Friday, August 05, 2011

Can We Survive All This – Happier Than We Are Now?

It has been said that if you want to make an omelet, you'll have to break a few eggs. True, but you definitely don't want to break all the eggs – and kill off the chickens.

Collectively as a civilization, in many ways, that's exactly what we are doing. For example; our extractive industries are racing to extract most of our planet's resources. And then they're planning on getting even richer price gouging when the supply gets low. There are so many cases of industries turning into rackets that we've passively accepted this as merely what capitalism looks like. Many executives just don't see enough financial incentive for their companies to be sustainable, safe, or even responsible. They want to be above the law. Hell, they want to write the laws! The foxes are now telling us how to run the chicken coop. This is not only dysfunctional, it is ultimately economic suicide. But it doesn't have to be that way. Humanity can do far better. We just have to fix our flawed system processes.

Consider this; what is the most basic flaw of our civilization's economic and political systems?

I would suggest it is our collective inability to utilize common sense.

Short-term self interest has driven our society toward corporate anarchy. Consequently, our society is unable to democratically adapt to a changing reality with objective, rational plans.

Take for instance; consider how our lust for money has clouded our capacity to maximize our happiness to such an extent that humanity runs the risk of self-induced extinction.

Humanity has still not effectively addressed our obsession for money. I suspect this is so because we have never actually tried.

When money was invented, nobody sat around thinking about how we should best create a better future with it. Nobody sat in planning meetings to figure out what type of society we should create with money. The whole monetary basis for all of our planet's major economies just sort of happened. The fundamental basis for our world economy, money, was never designed to maximize our happiness. Money was, and is, just an overrated tool. Money is just paper.

Of course, using money was far easier than trading chickens for medical services. And, of course, money represented wealth. So, people tried to accumulate as much of it as they could... Whether capitalist, communist, or socialist – in a nutshell; this is our economic system... That's right. No overall plan. No sustainable objective. Not even any logical methodology for determining the wisest course. Let's face it; nobody has really thought this all through to any kind of logical conclusion. Humanity is simply running amok to accumulate colored paper.

Which leads to disasters such as this:

This is insane. This type of behavior in a society is literally insane, profoundly self-destructive, and ultimately suicidal.

Draining water from the desert has obvious results: death... mass death, economic devastation in the effected areas, and unsustainable Ponzi scheme growth.

So, why would Southern Nevada Water Authority (SNWA) want to do something like this?

Let's see... SNWA is a quasi-municipality at a time where municipalities across the nation are privatizing. Hmm... could it be that SNWA secretly wishes to privatize also? If so, having water rights to huge swaths of Rural Nevada water would fetch them a much higher asking price – likely billions more, in fact. And moreover, there just might be some high paying jobs on the other side of that revolving door too.

Could it be that SNWA is just trying to drive up their asking price – when they eventually decide to privatize? Could it be that SNWA is essentially speculating with Nevadans' water?

In a way, this watergrab is already a form of privatization. That's right, if this watergrab effort is permitted, Southern Nevada's private entities will end up with water that has been the commons for all from time immemorial.

It is very likely that this watergrab is just another step towards quasi-privatization of much of our State's groundwater.

Think about this: What's to keep any private company that takes over SNWA from price gouging? Nothing. Sure, Nevada water law doesn't permit them to sell State water. But so what? All they have to do is sell the delivery of the water. It is very likely that SNWA is taking the first steps towards overcharging Nevadans for our own water.

The amazing irony of all this is that Nevada water law is written to expedite this exploitation. Nevada water law is essentially written; “the first to exploit our water can have it all to themselves for free.” SNWA has to apply for the water, or somebody else will take it.

This is a sign. This is a sign of a dysfunctional system. We need to fix this. It is of utmost importance. But unfortunately, our economic and political systems are so broken that it is very likely that we can't really fix anything without fixing everything.

The inertia of our (historically cobbled together) economic system is on a crash course at full speed to convert everything of any real value into money. (Need I remind you, money is only paper.) Massive profits have become more important than the survival of at risk plants, animals, ecosystems, even our own species – even all life on the planet.

No individual wants this.

We wouldn't vote for this.

But we're all caught up in the game.

This game has been compared to running a rat race with a monkey on your back, but it's the only game we know. Humanity has forgotten what worked for tens of thousands of years. We now believe that “greed is good” – because we don't comprehend anything else. On the other hand, ask even the dimmest among us, and they understand “supply and demand.” If supply becomes scarce, prices will rise. And if demand grows, prices will rise. Everybody knows that. We're all caught up in the game. But it's the people willing to manipulate supply and/or demand that we have to watch out for.

Massive profits are most often accumulated by utilizing two strategies; increasing scarcity and/or increasing growth. Here; we see both scarcity of water in the desert and growth in Southern Nevada. There are schemers who must see this as an opportunity to take advantage of others' desperation. Is there a conspiracy? We'd be fools to blindly trust otherwise. But initially, I think this was more of a trend – a trend we all too often see.

Historically, we have seen a trend (such as people moving to Las Vegas), turn into an industry (construction, etc.), now turning into a racket (crisis water supply).

And who pays? Well, check out the movie Chinatown. It's as if SNWA executives watched this movie about corruption and greed over and over again to plan the watergrab. The plays are all there. The names have been changed. There is, of course, a legitimate facet to who pays and who benefits from this water project. New residents to Southern Nevada will bear some of the expenses – and so they should. But existing residents will also bear billions of dollars in expenses for a pipeline network they don't need. Current residents of Las Vegas already have all the water they need. But like in the movie Chinatown, they've been panicked into thinking there is a shortage. What's worse is the economic benefits of Southern Nevada growth won't be shared evenly. Existing residents won't get new development in their neighborhoods. No, older neighborhoods will be left to rot – as they pay higher and higher taxes and fees to pay for water development in newer parts of Southern Nevada.

So, who benefits? The pro-growth supply/demand manipulators I warned you about earlier. The speculators. The developers. The Southern Nevada construction industry (which was morphing into an endless unsustainable growth racket). And those who can sell the one thing that is most precious in the desert – water.

Right about now, the pro-growth manipulators reading this will start in with the name calling. Most likely they will call me a Luddite, a tree hugger, or maybe a granola-head. They don't want people to realize that personally all I want is what is best for all of us in the long run. On the other hand, the pro-growth types tend to be more short-sighted and self-interested. Of course, the pro-growth types like to think of themselves as captains of industry, not selfish manipulators of our economy... And some of them own newspapers.

Our economic system is critically dysfunctional. This is all a big Ponzi scheme. Humanity takes from nature. We take from future generations. We take from our neighbors. We take from our customers. And if we can help it, we don't give back. That's just the way it is. We've got to maximize our profits.

In this dysfunctional system, the biggest exploiters are (temporarily) the biggest winners. Our businesses often promote those with psychopathic traits – to maximize profits. And once in position, the economic pressures on an executive push them to make psychopathic decisions – to maximize profits. Corporations are not models of democracy. They are effectively dictatorships. Corporate CEOs are not models of morality, they are fallible people with one overriding mission; increase the company's profits. It's that bad. Worse even. If any of these executives gain a sense of morality, it doesn't make any difference. Someone else will step in to take their place in a heartbeat.

All of the people of Nevada are being played. The endgame of this process is a hellish mess – with two overcrowded, overpriced, unsustainable, mono-culture mega-cities (near Las Vegas and Reno), and a vast uninhabitable desert that will ultimately become the toxic dump site for the nation... Things could get that bad. In fact, the trend has been going that way for well over 50 years.

We wouldn't vote for this...

Humanity doesn't want scarcity. We want abundance. But abundance doesn't concentrate money. SNWA could desalinate ocean water – which would mean more fresh water for Nevadans and Californians. (SNWA could desalinate water offshore for Californians, in exchange for more water from the Colorado River.) The environment crushing watergrab wells and pipelines are simply not necessary – and they're more expensive. However, an abundance of water means less scarcity, and therefore less profits. Besides; SNWA has spent hundreds of millions of dollars on this project. Politically, they can't admit that the money was wasted. They simply can't back down now, even though the price of desalination has dropped precipitously.

Collectively, Nevadans are unable to utilize common sense on this water issue – because our “leaders” are afraid of losing their jobs.

So, what do we really want?

I would suggest that we really want to maximize our happiness. And not just this quarter, not just this fiscal year; but for the rest of our lives – and for the lives of those we leave behind too.

What we really want is the collective opportunity to make the most sensible decisions. Our elected representatives have failed us. Our corrupt electoral system forces them to sell out to the highest bidder. What we need is more direct democracy.

What we really want is the intelligent management of the Earth's resources, based upon science – not Fox “News” style sell-out pseudo-science.

What we really want is more common sense.

Why should this even be remotely controversial?

...Because some companies' short-term profit margins might suffer.

... that's it.

... that's it!

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