12-4 ideas

The Center for Literate Values ~ Defending the Western tradition of responsible individualism, disciplined freedom, tasteful creativity, common sense, and faith in a supreme moral being.



A Common-Sense Journal of Literary and Cultural Analysis

12.4 (Fall 2012)


bright ideas



Water, Climate Change, and Individual Freedom

I first began thinking consciously about the way we handle water in Waco, Texas.  The landscape thereabouts is parched.  Not that one sees a Sahara from the car window; rather, the wide plains roll in an intriguing fashion, concealing occasional surprises just over the ridge (a cane plantation, a horse ranch, a small outcrop of luxurious homes).  Whatever vegetation grows wild, however, is of the scrubby variety.  Low mesquites, high grasses (largely brown and dead right now), and scraggly live oaks create thickets in places that would attract only rattlesnakes and Bear Grylls.

I don’t recall the Waco of my youth (which our family used to pass regularly on our way to see my grandparents in Austin) as being quite so desolate.* I also don’t recall anything resembling Lake Waco, a vast expanse of blue wide open to the cruel summer sun where boaters of all sorts love to play.  As my childhood memories dueled with present realities during our summer vacation, connections started to form in the back of my mind.  Dense urbanization, with the constant and enormous demand of human hive-dwellers for instant potable water; the collection of all neighboring water into reservoirs to supply this voracious need; the consequent depletion of water resources on what was once fertile farmland (now arid range) capable of sustaining thousands of small, independent households; the creation of dozens of square miles of fully exposed liquid surface area on said reservoirs, where untold tons of water vapor ascend into the atmosphere every week rather than being shielded in shady creeks and artesian pools…

As a result… climate change?  Has anyone reckoned the effect, not of automobile pollutants, but of increased water vapor upon our weather cycles?  Practically every small city throughout the southwest has penned up its local water resources like a bunch of maverick cattle beaten out of the brush.  The unpopulated and deprived terrain becomes prime real estate for wildfires, which of course also affect the greenhouse equation with their mini-volcanoes of smoke.  Could it be that climate change is indeed being caused by human activity—but not by the internal combustion engine, in particular?  Might it not be, instead, that our ever more centralized manner of living, where individuals desert the countryside that once generously supplied their needs to pile into the nearest metropolis, is almost literally pumping precious water into the air?  And would the resulting imbalance not indeed make our summers hotter and drier and our winters colder and wetter—precisely what we have experienced lately here in the Southwest?

I am disinclined to join the mainstream Right in debunking the possibility of climate change just because its exponents on the Left have advanced it unscrupulously, cooking the books and covering their tracks.  We all know that the motives of the latter have been primarily not to “save the planet”, but rather to justify the imposition of more centralized controls upon our lives.  Might the real solution to the real problem—that problem having first been admitted—be to foster decentralization, so that individuals might again find greater independence (with the help, this time, of modern technology) through a closer relationship to the land?  Is not the sacrifice of our jet skis but a small price to pay for having a steady supply of water in the back yard—perhaps run-off rainwater that has been filtered by equipment belonging to individual householders?  Isn’t this vision closer to true conservatism?  Shouldn’t the true conservative be both an individualist and a conservationist?

I visualize something like a huge inverted umbrella, as tall as a telephone pole when folded, in the middle of people’s back yards.  As a shower nears, the umbrella would be deployed, unfurling its skirts so that almost the entire expanse of the back yard was covered.  Water caught in this great sail would rush downward into a central collection pipe, whence it would be passed through a filter and stored in a tank, clean and ready for household use.  It would have picked up no earthbound chemicals and toxins along the way, it would run through no expensive central processing plant constantly exposed to terrorist sabotage or human error (fluoride, for instance, is poisonous in large doses), and it would sit ever ready and waiting for those who shepherded their domestic use thoughtfully.  I suppose the foolish grasshoppers who frittered away their summers while the ants industriously stored supplies for the winter could buy their water from neighbors until they learned not to take forty-minute showers.

I’m all for the moral instruction of the free market.  Let us have control of our own needs, and then let those who refuse to take such control suffer the consequences until they grow up.  That’s the American way, and I like it.  It’s a brilliant idea” let us restore it, along with the health of our planet.     ~     PTS


*  The original Lake Waco was created by a dam on the Bosque River completed in 1930; but a much larger dam was finished only in 1964, and the lake’s level was raised several feet as recently as 2005.  [Editor’s note]