Reposted from Ron Legro by Bud Fields
What to make of the following, gargantuan contradiction?
1. As climate change leads to ocean levels tens of feet higher later in this century, and as coastal cities already are estimating the initial costs of saving their shorelines in the tens of billions of dollars per community, the pregnant question is: Who should pay for that? Local citizens in all likelihood won't be able to absorb such costs on their tax base, even in some wealthy cities. Residents will resist relocation and demand to preserve their quality of life. Hello, in all likelihood, federal government, and hello as well to all you inland taxpayers who will foot much of the bill.
2. Meanwhile in Detroit, among 323,900 local water accounts, 150,806 are now in arrears and so the local authorities -- egged on by Michigan Gov. Rick Snyder's unelected bankruptcy machine -- have announced they'll begin shutting off most of those delinquent accounts. Never mind that some of the water-bill debts have been rung up by low-income customers struggling to keep their utilities on, much less cope with other fundamental needs. Who should step in to help these unfortunates? Except for private charities on a small scale, no one has made a commitment. Michigan state government? Apparently it has washed its hands of the matter (excuse the metaphor). The feds? Well, the Obama administration has helped as best it can with Detroit's financial crisis but federal government is still badly constrained by GOP-imposed austerity limits.
So will there be a national commitment to rescuing impoverished Detroit residents at risk of withering from thirst? That commitment would be tiny compared to the likely bill we'll all eventually be asked to pay for saving McMansions on barrier islands and walling off Miami beach, or Manhattan, or New Orleans. But don't hold your breath, especially if you're already under water.
The Detroit case is so out of sync with purported American values that a coalition of that city's social advocacy groups is now appealing to the United Nations to assist city residents in fighting the water shut-offs. Why the UN? Because that international organization has long since laid out a marker on the "human right to safe drinking water and sanitation."
That's right: An international statement of human rights aimed at staving off misery in lesser developed, Third World countries now seems entirely applicable to big, fat, wealthy, powerful America.
The Detroit advocacy groups label the cut-offs a “massive human rights atrocity” and urge both state and federal government to work to develop a sustainable water rate structure. Here's my idea of what's fair: If you're at the poverty line, the rate should be zero. The health of no American -- child, adult or senior -- should be put at risk for lack of affordable, accessible, potable water.
Another example of the disparities emerging in the dystopian US economy: Across Michigan in Benton Harbor, another governor-appointed bankruptcy czar decided to seize a lakeshore park that had been willed to city residents for their free use in perpetuity. Benton Harbor, like Detroit, is predominantly black and very low income, and now the community's one remaining gem -- offering fresh air, exercise and spiritual renewal to everyone at no cost -- will now be developed into a private, high-end golf club serving a few well-heeled people, who won't in many cases be local residents.
America already has walled itself off in terms of class and geography, Now we're going to wall off water. Wealthy people will have all they can drink and swim in, and the best views, protected by everyone else's money. Meanwhile, more and more citizens will find it harder to recreate along beautiful shorelines and in some cases almost as hard to find a drink of water that doesn't come from a pricey, environmentally unwise plastic bottle.
Moral: The seas are rising and ocean shorelines will have to be saved at great cost to benefit, mostly, a wealthy few. But if you're poor or even perhaps middle class, your community's shorelines may be seized to pay the debts of others, and the water that comes out of the taps in your home may be shut off because, hey, H2O is expensive. So go find a drinking fountain somewhere, if you can. Or drink champagne.
Further reading: http://www.detroitnews.com/...