Taking a break part 3

The future of water in Australia

The US journalist, novelist and historian Jon Talton has been reporting on the impacts of gross over-development, corruption and right wing obsessions in the state of Arizona for many years.

In particular he has highlighted the creation of heat banks by massive suburban development; the destruction of trees, historic buildings and waterways; and, most importantly – the failures of water policy.

In one of his recent columns he looks at one example of what is happening and provides a guide to Australia’s likely future unless massive policy changes are made.

“Pinal County was home to about 63,000 people, most working in agriculture. Florence, the county seat, had a population of about 2,100, Casa Grande, another compact desert town on the SP, held 8,300, Eloy 4,900, and the remote crossroads of Maricopa a few hundred. Even then, Pinal County had a water problem. It was almost exclusively dependent on pumping groundwater. Coolidge Dam in neighbouring Gila County wasn’t enough for Pinal County’s water needs even in 1960,” he said.

“Fast forward to today. Pinal County holds an astonishing 447,000 people — more than the city of Phoenix in 1960. ….. This once-rural, once-distant county has become a Phoenix bedroom community — except the passenger trains are long gone. And, contrary to one of the key goals of the Central Arizona Project and Arizona Groundwater Management Act of 1980, it’s still dependent on pumping from ever-diminishing aquifers.”

He then quotes a presentation by Arizona Department of Water Resources Director Tom Buschatzke: “Pinal is one of the ‘active management areas’ under Arizona’s groundwater law, where new subdivisions are required to have what officials deem to be an ‘assured water supply’ for 100 years. The state’s updated groundwater model for Pinal found that there isn’t enough water to meet all the projected demands, even though the state had previously issued initial analyses for dozens of planned subdivisions indicating they would likely have a 100-year-supply…

“Looking out 100 years, there is insufficient groundwater in the Pinal active management area to support all existing uses and issued assured water supply determinations.”

It has got so bad that subsidence is a constant problem, sometimes swallowing houses.

Perhaps before we start assuming – “It can’t happen here” – we should remember that the last common usage of the term was as the title of an Upton Sinclair satiric novel which sought to show it not only can but was happening.

Punching below their weight

The British have always been proud of punching above their weight in military terms – one of the myths which have made Brexit more attractive. Now they seem to be punching below their weight thanks to the efforts of Capita the outsourcing company known in Britain as Crapita.

Private Eye reports that data released by the Ministry of Defence under freedom of information laws shows the number of soldiers in the British army’s infantry regiments has declined steadily over the past five years. There are more than 2,500 fewer personnel in frontline units than 2015, and all 16 regular regiments have shortfalls.

The figures have prompted criticism of the outsourcing company Capita, which signed a contract with the MoD to manage recruitment to the armed forces in 2012, for its “shambolic and chaotic” handling of the situation. There have also been calls for the defence secretary, Ben Wallace, to address the crisis urgently.

Publicly available data published quarterly by the MoD shows a 7.6% deficit in personnel across the army on 1 January 2019, but the figure masks a more dramatic shortfall in frontline troops. A striking example of the advantages of the outsourcing our own Australian governments are enamoured with.

Testing times

A British historian, Joanna Paul, from University of Sussex decided to test out the Live in the UK test for British citizenship and wrote about the experience in History Today (October 2019).

She uses as an example of what’s wrong with the test two questions: A) Elizabeth I handled Parliament very badly during her reign and B) Elizabeth I had very good relations with Parliament.

“As a senior lecturer on Early Modern History, who has published on this topic, I honestly have no idea what the answer to this question is, though I suspect a book-length answer”, she said.

Now as a citizen Dr Paul can afford to be considered on the question but, if you are an immigrant, you need to know the ‘answer’.

The other questions were just as bad when they weren’t jingoistic and eternally optimistic. The latter exemplified by the question on the Great Depression which was which “major new industries developed” in that time.

John Howard’s question about Donald Bradman’s batting average was positively clear cut compared with the British questions, although even the Howard questions weren’t quite as predicated on a framing about a ‘long and illustrious history’ which tries to demonstrate the country’s place in the world by ‘means of a selective understanding of the past.”

But the test is probably as good an explanation as any about how Brexit came about.

The US Green New Deal – before and after

A great example of how partisan perspectives shape opinion has been reported by George Mason University 4C climate change group by looking at US attitude to the Green New Deal (GND) being pushed by Democrat progressives.

4C undertook two nationally representative surveys of registered US voters that measured familiarity with and support for the GND shortly before and after the issue entered the national spotlight.

“Initially, there was low public awareness of the GND but majority support for it across party lines. Four months later, voters had become much more familiar with the GND and partisan polarization had increased significantly due to a sharp decrease in support among Republicans. In fact, Republicans who had heard the most about the GND were the least likely to support it,” they said.

“In contrast, support for the GND remained high among Democrats, and did not vary substantially across degrees of familiarity. We also identify a likely mechanism: a ‘Fox News effect’. That is, among Republicans, Fox News viewing was a significant predictor of both familiarity with the GND and opposition to it, even when controlling for alternative explanations.

“But as Americans heard more about the Green New Deal over the next four months, political polarization increased. Support among conservative Republicans decreased sharply from 57% to 32%, and by April 2019, Republicans who had heard the most about the Green New Deal were the least likely to support it. “

This raised the question of what Republicans were hearing about the Green New Deal and from where.

“Between December and April, the Green New Deal was discussed frequently on conservative media. For example, in the week prior to the March 26 Senate vote on the Green New Deal resolution, Fox News covered the Green New Deal more than did CNN and MSNBC combined.

“The study found that Republicans who are frequent Fox News watchers were more aware and less supportive of the Green New Deal, compared with Republicans who watch Fox News less frequently. Further analyses found that Republicans’ frequency of viewing Fox News was a significant (negative) predictor of their support for the Green New Deal, even when controlling for alternative explanations such as education, age, mainstream news exposure, 2016 voter status, attitude toward socialism, and political ideology.”

One wouldn’t go wrong betting that similar findings would be identified from surveying News Corp readers’ attitudes to climate change, religious ‘discrimination’ and similar issues.