February 12, 2017

BW photogaph of a vehicle moving across a parking lot on a rainly day as seen through a windshield.

Copyright 2017 Kevin P. Mick Photography. All rights reserved.

The majority of the state of California has been suffering from severe drought conditions for much of the past five years-a subject that has been a recurring theme here.  This winter has been much different as per this article.  So much snow and rain has fallen that parts of the state are no longer considered to be under such a status.  Please, though, do read through the entirety of that second article.

Alleviating drought and the concomitant problems is a good thing, as is learning ways to conserve water.  It is also important to recognize, however, that a return to wasting water only sets the stage for future problems.  California and its relationship with water is an example of a larger issue-that being how we respond to deprivation and availability of resources.

Another example of the response to deprivation/availability comes from the auto industry.  In 1973-74, OPEC instituted an oil embargo against the United States, which quite literally brought travel to a standstill.  In response, Americans began to seek and buy much smaller, more fuel-efficient imports from Datsun (now Nissan) and Toyota.  As such, the U.S. auto industry had a rough time adjusting to a new reality and suffered economically.  Fast forward to now as the price of oil has plummeted and gasoline prices are also down.  2016 was a record year for U.S. automakers-with trucks and SUVs largely being the vehicles purchased.  One of the reasons for the surge in buying was the availability of cheaper gasoline.  (As a group, trucks and SUVs get far less gas mileage than do more fuel-efficient smaller cars.)  The incentives discussed in the article also made a difference in the purchase of vehicles.  Tellingly, such incentives could produce a longer-term problem that can offset the shorter term gain.  When gasoline was rationed and expensive, we responded one way; once it was available and cheaper, we responded in quite a different way.

The current lower price of oil creates political and economic issues for the OPEC nations and Russia, as detailed in this report from November, 2016, thereby depriving those countries of revenue (not to mention power and control).  Their response?  Cut production.  Global oil markets and pricing is quite a complex issue, as discussed here.

However, the fundamental point I am taking a long time to make is this.  We need to be very careful what we do when it seems like a problem is no longer a problem-when deprivation turns to availability.  Short term thinking really can create longer term consequences.  Political movement is already afoot to undo the Obama administration’s environmental initiatives.  The fact that California’s reservoirs are in better shape in no way means that issues with water will not continue.  The planet continues to warm.

Take care.

UPDATE:  The amount of rain and snow that has fallen in California has also resulted in this.


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