inkwell.vue.255 : Jacques Leslie, "Deep Water"
permalink #76 of 86: Cynthia Dyer-Bennet (cdb) Thu 6 Oct 05 12:41

> the chief byproduct of desalination plants is brine, which is dumped
>  in the ocean. To be sure, that can cause environmental damage ...

So we still have a ways to go before we could go full bore with
dasalinization plants, I gather. I can see that combining the extracted salt
with treated sewage would help, but salt water does not naturally run into
our oceans, so even the salted sewage would make some sort of difference,
environmentally, seems to me.

Everything we do to try to rectify a past environmental problem that 
mankind has created comes with a new problem. Rushing into a new 
solution without fully understanding its ramifications is risky, isn't
it? And though it'd commonly be another environmental problem, it might be
something else. For example...

> What would make sense in promoting water efficiency would be to
> price water at something approaching its real cost of delivery to 
> farmers.

I agree that efficiency in water usage is a good goal. I fear that raising
the cost of water to farmers would have another effect beyond the one
you offer, Jacques. That's because Business will always take advantage
of any opportunity to raise prices to the consumer. If the price of a 
gallon of water goes up, yes, agribusiness will try to reduce water
consumption. But it will also see an opportunity to charge more for its
end product.

Right now, the consumer ultimately foots the bill (via taxes) for the 
excessive water usage in farming. Even if agribiz was able to reduce 
water consumption so much that the water bill was the same after 
the price hike as before, the consumer would still end up paying more 
for the foodstuffs agribiz sells because it'll *claim* rising water
costs as a reason for its price hike to consumers. 

The consumers' taxes won't go down when water subsidies are removed;
the money that had gone to subsidies will simply go into another
pork barrel. Our consumer food costs will go up, so we're in worse
shape than before.

So... Jacques... are we totally hosed or what? Do you see a way to resolve
this so we don't just keep creating New! Improved! problems for ourselves?
inkwell.vue.255 : Jacques Leslie, "Deep Water"
permalink #77 of 86: Jacques Leslie (jacques) Thu 6 Oct 05 13:02
#76 With regard to salt, there was actually a time millions of years ago
when the oceans were filled with freshwater. What has made them salty is
none other than rivers, carrying salt from all the salt-laden terrain their
waters move through-- so in a sense, salt water does flow into the oceans.
True, the quantities of salt  that rivers carry at any one time are small.

In any case, the main problem with desalination isn't brine, but rather the
high amount of energy required to make desal plants work. This is what makes
desal expensive. The price, however, has dropped significantly as the
technology is developed, and there's reason to be confident that it will
drop much more. It is much less environmentally harmful than dams.

As for agricultural prices, given the high degree of competitiveness in the
food industry, from abroad as well as domestically, I don't think this is a
major concern. Rather, pricing water at its true cost would force producers
away from water-guzzling products (such as cattle and  cotton) and into
crops that are more appropriate for a given locale. By not charging
agricultural producers what water is worth, we encourage growing of
crops that exacerbate water supply problems, until finally, those crops
can't be grown at all.
inkwell.vue.255 : Jacques Leslie, "Deep Water"
permalink #78 of 86: Rip Van Winkle (keta) Fri 7 Oct 05 06:44
Re 74 - I'm one who hasn't had a chance to read the book, so that is
why I haven't discussed character.  But maybe I still can.  I love
McPhee, and many things I "know" are tied to the characters and the
telling of his books.  A story I never tire of retelling is the one
about the rural agricultural agent who was explaining how 5% of farmers
are early adopters of new ideas, 20% watch the 5%, and so on, down to
the last 5% who never adopt.  McPhee asks what happens to them, and the
agent says, "Oh, they're the most important ones.  They keep the old
knowledge, and when something goes wrong with the new thing, we go back
to them to figure out what to do now."

I think the value of a book written around characters is that it
allows the 20% to watch the 5%.  With a book such as <phabib>
describes, yes, I may get the information faster, but since it is not
tied to a role model I can recognize, there's a big piece of
truth/utility valuation still missing.  

So related to your book, and the characters, one thing I've been
mulling recently is how fearful people are of ever admitting they've
made mistakes.  Since you have people in the book who apparently are
actually changing their minds, evolving their views, can you say
something about how they deal with fallability.  Everywhere (and is it
really everywhere, or mainly in the US?) mistakes seem to be something
people cover up or distance themselves from, or try to affix blame,
instead of letting mistakes be a natural part of finding the way
through complexity.  Do the three in your book ever find themselves to
be wrong, and what do they do?
inkwell.vue.255 : Jacques Leslie, "Deep Water"
permalink #79 of 86: Jacques Leslie (jacques) Fri 7 Oct 05 08:17
    <scribbled by jacques Fri 7 Oct 05 08:18>
inkwell.vue.255 : Jacques Leslie, "Deep Water"
permalink #80 of 86: Jacques Leslie (jacques) Fri 7 Oct 05 08:19
I left out some key words in #79, so will try again:

 Actually, I don't think my three main characters are stunning in this
 regard. Medha speaks largely in  a kind of political rhetoric that doesn't
 allow for her to have made mistakes. Don acknowledges mistakes, but they're
 usually made by predecessors in his position, such as the planners at Swan
 Hill who built a salt disposal basin without winning the support of the
 farmers who lived in its vicinity, and ended up lacking the political
 support to use the facility-- Don said he learned from that. Appropriately
 enough, the person with the most interesting relationship to admitting
 is the man in the middle, Ted the anthropologist, who conducted a kind of
 eternal internal dialogue about whether dams are a good technology and
 whether he was right to have believed in them. This conflict was at what I
 describe as the core of his quest, to find one good dam.
inkwell.vue.255 : Jacques Leslie, "Deep Water"
permalink #81 of 86: Berliner (captward) Fri 7 Oct 05 09:48
Tangential to the subject at hand, but also in response to <phabib>'s
post, I am not able to read certain kinds of books, particularly hard
science and philosophy. However, when ideas from these fields are
embedded in narrative, something which I not only relate to  but do for
a living whenever I get the chance, I find them completely palatable.
Hence my high regard for McPhee and the like. 
inkwell.vue.255 : Jacques Leslie, "Deep Water"
permalink #82 of 86: Philippe Habib (phabib) Fri 7 Oct 05 10:37
I felt like Ted the anthropologist was pretty much pro-dam but
couldn't really admit it because his self image and sense of worth was
in being an unbiased academic rather than a developer.

He spent his career working to make dams happen in the best way
possible, not to stop them.  He has yet to find a project he doesn't
like and he blames all shortcomings on bad implementation rather than a
flawed basic concept of building dams in the first place.
inkwell.vue.255 : Jacques Leslie, "Deep Water"
permalink #83 of 86: Cynthia Dyer-Bennet (cdb) Fri 7 Oct 05 12:21

This has been a rich and rewarding conversation and I want to thank Jacques
Leslie for joining us to talk about the difficult issues he explores so
thoroughly in his book, "Deep Water." I also offer my thanks to Ted
Newcomb for being such a fine, attentive and thoughtful moderator. 

It's hard to believe that two weeks have passed since this topic began,
and though our virtual spotlight has turned to a new discussion, that
doesn't mean things have to come to a halt here. The topic will remain
open for comment indefinitely, so please feel free to continue if you
can. If you can't, thanks for being here, and good luck with your next
project, Jacques.
inkwell.vue.255 : Jacques Leslie, "Deep Water"
permalink #84 of 86: It's a new sun to me (nukem777) Fri 7 Oct 05 12:31
Jacques, thank you for your time during a hectic schedule. This has
been great. I appreciate all your efforts in helping us understand the
complexities of the many issues involved. Your candor is refreshing.
All  the best with your back and upcoming projects.
inkwell.vue.255 : Jacques Leslie, "Deep Water"
permalink #85 of 86: Jacques Leslie (jacques) Fri 7 Oct 05 13:18
Thank you, Cynthia and Ted, for making this happen. This has been both
challenging and enjoyable for me, and I'd be happy to keep it going
indefinitely. I won't always be able to respond to postings right away-- for
one thing, I face spine surgery on November 7, and for another, I hope to be
involved in a new magazine/book project once I recover-- but I'll certainly
keep coming back as time permits.

And thank you, too, to everyone who has posted questions-- they've shown me
both your concerns and some of the gaps in my knowledge, and that's all to
the good.
inkwell.vue.255 : Jacques Leslie, "Deep Water"
permalink #86 of 86: Jacques Leslie (jacques) Tue 5 Dec 06 21:59
Just a note that to mark the publication of DEEP WATER as a Picador
paperback, I'll be doing two more readings in the Bay Area:

Thursday, December 7 at 7:30 p.m.: Modern Times Bookstore, 888 Valencia St.,
San Francisco.

Tuesday, December 12 at 7 p.m.: Book Passage, 51 Tamal Vista Blvd., Corte

The Book Passage event will be taped by ForaTV and made available on the
ForaTV website.

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