented by Dana Rohrabacher, who is wondering about a politically and economically viable solution to the drought, and who isn’t afraid to discuss direct citizen ownership instead of State control. . . .

#30#

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