Mar 112011

The infamous T. Boone Pickens has purchased enough water rights in the Panhandle area of Texas to drain the very important Ogallala Aquifer of 65 billion gallons of water a year (that’s 124,000 gallons a minute). Right now, 95% of the water from this ancient aquifer is used for agriculture but Mr. Pickens plans to divert it and pipe it to Dallas where he will, of course, make a fortune like some character from a Michener novel. The farmer’s, whose livelihood are diminishing because of their own misuse of the aquifer, will just have to suck it up, or dry up, as the case may be. Their agricultural practices haven’t been sustainable and the Ogallala is a mere underground puddle compared to what it used to be. They are talking “Dust Bowl” in that area and if you read this article you will learn that all is not happy in Happy, Texas.

In Washington DC and to a lesser extent in a couple of other cities one finds the phenomenon of “slugging.”  Northern Virginia commuters queue up to catch rides in private passenger autos to avoid using public transportation. The reason: three or more can use the very fast I-95 HOV lanes and cut up to thirty minutes off their one way commute to the Pentagon or other government offices in DC. Our subsidizing of the private passenger auto through HOV lanes and zoning parking requirements make this a cheaper and more attractive form of travel than bus or subway. Passengers get a free ride and the driver of the car gets to make use of the fast lane. Slugging has developed its own sub-culture in the DC area with a web-site,  and a special etiquette. Government has gotten involved to the extent of subsidizing the web site and trying to add additional queues.

We all end up somewhere trying to sort out the problems of our particular location like, “Where are we going to get water to grow food?” or “How can I get to work faster?” Decisions are based on too many factors to mention. A lot of the time we ask the wrong question which derives from our history of having too much—too much water, too many trees, too much coal, too many fish, too much land, too many roads, too many subdivisions, too many fast food restaurants, too much stuff from China.

Sharon Astyk, a prolific and well-known writer in the sustainability movement, has an interesting essay  on a theory posed by a friend of hers called “The Theory of Anyway” which “…argues that 95% of what is needed to resolve the coming crisis in energy depletion, or climate change, or whatever is what we should do anyway, and when in doubt about how to change, we should change our lives to reflect what we should be doing “Anyway.” Living more simply, more frugally, using less, leaving reserves for others, reconnecting with our food and our community, these are things we should be doing because they are the right thing to do…”

She goes on to make this important point: “This is, I think, a deeply powerful way of thinking because it is a deeply moral way of thinking – we would like to think of ourselves as moral people, but we tend to think of moral questions as the obvious ones “should I steal or pay?” “Should I hit or talk?” But the real and most essential moral questions of our lives are the questions we rarely ask of the things we do every day, “Should I eat this?” “Where should I live and how?” “What should I wear?” “How should I keep warm/cool?” We think of these questions as foregone conclusions – I should keep warm X way because that’s the kind of furnace I have, or I should eat this because that’s what’s in the grocery store. (The) Theory of Anyway turns this around, and points out that what we do, the way we live, must pass ethical muster first – we must always ask the question “Is this contributing to the repair of the world, or its destruction.”

These questions are a lot easier to ask and answer if one is not struggling to make a living like the commuters in DC or trying to survive a drought like the farm folk in Happy, Texas. Ultimately, however, we all have to ask and answer for the decisions that we’ve made and the ones we will make for the future. It’s even harder to buy into The Theory of Anyway if we have been spoiled by too much: too much electricity, too much toilet paper, too much gasoline, too many potato chips, too much TV, too much mobility. Even many of the poor in our territory have cell phones, cable TV and cars. For every deep ecologist there’s a T. Boone Pickens. For every proponent of frugality there’s a subscriber to Vanity Fair.

It’s highly likely that those aspiring to vanity, commuters and dust bowl region farmers are going to be facing huge shocks in the coming months or years. Most people are not reading articles like this or this or this.

For most of us it’s too late to ask “Where should I live and how?” In Lummi Island ferry crisis discussions it’s argued that if we lose the ferry the island will only be populated by the wealthy. I would argue that only the wealthy will be able to afford to leave. The rest of us will have to suck it up and get on board with The Theory of Anyway.


  5 Responses to “The Theory of Anyway”

  1. I always find it interesting that every drop of water came to the earth about 4 bil. years ago. It just keeps changing states (frozen > gas), changing how much is fresh or saline, changing where it’s stored (bergs, groundwater, lakes), and changing how we consume it.
    One thing that doesn’t seem to change is how we conserve it; or at least try to put it back where we found it, and in the same condition.
    Our attitude as consumers, whether it be water, oil, minerals, food or helium is the same. Buy it cheap, extract what we want (never mind how little we use of it), and discard the remains in our big trash cans (ocean, atmosphere, land fill, or just along our cities and roads).
    Only a tiny fraction of fresh water on earth is potable, and most of that is locked up in the icecaps and glaciers of the world. We’re even pissing that account down the toilet, going from fresh to seawater in unprecedented quantities due to global warming- gaining zero benefit in the process.
    I’m not at all convinced the human race has the intelligence to reverse course. About the best we can do is to micro-manage our own little piece of the planet, and hope the personal transition is less traumatic than our counterparts around the globe.

  2. I am always amused by the serious environmentalists, who seem to believe our fragile planet Earth will last forever, if we would only protect and preserve the wondrous natural resources we have been blessed with. I personally believe we are doomed. If one has observed the study of black holes, supernovas, exploding solar systems, and/or God. One tends to think there are a finite number of days until it all disappears in a blinding flash. I can understand the satisfaction the environmentalists get from their noble efforts, and am glad it gives them a worthy task to pursue. My wonderful sister Karen, was a “tree-huger”. Unfortunately, The trees are still here, but her ashes are spread on Dale Granger’s beach. I recall her angst over the fact that my wife’s brother used to be a self-employed log truck driver in Oregon. As the logging industry began to decline, he sold his self-loading log truck, and went to work for a gravel & cement company driving a cement powder truck. When I told Karen she could quit fretting about him clear-cutting the forests, she just angrily replied, “Sure. He cut down all the trees, and now he’s paving em over!”

    It is good to protect what we have, but also wise to recognize that it is all coming to an end, and to prepare for it, in whatever way one chooses. Luckily, my ticket to eternity has been validated, and I am just looking for ways to ease the exit. That’s the way I see it, anyway.

  3. I agree Ed, nobody gets out of here alive….I try to follow the sage words of Ed Abbey:

    “One final paragraph of advice: do not burn yourselves out. Be as I am – a reluctant enthusiast….a part-time crusader, a half-hearted fanatic. Save the other half of yourselves and your lives for pleasure and adventure. It is not enough to fight for the land; it is even more important to enjoy it. While you can. While it’s still here. So get out there and hunt and fish and mess around with your friends, ramble out yonder and explore the forests, climb the mountains, bag the peaks, run the rivers, breathe deep of that yet sweet and lucid air, sit quietly for a while and contemplate the precious stillness, the lovely, mysterious, and awesome space. Enjoy yourselves, keep your brain in your head and your head firmly attached to the body, the body active and alive, and I promise you this much; I promise you this one sweet victory over our enemies, over those desk-bound men and women with their hearts in a safe deposit box, and their eyes hypnotized by desk calculators. I promise you this; You will outlive the bastards.”

    — Edward Abbey

  4. Randy,
    Thank you for the link to Deep Ecology – it really resonnated with me. I appreciate the stuff you bring to the table.

  5. Dear Sustaining Friends,
    Seaweed!!! and other wild foods anyway.Seaweed and miso healed the Japanese after you know what…1945…anyway,the Govt of Japan is handing out iodine for the damage radiation does to our thyroid but the traditionalists are eating whole and natural medicine foods. Free and efficient and independent. was cheered to hear a Japanese official on CNN say Japan will rebuild in a more sustainable financial frame and not after the western model of financial success. Out of long term cultural survival comes great wisdom , not always fancy but functional and sustaining, Japan has suffered so much, earth changes,and Nuclear bombs WHY? Maybe it can help others. I for 1 would cherish the friendship and skills of people who know how to survive in situations of minimum basic supplys. Too bad the Wolf school moved off Island. Otherwise there are a lot of primitive skills schools across the country. I went to one in Grangeville Idaho. Many of the Teachers were Veterans, another example of well tested metal

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