Blue is the new green

It’s kind of hard to think much about water at a time of year when it’s mainly lying around frozen on the ground, or has to be scraped off the windshield. When there isn’t much precipitation in winter, you tend not to notice. (They notice these things at the Golden Snowball.) But as a designer (tired of bamboo products) said in the NYT recently:

Environmentalism 2.0 is all about the planet and water. Those are blue images. We’re not saying green is going away — it’s just going to be a subset of blue. And also there are negative connotations to green — all that greenwashing. I think the word has lost a lot of its meaning.

Now that we’ve received the official blessing of the trendoids, let’s continue with the water discussion…
This week at SU (Thursday the 31st) there is Focus the Nation, a daylong series of seminars on climate change. There’s a seminar on water issues at 11 a.m. in 115 Tolley.

Salon recently published a story suggesting that water-deprived Americans should consider moving to where the water is — the Great Lakes states. (Phil at Racing in the Street has already posted about the same story; see also the letters in response to the story.) The story, while defending the integrity of the Great Lakes ecosystem, doesn’t take a long view of the human element (er, stupidity) and why massive diversionary public works are seen as great projects in the first place. Even though the United States doesn’t have a history of using monumental government-sponsored building projects as an integral part of nationalism and social control, as they do in China, it’s not exactly science fiction to imagine a future where “jobs, jobs, jobs” as a political mantra trumps the environment on a grand scale, and that includes Canada too. (You don’t even need a huge pipeline — a few thousand trucks will do just as well.)

New York needs to be having the kind of discussions about water diversion that Michigan is now deeply embroiled in; but that would open its own can of worms when it comes to Upstate-Downstate relations. I’ve come to think that the best way to answer the conundrum of “Where does Upstate begin?” is to simply look at the New York City water supply. Not that NYC is draining the state dry, but climate change might someday produce more complications to the long-standing arrangements.

Everyone is falling in love with the Great Lakes, it appears. While GL states are considering the Great Lakes Compact more urgently, suddenly the once-neglected Great Lakes are being seen as a national treasure. I know this is supposed to be good news, but the cynical side of me wonders just what America’s Congressmen have in mind when they call for presidential candidates to support lake restoration:

[Michigan Rep. Paul Ryan] said he believes the region’s representatives will fight and win the effort to reprioritize spending. The next federal election, when we will choose a president, may also prove to be a motivator. In the election just past the Midwest flexed its political muscle, Davis said. “Five of the dozen or so swing states in the country have what in common? The Great Lakes.” What better way to invest in a 2008 political race than to make sure the region’s needs are funded now, he said.

Water seeks its own level, but will conform to any sort of vessel that future politicians want to put it in. Who’s going to use this vast natural political resource first?