2012-09-23

We Can Do This

We can do this. We can "go blue" just as we learned to "go green" (or at least embrace the concept of going green). Being responsibly blue is actually considerably simpler and easier than being responsibly green. "Green" involves a never-ending wrestling with how much we're willing to sacrifice to reduce our ecological footprint for the sake of making a miniscule difference to the planet -- meanwhile atmospheric CO2 levels continue to rise. "Blue" involves some clearly do-able steps -- in a context in which per capita water usage rates are already dropping.

We can stop watering our lawns.
"Florida households - especially those with automatic irrigation systems, which are increasingly common - use up to 75 percent of their water outdoors." (New York Times, 2007)
Yesterday's Lake Chalice quoted Cynthia Barnet saying, "more than half of all home water use in the United States goes to greening lawns and gardens." Barnett was citing a 2003 EPA study. The EPA's web site today ("last updated 2012 Feb 8") indicates household outdoor water use has declined: "Nationally, outdoor water use accounts for 30 percent of household use." It wouldn't be hard for Florida to do as well as the national average -- after all, it's the dry Western states that normally expend the higher percentages of household water on their lawns and gardens. A little bit of urgency, which hasn't quite taken hold yet in Florida, can go a long way.

We can stop flushing so much away. Half of all water treated to meet federal EPA standards for drinking goes down the toilet. The average person flushes five times a day. That’s water that doesn’t need to meet drinking water standards, and we can get lower-flush toilets, and we can learn to flush only when it’s more necessary.

US golf courses used 2.1 billion gallons a day in 2006. Especially down in southwest Florida, golf is huge. In a 2002, report the Florida Department of Environmental Protection projected that by 2020 farmers will no longer be the biggest water users in southwest Florida – golf courses there will be using more. (Barnett 40). But in the 10 years since then, a lot of golf courses have started finding ways to use a lot less water. Strains of grass that aren’t quite as green take a lot less water and bounce golf balls just as well. Golf courses can choose to irrigate less and use recycled water when they do.

This is all pretty do-able.

Of course, some people will get the blue ethic as they got the green ethic, and others won’t. Some of us will start to pay attention to what we’re doing more or less on our own, and others won’t. Pricing tends to get attention when other appeals won’t. Charge more per gallon after a certain minimum per household, then add progressively steeper surcharges for excessive water consumption. Charge more per gallon during peak demand periods of the day, and during seasons when conservation is especially needed. Water is now priced well below what it is truly costing us and our earth. With extra water revenues we can replace and repair leaky water infrastructures, retrofit houses with low-flow plumbing fixtures, and subsidize xeriscaping.

The lesson that water has always been offering us – the lesson that is now ecologically more important than ever – is: pay attention to the flow. Use mindfully, and we’ll naturally use less. Some real estate developers will ignore the call to a more caring, careful, and care-ful relation with aqueous reality. They are like Don Quixote and will likely continue to pour their energy into maintaining a delusion -- in their case, the delusion of unrestricted growth.

When the inner life is dry, we’re more prone to fall into practices that dry up our outer world. We won’t change those developers – we can only change ourselves, and maybe get a majority to elect more water-mindful leaders.

Notice the flow – within and without. Notice the resistances, within and without, that direct the flow. When the heart is a smoothly flowing river, we can help the outer literal rivers flow more smoothly and copiously. And, in a positive feedback loop, when the water flows more freely in the outer world, so do our hearts flow more freely. Cynthia Barnett wrote:
“From coast to coast, Americans have lost touch with their water. In California, the San Joaquin River no longer makes it to San Francisco Bay. In Florida, children no longer swim in Crystal Springs because of a water-bottling operation. This loss has consequences far beyond stress of aesthetics. It is a matter, as Theodore Roosevelt foretold, of our national heartiness, our fitness and vitality as a society.... Draining the water drained Florida’s cultural identity, and it is no exaggeration to say, the spirit of its people.” (Barnett 191, 189)
This is all reversible. The spirit returns to the people when our hearts water our world with mindfulness. The living tradition we share draws on sources that include instruction to live in harmony with the rhythms of nature: connect better with ourselves, and with our planet as ourselves. We can do this.

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This is part 4 of 5 of "All Dried Up"

Previous: Part 3: "Mind the Flow"
Beginning: Part 1: "Flow Like Water"