Who Wastes Water?

Due to droughts, residents in places like California and Australia are constantly exhorted to save water. The thing is, many residents already do. People with low-flow shower heads who’re not washing cars or watering gardens can’t get much thriftier. Any major savings must come from farmers, since agribusiness sucks up 80% of the wet stuff used annually (households maybe 10%, estimates vary).

We say “farmer”, but they are actually corporations. Most owners of farmland do absolutely zero farming (if Iowa is any indicator). Typically, it’s white tenants and Mexican field workers who do the work. Corporations merely call the shots, deciding what to plant, what chemicals to use, and who to lobby for favors.

Typically, it’s white tenants and Mexican field workers who do the work. Corporations merely call the shots, deciding what to plant, what chemicals to use, and who to lobby for favors.

The rest of society could move agribusiness toward conservation of the planet’s lifeblood. We could:

  1. pass a law, ordering them to use less—the political approach, like ordering car manufacturers to raise MPG;
  2. use public dollars to fund R&D and to subsidize growers who use water-saving technologies and techniques;
  3. Or, we could use economic justice.

Why Share Nature

Water—and the rest of nature—is necessary for life. If we have a right to keep living, we have a right to breathe air, drink water, and live on land. Obviously. Yet when we exercise our right, we necessarily exclude everyone else. You take a drink, and that water is no longer available for anyone else to sip.

That’s no problem when land, water, and air are plentiful. But prime land is getting crowded, water in some places is getting scarce, and air is getting contaminated. So how do we share nature? We compensate each other. When people pay for what they take, they take less. And that which they take they use sparingly.

That’s no problem when land, water, and air are plentiful. But prime land is getting crowded, water in some places is getting scarce, and air is getting contaminated. So how do we share nature? We compensate each other. When people pay for what they take, they take less. And that which they take, they use sparingly.

Historically, when landowners in Denmark, California, Australia, New Zealand, and Taiwan had to pay their community some rent, then they reduced their holdings and sold off their excess to their tenants. Society enjoyed land reform without one drop of blood shed. Plus, when society shifted from large landed estates to family farms, agricultural miracles were created in all those places. California, for example, earned the moniker of “breadbasket of the world” once large landowners had to start paying for their ownership of land—funds went to construct the irrigation system at the end of the 19th century.

Presently, most places do not charge rent for land or water (or air, via pollution fees—yet). Not having to pay for what they take, the more grasping among us take more than they need. You can tell because they don’t occupy or work on what they take but lease it out to tenants instead. So the ownership of land and water has gotten hugely concentrated.

Present Policy is a Problem

Instead of charge the water-takers the going rate, many places subsidize them. In the US, both left and right target the corporate welfare for agribusiness; those corporations even get tax dollars for not farming. Most states exempt their purchases of chemicals—fertilizers and poisons—from the sales tax (actually, all purchases should be exempted). It’s socialism for the landed, yet they call themselves conservative!

The government’s revenue policy toward agribusiness does “work”. Applying chemicals and keeping animals penned up in cruel conditions does get results—greater output—but probably short-term results. Plus, while the quantity of food is greater, the quality of food is lower—less nutritional value. And chickens and cows catch more disease, so farmers give them more drugs; downstream human health suffers. An apt analogy for a factory farms is a person taking “speed”, getting a boost, then “crashing”.

In California and the American West, landowners have gotten so used to taking water meant for all living things, at so far below market value, that now they feel entitled to such favoritism. They call themselves conservative but what do they conserve?

Present policy has spoiled the product and the producer. In California and the American West, landowners have gotten so used to taking water meant for all living things, at so far below market value, that now they feel entitled to such favoritism. They call themselves conservative but what do they conserve?

Harms by Farms

Many farm owners are not only not environmental, but are anti-environmental. They’ve sucked up so much water that the surface is collapsing, measured in feet not inches. Their runoff pollution deadens a lot of downstream land and water. Their spraying contaminates the organic growers. They’re not exactly good neighbors.

These farmers and agribusinessman see land as a tit to squeeze, not as a breast to caress. They express the same mindset of those who drove many species to extinction without batting an eye (never mind driving natives off their land).

Some day, farmers, the rest of society, and future generations will have some hefty bills to pay to Mother Nature. Unless we geonomize (use natural law).

How to Shelter and Share Nature

Not too many decades ago, all food was organic. It could be again. Just get rid of counterproductive taxes and subsidies. And make those responsible, liable for the consequences of their actions. That’d improve our food, our health, and heal our ecosystems.

Plus, make all landowners pay rent. We’d pay our society for the nature we take, then society’s agent—government—would pay us members of society an equal share of the collected payments. We’d get a dividend from the region’s rental value, a value swollen dramatically by the region’s main city. Then watch agribusiness once again become wholesome family farms. The farmers who’d want to leave the land to their children in better shape than how they found it would plant trees and conserve water in other sustainable ways.

And make water users pay full value for the water they take. No more free rides, so no more water shortages during droughts. Drip irrigation, watering when the sun is not high in the sky, reusing recycled water—farmers would become matriots (lovers of Mother Earth vs. patriots, lovers of the Fatherland). Using natural resources sparingly would become so ingrained, it’d be second nature for both rural growers and urban residents.

And make water users pay the full annual value of the water they take. No more free rides, so no more water shortages during droughts. Drip irrigation, watering when the sun is not high in the sky, reusing recycled water—farmers would become matriots (lovers of Mother Earth vs. patriots, lovers of the Fatherland). Using natural resources sparingly would become so ingrained, it’d be second nature for both rural growers and urban residents. No longer would we hear farming corporations demand an unfair amount of water, or public agencies plead with us to go without. We could enjoy the music of rain, waterfalls, and fountains instead.

© Text Copyright Jeffery J. Smith rights reserved.
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