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Belmont Club

Rainbow Slick

February 23rd, 2014 - 3:11 pm

It wasn’t the Revenge of the Creature. But at the minimum it seemed like the Revenge of Creation.  The Spectator describes the scene where Prince Charles steps gingerly off a rigid rubber boat to inspect an area in Britain recently devastated by floods and a reporter aks him “whether he blamed the Environment Agency. Judiciously, he replied, ‘You may well think that — I couldn’t possibly comment.’ Later, having spoken to several of those intimately involved in this crisis, he hinted rather more plainly at his own view by saying, ‘The tragedy is that nothing happened for so long.’”  The Spectator continues:

With the third flood disaster to hit the Somerset Levels in three years, the Environment Agency has been horribly caught out by a catastrophe largely of its own making. As local experts have been trying to point out since last year’s flood (and as some hammered home to the Environment Secretary, Owen Paterson, when he recently made an emergency visit to Somerset), the unprecedented scale of this mess is not just due to nature. It is a disaster that has resulted from a deliberate policy followed by the Environment Agency since, 18 years ago, it was given overall responsibility for river management and flood defences throughout England….

The key to the Somerset Levels lies in its rivers, kept dredged to provide all that water pumped off the land with an escape route down to the sea. From the moment the Environment Agency took over, however, it began to neglect its responsibility for keeping those rivers clear. From 2000 onwards, under the leadership of a Labour peeress, Baroness Young of Old Scone, this reluctance to dredge and to maintain the pumping stations became a deliberate ideology, designed to give priority to the interests of ‘habitat’ and ‘biodiversity’ over those of protecting the Levels as farmland. Lady Young is famously said to have remarked that she wanted to see ‘a limpet mine attached to every pumping station’.

The undredged rivers gradually become clogged with silt, drastically reducing their ability to take floodwater away. The Somerset farmers and engineers who run the local ‘drainage boards’, responsible for cleaning the ditches or ‘rhynes’, also found that the Environment Agency was forever on their backs, imposing every kind of restriction on what needed to be done; such as how they could dispose of the resulting silt and vegetation, now classified as rigorously ‘controlled waste’.

The floods were apparently not only inevitable, but foreseeable. The chief problem to preventing them lay in a policy which maintained that active flood control was bad. Nature treats humans as part of the natural world but environmentalists treat nature as part of the political world. Many a misunderstanding arises therefrom. Alas the rains and the seasons refuse to read Labor Party and Green Left manifestos and the results are often inconvenient. And so the floods came.

The indifference of the natural world to politics was highlighted in Tom Clancy’s 1998 novel Rainbox Six. In that book, it is the jungle which destroys the radical environmentalists after they fail to wipe out the human race.  The Wikipedia plot summary gives the key details:

radical eco-terrorists from a biotechnology firm called the Horizon Corporation … plan to launch a sophisticated bioweapon attack intended to wipe out the majority of the human race. …

Their plans destroyed, the eco-terrorists retreat to their refuge deep in the Brazilian rain forest, hoping to negotiate a deal to return to the United States. Clark, knowing that they may never be put on trial, tracks down the Brazilian hideout and deploys Rainbow to the location. After Rainbow defeats the eco-terrorists’ militia force and destroys their facility and supplies, Clark has the survivors stripped naked and left to die, taunting them to “reconnect with nature.” When no survivors resurface in nearby towns, one agent notes that although people try to preserve nature, nature is not known for returning the favor.

Habitability in the face of nature’s variance has historically been obtained by paying the cost. The natural state of things is primitive man sitting out in the rain and so would remain without the constant application of ceaseless labor to keep the heater going and roofs sound overhead. The Green ideology argues that humanity is better off submitting to nature, using less energy towards maintaining habitability that in the past. This was the position of the chairman of the British Environment Agency, Lord Smith,  who essentially argued a retreat from an area had been settled from “Roman times” was in order.

He indicated that people living in flood plains were responsible for deciding to live in places susceptible to flooding.

“Anyone who builds in a flood plain, anyone who buys property in a flood plain, needs to think about the flood risk that that property faces,” Lord Smith told the BBC. “When planning applications come in for this sort of building we are a statutory consultee, but we are not the statutory planning authority.”

Ian Liddell-Grainger, the Conservative MP for Bridgwater and West Somerset, said: “We have always lived here, we have never had a problem like this.

“It is the abject failure of the governance at the Environment Agency which has left me in the position where I’m standing in between a massive, multi-million pound operation to save the houses that we have been building here since Roman times.

But at least Smith had the choice clear in his head, a choice which the public has not grasped because politicians have long tried to hide its unpalatable implications. Smith understood that Green meant accepting floods. And floods mean you can’t live where people have lived from Roman times. The “simpler life” that Green policies promise require the public to make more allowances for the fury of nature.  It means less mobility, smaller design margins, more restrictive zoning, more expensive waste handling, and a lower “standard of living”. In general it means doing with less and living more dangerously.

You can live as Green as you like if you don’t mind sitting out in the rain. But people like their lattes, titanium bicycles and Ipads and really don’t want to hear about what things cost in terms of convenience.

The drought which has recently devasated California’s Central Valley offer even more stark choices. The fruit and vegetable production of the US is really endangered. But so are the smelt. Both sides of the public debate blame man for the drought. NPR quotes farmers who blame the water shortage on misguided environmentalists which have favored river smelt over farmers while the Los Angeles Times cites no less than Barack Obama who points the finger at anthropogenic Global Warming. In each case, “somebody” did it the only question is who? The Democrats or the Republicans?

The BBC notes the political similarity between the UK floods and the California drought. In both cases the public is asking  ’how come the bear that tried to eat me wasn’t as friendly as Ben was to Grizzly Adams?’  Why is nature not the sweet idyllic place humming with classical music I see on the television specials?

While the East Coast is buried in snow and the UK is battling record flooding, California is in the midst of a historic drought. Last year it rained less than it had in any previous year since the state’s founding in 1850. Rivers are flowing at record low levels, reservoirs are drier than ever, and the mountain snowpack – snow that melts over the coming months and provides water throughout the year – is only 20% of expected levels.

The issue is causing concern not just in California but across the country, which depends on the state’s agricultural bounty. It also threatens the jobs of thousands of farm workers who will have neither fields to plough nor fruit to pick.

Republican lawmakers in Congress have proposed rolling back several environmental regulations and undoing years of negotiation over water issues in an effort to end what they are calling a “man-made drought”.

The successes of technology have accustomed the public to believe that government can control the environment. That we can “choose” this or that. But if nature has a mind — dynamics — of its own; and man can only adapt to natural forces to a limited extent, then whatever Barack Obama says about ‘making the oceans fall’ we can only try to survive.  Nature is a complex system whose actions we can’t even predict. All that technology and the best engineering has bought us from the dawn of the human race is a chance to show up tomorrow.

Top Rated Comments   
Rainbox Six got me to thinking about how tough human beings really were. One of the stock situations in the old movie serials was an encounter between the hero and a homicidal gorilla guarding the tunnels beneath some ancient castle. Usually our hero wins with the aid of a knife. But according to various websites, there is no way he could win without; gorillas are six to ten times stronger than a strong man. One site took the view that no man had a chance of going up hand to hand with a gorilla without an equalizer.

And yet it seemed to me that our ancestors could and did match up against gorillas and worse. Not only would they manage to cover 98 miles to Manaus through the Amazon in their underwear, they could keep going until eventually they settled the whole river basin! Prehistoric man and gorillas might have been more evenly matched than you would think. The caveman is commonly portrayed as dumb. But he was probably tremendously skilled, perhaps a better Parkour runner than the best alive today, a better rock climber than all but the most elite, and a better martial artist than all but a few. That and an applied mechanic, herbalist and engineer. The difference between them and us was the kind skillset and technology. They knew a lot that we've forgotten.

It is quite astonishing to realize what a high art melee fighting was. The whole business of swordsmanship involved a tremendous development in biomechanics and martial arts. Perhaps the distinction between "technological man" and "pre-technological man" is a false one. Humanity has used technology to survive for tens of thousands of years. It must be the case that humans had the technology to traverse 85 miles of jungle with ease and dispose of any jaguars, anacondas and poisonous insects they encountered along the way.

The interesting thing about the Green movement is that they pose the choice between "simple" and "complex", "gentle" and "aggressive" when these dichotomies may have never have existed in the long history of the human race.
8 weeks ago
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After the first immigrants wandered over the land bridge from Siberia to Alaska and carried on down the coast to California, they had about 10,000 years to establish themselves and fill the environmental niche. When the evil Hispanic European immigrants eventually came north to California, the population of prior immigrants was about 250,000. That was all California could support with true "Green" stone-age technology.

Although the proud age of the Golden State is now lost in the past, the population of California is still over 100 times what it could support in pre-Spanish times. Which brings us to the big Green questions:
-- Who are the 1% who will be allowed to continue to live in California (in stone-age poverty)?
-- And who are the 99% who will simply have to cease to exist in accordance with the Prime Directive of Greenery?
-- Do we get to vote which list alGore will be on?
8 weeks ago
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Baroness Young of Old Scone

Really? Is there a Young Prince of Fresh Danish? I guess the English have a tradition of high class twit that goes beyond anything in the states, of course we do what we can with Algore and John F. Ketchup, but sometimes I feel things in the colonies just can't compare.

8 weeks ago
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All Comments   (91)
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California could do with a lesson from Israel which recently gained water independence without much fanfare. The way they do it is to clean up the water from their cities and send it to their farms. Then they massively desalinate ocean water from the Mediterranean at some of the cheapest prices in the world. (Singapore companies may do the job more inexpensively.)
http://www.haaretz.com/news/national/1.570374

The way to solve many of the water problems of the American southwest is to skim the top ten feet off the Mississippi River when it floods from March to June. Pump that water to two destinations. The first is to Nebraska, Kansas Oklahoma and Texas and somehow recharge the ogallala aquifer. The second part of that water would be piped across southern wyoming to the south pass to flow into the colorado river basin. There would be enough water there to quickly fill up lake powell and lake mead before going on to create several more big lakes in the southwest...
8 weeks ago
8 weeks ago Link To Comment
I wondered if there was a path to pump water across the continental divide like that, and if it would be cheaper to do so than to desalinate stuff closer to home. My first impressions were that the desalination probably is cheaper, take less energy, pumping 500 flat miles being about the equivalent, since even Lake Mead water still has to be pumped to Los Angeles. OTOH it might be worth doing both.
8 weeks ago
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Well, you're actually solving two problems by skimming off 10 feet of water from the miissippi at flood levels. The first is the Missippi flooding. Only second is the new water for the southwest.

As it is FEMA spends a several billion on clean up every year for missippi flooding and the corps of engineers spends a coupble billion annually on dikes. so if you spend that money on pipes rather than clean up and dikes --its money better spent.
8 weeks ago
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How about if California quits watering the stupid smelt first.
8 weeks ago
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However, since 2008, two technological revolutions – both of which also have far-reaching political implications - have radically altered the water situation in Israel.

The first revolution is the immense decrease in the cost of desalination - from $1 per cubic meter to 40 cents, and even less than that in desalination plants built in Hadera, Palmahim, Ashkelon and at Sorek. The savings will grow further thanks to the use of Israeli natural gas instead of electricity to power the plants. The second revolution is the success of the plants used to purify sewage water that were built adjacent to Israel’s cities and towns. Thanks to efficient usage, this water now irrigates most of the country’s field crops. http://www.haaretz.com/news/national/1.570374
8 weeks ago
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40 cents a cubic meter works out to be about $493@acre foot. An Israeli company helping to build the Posiden plant in San Diego. That plant has been been handcuffed by environmentalists for 16 years. 16 years that plant has been in the planning stage. Only now is it slated to begin construction with completion dates to be somewhere in 2016. Current estimates with cost over runs for desalinized water from the Posiden plant hover in the 2000@ acre foot range.http://www.livescience.com/43531-carlsbad-desalination-plant-scrutiny.html
8 weeks ago
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Sounds like the poor farmers in the California valleys when the Feds shut the water off to 100 of thousands of farm families to divert it to delta smelt in a river delta. Humans at all levels are the last and not interesting responsibility of governments every where it appears. All humans in general are good for is to pay for our lords desires which does of course does not include them...
8 weeks ago
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We have what may be an entire inch of rain now heading towards Los Angeles with an ETA of Friday, and it has become the lead item now in the local news.

Where is the desal? Coming soon. If we can find the cash after paying cops $150,000 a year to retire, not to mention corrupt city managers hitting the same fund for $400k or more, not even counting the ones convicted of looting even more. Maybe we can now divert Governor Moonbeam's attention from the doomed bullet train to desal. Even some of the greenies are OK with it, if done carefully enough. And it won't be cheap, and it wasn't even possible (at these prices) fifteen years ago. Even Obambus *could* jump on this, if he weren't such a dork.

uddy arson said: (semi-shot)

So what was that, a shotgun blast that took a few minutes to take the driver down? Maybe the cop could have backed off and put one in the truck's gas tanks.

gb said: Hugh Glass, in 1823

When I was a kid in school I loved that mountain man stuff. Ah, to have a frontier! It's almost inconceivable today, to run around thousands of square miles without cell service.
8 weeks ago
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Test
8 weeks ago
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The Brit disease has already spread to this side of the Atlantic. Green infestation in the Army Corps of Engineers is blamed on their poor response to the flooding of the Missouri River in 2011. Of course everyone (other than those flooded) denied there was a problem. Appears they did not use the flood control infrastructure in a timely manner due to green considerations. Cheers -

http://www.eenews.net/stories/1059957003
8 weeks ago
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As a third generation Californian with a son and nieces and nephews representing the fourth I have only one question. Where are there nuclear power /desalination plants? Oh yeah, we blew our seed money on other stuff. We can blow our money on fairy-dust schemes of high-speed rail, green and biotech unproven technologies, and scores of half-baked liberal feel good schemes, but spend money on needed infrastructure like a serious power and desalination effort? Nah, that would make too much sense.
8 weeks ago
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"Plus we have LAPD that will put 150 shots into a pickup truck carrying two women and the morning papers, if the pickup truck almost fits the description of a suspect's. And still barely wing the passengers. Yes, things have changed since 1986, but I guess are still not ideal."
itellu3times

At the opposite end of the spectrum is this unbelievable shot at a full run to bring a madman in a Semi to a stop.
This 3 minute video outdoes Hollywood for car chasing action, burning wood spilling all over the freeway, on and on. Quiet entertaining!
http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=P-5pPEq7O4k
8 weeks ago
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Talk of Clancy's book (read it years ago, a good one) and what our ancestors could do reminded me of 40 year old mountain man Hugh Glass, in 1823...

"The story of Hugh Glass ranks as one of the most remarkable stories of survival in American history. So much so, that Hugh Glass became a legend in his own time.
Little is actually known about Glass. It was said that he was a former pirate who gave up his life at sea to travel to the West as a scout and fur trapper. Exactly when is unknown. He is believed to have been born in Philadelphia around 1783.
He had already been in the Western wilderness for several years when he signed on for an expedition up the Missouri River in 1823 with the company of William Ashley and Andrew Henry. The expedition used long-boats similar to those used by Lewis and Clark 19 years earlier to ascend the Missouri as far as the Grand River near present-day Mobridge, SD. There Glass along with a small group of men led by Henry started overland toward Yellowstone.
At a point about 12 miles south of Lemmon, SD, now marked by a small monument, Glass surprised a grizzly bear and her two cubs while scouting for the party. He was away from the rest of the group at the time and the grizzly attacked him before he could fire his rifle. Using only his knife and bare hands, Glass wrestled the full-grown bear to the ground and killed it, but in the process he was badly mauled and bitten.
His companions, hearing his screams, arrived on the scene to see a bloody and badly maimed Glass barely alive and the bear lying on top of him. They shot the bear [in the] head and uncovered Glass's mangled body. They bandaged his wounds the best they could and waited for him to die. The party was in a hurry to get to Yellowstone, so Henry asked for volunteers to stay until Glass was dead and then bury him. John Fitzgerald and Jim Bridger agreed and immediately began digging the grave.

But after three days Glass was still alive when Fitzgerald and Bridger began to panic as a band of hostile Indians was seen approaching. The two men picked up Glass's rifle, knife and other equipment and dumped him into the open grave. They threw a bearskin over him and shoveled in a thin layer of dirt and leaves, leaving Glass for dead.
But Glass did not die. After an unknown time, he regained consciousness to a very grim situation. He was alone and unarmed in hostile Indian territory. He had a broken leg and his wounds were festering. His scalp was almost torn away and the flesh on his back had been ripped away so that his rib bones were exposed. The nearest help was 200 miles away at Ft. Kiowa. His only protection was the bearskin hide.
Glass set his own broken leg and on September 9, 1823, began crawling south overland toward the Cheyenne River about 100 miles away. Fever and infection took their toll and frequently rendered him unconscious. Once he passed out and awoke to discover a huge grizzly standing over him. According to the legend, the animal licked his maggot-infested wounds. This may have saved Glass from further infection and death. Glass survived mostly on wild berries and roots. On one occasion he was able to drive two wolves from a downed bison calf and eat the raw meat.
According to Glass's own account he was driven by revenge. He told others that the only thing that kept him going was the thought of killing the men who had left him for dead."

He made it and for the rest of the story see; http://www.rosyinn.com/more005.html
8 weeks ago
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Hey, Hollywood retreads, here is a story for a film if there ever was one.
8 weeks ago
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Until the left-for-dead part, I was sure it was the inspiration for Jeremiah Johnson. That movie and My Side of the Mountain have always had a special place in my psyche.
8 weeks ago
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With the environment, as with politics in general, and far too often too many other areas, we are missing a sense of proportion. There is no tolerance of dissent and any attempt at discussion is treated as dissent by the true believers. Unfortunately, their response, of name-calling horror at my refusal to accept their every pronouncement, usually elicits in me exactly the same response to them. Thus we go along, talking at each other, past each other, and about each other, and never communicate anything but rancor. Of course, the fact is that I am right and those idiots are totally, forever, and indelibly wrong. Can I get an "Amen"?
8 weeks ago
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There is not necessarily a zero-sum game when it comes to the battle between "environmentalists" -- of whom, in a limited sense, I suppose I am one, in spite of the fact that I find such people extremely irritating! -- and the more normal part of the population. Here in Napa Valley, where I've lived for thirty-four years, we've had some serious floods, one utterly catastrophic, in the last four decades. But an alliance -- often a contentious one -- between the Army Corps of Engineers and the local group calling itself Friends of the Napa River, successfully got a flood control regime in place which actually works, and which has improved conditions for local wildlife, especially for birds. (As an example, when I first arrived here I never saw the Marsh Wren in a long section of riverbank south of town; now when I walk there on spring days I encounter hundreds of them.)

As to the drought, two weekends ago on the mountain I live on (Mt. George, where my neighbor's property boasts an official N.O.A.A. weather station) we got ten inches of rain in 72 hours -- half a season's worth. Nearby Mt Tam got twenty inches in the same period. More rain is on the way this week; we may emerge (at least locally) from this drought in not-too-bad shape, we'll see.


Jamie Irons
8 weeks ago
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