Monday, February 19 , 2018, 10:28 am | Fair 53º


Randy Alcorn: Like Approving Development in the Middle of a Drought, Terminal Greed Is All Around Us

Anyone with even a modicum of common sense has questioned the wisdom of building new housing and commercial space in the midst of an epic drought.

The huge complex going up on Hollister Avenue across from Camino Real Marketplace in Goleta is perhaps the most obvious example of irrational behavior, but certainly not the only one. There are numerous smaller-scale development projects scattered throughout the Santa Barbara area, with more on the way.

There is a disquieting incongruity in watching new trees and shrubs being planted in these new developments while existing trees, lawns and gardens are dead or dying from thirst. There is a reflexive anger and anxiety in watching water being generously sprayed at these construction sites to keep the dust down while cars go unwashed and toilets go unflushed.

In a rational world, a historically severe drought of unpredictable duration would preclude any new demands on water. There would be a sensible building moratorium. But, then, common sense is as common as green lawns in California, and certainly rarely if ever prevails against shortsighted greed.

Economic interests are almost always given more attention and deference than the common good — with which they are often duplicitously conflated. It is money that matters in the U.S.A., and in the case at hand, developers want the profit, the trades want the jobs and governments want the increased tax base.

Let tomorrow take care of tomorrow, baby needs new shoes today.

This attitude that demands immediate economic gratification in spite of predictable deleterious consequences is simply fascinating to observe. Whenever restrictions are proposed to prevent the exhaustion of resources by economic activity, the affected parties vehemently protest.

The next paycheck is more important than the future of the resource providing that paycheck. Never mind that when the last fish is netted, the last tree is cut down or the last well goes dry there will be no more paychecks for anyone involved. That inevitable conclusion seems to escape those closest to it.

While the plight of threatened fishermen, lumberjacks, coal miners, et al is understandable, the reality is that there are sometimes limits to economic activity that once exceeded can result in irreversible consequences that not only ultimately eliminate someone’s job but also endanger the general population as well as future generations.

How much pollution can be pumped into the air and water before quality of life or life itself is jeopardized? People deriving a paycheck from dirty energy can only shrug or deny the problem exists while resisting efforts to mitigate it, and undermining cleaner alternatives.

Maybe these folks take an actuarial approach figuring that they will die before the worst of the consequences hit. Meanwhile, they are making money and nothing is more important than that.

While it is easier to criticize corporate greed than it is workers who want to keep their jobs, anyone who insists on continuing destructive economic activity for personal gain is guilty of selfish greed.

Because someone has a family to support does not excuse damaging the environment that everyone depends on. If there is a cleaner energy source than coal, it should be used rather than we keep burning coal because coal miners have families to support.

Senate Majority Leader Mitch McConnell, R-Ky., fights tooth and nail to defeat most any measure that interferes with the coal industry. But he is no better or worse than any elected official who puts the economic interests of constituents or clients ahead of the common good.

There is plenty of that in all halls of government — including our local ones that keep approving new building during a devastating drought.

The human species is programmed for survival, but the irony is that the economic human species is focused on immediate, individual survival rather than species survival. If this were not true, how could people, especially those with children, continue to engage in and promote economic activity that jeopardizes the future of the human species, including that of their own progeny?

Much of the denial of manmade climate change comes from people who have a vested interest in those economic activities that cause climate change. Among them are big corporations like ExxonMobil, whose own research concluded years ago that burning carbon fuels significantly contributes to atmospheric warming. Nevertheless, like the tobacco industry before it, Exxon kept the ugly truth from the public.

Some people find the prospect of manmade climate change too disturbing, and allow themselves to be convinced that it is a hoax. They reject all the scientific data and the conclusions of nearly all the world’s scientists that manmade climate change is real. These adamant deniers of climate change are like people of faith who hold beliefs for which there is not a shred of valid supporting evidence.

Faith that something is true or is not true can be very comforting when the truth is not. The uncomfortable truth is that there are limits to life-sustaining resources, and unchecked human greed that disregards those limits can be terminal.

— Randy Alcorn is a Santa Barbara political observer. Contact him at .(JavaScript must be enabled to view this email address), or click here to read previous columns. The opinions expressed are his own.

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