Thursday, March 1, 2012

#61 / Philosophy Makes A Difference

I tend to approach issues from a “philosophical” perspective. We live, most immediately, in a world we construct ourselves, and our public policy, or “political,” decisions play a major role in determining what that world looks like. “Planning,” from this philosophical perspective, is our community effort to define what it is we would like to achieve. If we have good plans, and then follow them, we should come pretty close to creating the kind of world we’d like to live in. Of course, theory and practice often diverge, and it’s easier to talk about “utopia” than to achieve it.

Thinking about water, from my “philosophical” perspective, there really isn’t any problem until we run into scarcity. Once there isn’t enough water to do everything we’d like to do, we have to begin doing some planning in earnest. We are definitely there!

One approach I call “manufacturing water.” The desalination process is exactly that, and manufacturing our way out of scarcity has a long history of success. There is, however, a different approach, which is to “live within the limits” of our natural systems. This could be called an “ecological” or “environmental” approach, and has also worked well for human societies in the past.

To my mind, we’re facing some big decisions here in the Monterey Bay Region (and in the City of Santa Cruz). These are “political” decisions, and the philosophical choices involved are really at the root of the matter.

The pictures illustrate the "manufacturing" option, and an option in which we decide to conform our human development activities to the water resources found in the natural environment.

To learn more about desal, visit the Santa Cruz - Soquel Creek Water District Desalination Project website. To get an appreciation of the "non-desal" option, visit the City's Loch Lomond Reservoir, pictured above.

1 comment:

  1. There are many more alternatives to desalination than Loch Lomand Reservoir!

    See for a full explanation of alternatives means of providing sufficient water for Santa Cruz and Soquel without desalination.

    Philosophically, taking the desal route ties our future water supply to an energy hungry technology with an uncertain future dependent on increasingly scarce fossil fuels.

    A more resilient approach is learn about natural water availability, and control our population and economic growth to live within these limits. All other species live within natural cycles of resource availability. Humans attempt to weasel out from under these restrictions at our own peril.


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