Ecology & Climate

A Drop In The Bucket

  • January 29, 2014

We recently took a tour of the (once) private quarters of the Hearst family at Hearst Castle, courtesy of the California State Parks. In this day and age dominated by subjects like climate change and income inequality, it was ironic to be standing in the private rooms of the scion of one of this country’s richest families – one that in its current corporate incarnation, still owns and operates a media empire rivaled by few, ranging from print to broadcast outlets to the internet (Mozilla), viewing a legacy gathered from around the world acquired at no small expense that at least in name, was now the property of the people of California, because of a deal struck in the late Fifties in which the State had acquired the property from the Hearst family for one dollar (and a huge tax write-off).

As with all deals with the devil, this one had a catch. It seems from the information offered by the docent shepherding us through one opulent suite after another in the castle on “La Cuesta Encantada“, that early in the first term of Arnold Swartzenegger, “The Governator” decided that one way to help balance the state budget, would be to look at the operating expenses of the state parks, including Hearst Castle and close those facilities that in his mind cost to much to operate profitably. Hearst Castle was at the top of his list. The axe was about to fall, when the lawyers for the Hearst Corporation whipped out the contract that had been the basis for the transfer of the property to the State in the Fifties. In it there was a clause stating that should the State elect to cease operating the property as a state park, the title to the estate would revert back to the Hearst Corporation. Gotcha Gov!

After the tour, we roamed the grounds for an hour or so, posing for pictures, admiring the views, and making sure we did not sit on or touch any of the sculptures or benches that were white, and all the while we couldn’t help noticing that all of the fountains had been turned off. We eventually found ourselves standing above the Neptune Pool – an oval shaped swimming pool with neo-greco style colonnades at each end and a Roman temple on one side. The archectural opulence and grandeur of the site notwithstanding, one thing stood out above all else: the pool was only half full.


When we questioned a nearby docent about this, she replied, “the pool was damaged in an earthquake some years ago and loses about ten thousand gallons of water per day as a result. So we’re letting the pool drain so we can make the necessary repairs once we get the funding from Sacramento.” When we pressed her about the rest of the park’s inactive fountains, she uttered an even more ominous revelation, “The site gets all of its water from artesian springs on Pine Mountain some 11 kilometers to the East. The normal capacity of these springs are about 300 thousand gallons per day. Because of the drought the rate is down to only about 40 thousand gallons.” The drought.

Later on that evening we went to dinner at a local restaurant. On the tables were little placards with the inscription “Because of the drought, water will be served upon request. Please help us conserve our water.” Our water. Something tells me that appelation is about to change if it hasn’t already. If this weren’t enough to convince me that we are headed for another war – a war over water, then two even more shocking water stories were recently brought to light.

One was a documentary shown over public television that I just happened to catch a part of that aired several weeks ago. The setting was the legendary Himalayan kingdom of Lo Monthang or Mustang. In the segment I was able to watch, several local tribespeople were being interviewed about the lack of snowfall in the area and the devastating effects this was having on crops and the livelihood of the local farmers. There was one stark reality here. The glaciers had disappeared, they were gone. This meant that the entire population would have to migrate from their ancestral homeland – places their ancestors had occupied for centuries. Where would they go? Who would take them? How would they survive?

The other story was a blog post that popped up briefly in the social media and just as suddenly disappeared almost without notice. It was about water levels in the Great Lakes – the source of one-fifth of the world’s fresh water; that’s one-fifth of the world’s drinking water from natural sources. The report went on to disclose via interviews with local residents and NOAA officials in Michigan that water levels in the lakes were evaporating because of warming lake waters and the lack of winter ice that prevents evaporation, adding that the pace was accelerating at an alarming rate. Compared to historic long-term averages, water levels were 29 inches below the norm. Some years ago Michigan had struck a deal with Nestle that allowed the corporate beverage maker to effectively take public water at little or no cost so it could bottle and sell it back to the public as “purified”, as if the bottling process was necessary for the potablility of the water and is a blessing wrought from the corporate ethos.

Make no mistake. The Forever War has come home. Income inequality is one of its symptoms. Economic slavery is its goal. First they took our land. Then they took our food. Now they’re taking our water. That’s what NAFTA, TAFTA, and the TPP are enabling. Water is the next commodity for Wall Street to exploit. How many drops in the bucket before they have their fill and we have had enough of predatory capitalism?

Originally posted January 29, 2014

© Kazkar Babiy ™  MMXIV

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