29 Apr 2008

Rivers in Danger

Yubanet reprints an article of rivers in danger. (Note that many rivers -- Colorado, San Joaquin, Los Angeles -- are already desecrated. Can they be restored?) The article makes a common, but bogus claim:
Without a major change in direction in public policy, the river that provides drinking water for millions of people, pumps tens of millions of dollars into local economies, and is directly responsible for thousands of jobs could be irreparably damaged; and the communities that depend on it will suffer.
The "jobs at risk" argument is often heard and almost never true. Imagine the worst-case scenario: Someone who actually makes their living on the river (as opposed to selling rafting supplies used on many rivers). If that river were to dry up, he would lose his job, but that does not mean he's unemployed forever. He just has to get a new job. People lose their jobs all the time -- factories close, owners die, lawsuits are lost, competition destroys, technology advances, and -- sometimes -- water is sold from the community and goes elsewhere. In all of these cases (including the last, infamous "third party impact"), the solution is not to try to stop change or guarantee jobs, but to work on helping people get new jobs, start their own businesses, etc. I am not talking supply side, trickle down BS here, but legitimate programs to help people.

Notice that most "save those jobs" rhetoric ends up helping special companies stay in business (e.g., Alitalia). Most of that money ends up going to shareholders and bosses, who are claiming to be "helping" workers -- Baptists and Bootleggers all over again.

Bottom Line: Rivers are valuable, bu they are no excuse to "save" jobs. Jobs are not sacred, people are.


  1. This strikes me as an excellent point in a first world country. In a third world country where there isn't alternative irrigation, fishing, job sources the degredation of the river is a real problem. The loss of jobs is real there. Not just a matter of re-allocating resources.

    I can't say that I disagree with your statement that very often the "loss of jobs" argument is selfserving to the corporation making the argument. However, if we were to make the same - oh the water will be elsewhere. Sell river supplies for someone to use on another river is a limited world view to say the least. If we apply that to every river this argument has been made we wouldn't have much water or rivers left.

    Or isn't that the point of the problems we're beginning to face world wide.

  2. I'm not quite sure I understand your comment. If you are saying that rivers are an important resource for many people, I agree with you. (Note my comment on "desecrated rivers".)

    What I am saying is that some people claim that *they* represent the highest and best use of river water when often they are not. For more, do a keyword search on bootleggers OR Colorado to read more of what I think on these hijackers of public concern and mismanaged rivers, respectively.

    In developing countries, the biggest problems with rivers is that few people who depend on them (farmers, fishermen, cities) have rights -- and their governments divert the rivers into bog/corrupt projects that do not benefit the masses (Three Gorges, damming the Mekong, etc.)


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