Water and land are common resources. In terms of Common Law, that means that they belong to the people, all of the people, all of the time. Governments, which come and go like leaves on the wind, can license land use and water use to individuals and corporations for common good and social purposes, but they can’t alienate them from people without breaking their own constitutions. This is one reason why shale bed methane fracking is a bad idea: it removes usable water from the commons, forever. It is also why the illegal theft by white ranchers of water rights from Indigenous peoples in British Columbia, with the collusion of clerks in the provincial government, delegitimizes our government. These are not legal definitions, and I’m sure lawyers would be all over them with their sonographs and micrometers, but they are ethical ones. In the Okanagan today, these issues are being played out on a grand scale, and what is at stake is the world. Here’s what 55% of the water use in the valley looks like:
Here’s what 5% of the water looks like:
Here’s what just 2% more, or 7% of the water use looks like:
7% of water use takes place inside structures like this.
Here’s what 25% of water use, or about half of the combined agricultural and golf course use of water looks like:
(Shown by the bushes, trees, hedges, lawns, and so forth, which it supports.)
Here, however, is a part of that 25%…
Farms won’t. They spray stuff that is poisonous to birds, big time. Either that, or they kill starlings by the millions. Yes, they do.
Here’s another part of that 25%…
just before being squeezed into juice.
Here, on the other hand, is the kind of landscape that wins government approval for domestic outdoor water use …
… and this …
By reducing outdoor watering to near zero, space can be freed up to preserve agriculture, while allowing the construction industry to build space for more people to move to the valley, in increasingly dispersed subdivisions in increasingly dry landscapes.
Do you have that? Here’s an ethical problem: A family with a couple kids, both working at minimum wage service jobs on a golf course which caters to wealthy tourists and the housing construction industry, is encouraged not to use water in their yard to grow potatoes and tomatoes to feed their kids, but must go to a grocery store instead, to buy food at high retail prices, to support both a retail food and transportation industry and wealthy farmers sitting on land and infrastructure wealth in the millions. They wind up at the food bank. Do we want a society in which there are, structurally, two classes of people, those with rights to public water and those who must pay those rights holders? I don’t. Agricultural water should be given to the people, not just to a certain class within the people.
Rooster, IPE, Armstrong
Is this how you increasingly feel?
Here’s another ethical problem: At some future date, programs at home water reduction are entirely successful, the trees planted throughout the 1970s, 1980s, 1990s, and 2000s are all dead, and there are no birds anymore, except in books read to school children, which advocate protection of rare endangered species, such as robins and waxwings. Do we want a society in which the only animals on the planet are humans and the domesticated animals they keep for pleasure (dogs, cats, and gerbils) and the others that they pen and slaughter (cattle, horses, chickens, lambs, and so on.)? Really?
Not Wanted on the Voyage?
Because that’s where we’re going with the construction of a class system based upon alienating common water rights, which belong to all people and all species, for certain temporary social structures, which change like the wind. The solutions aren’t simple. The solutions to ethical dilemmas never are. That’s what makes them ethical dilemmas. That’s why we have universities and departments of philosophy. That’s why we have churches and other places of worship. In fact, if the solutions to ethical dilemmas are presented as simple, you can be sure they’re wrong. This is hard stuff. For God’s sake, it matters.
Earth, Human Version