Thursday, January 26, 2006

Go Figure, it Gets Hot in the Desert!

Let's think about this, what are the two most important ingredients in human life? Did you say alcohol and cigarettes? Maybe for some, but the obvious answer for most of us is air and water. We simply could not exist without abundant clean air and fresh water. So why is it that the fastest growing area in our great nation is a place that has neither, the vast wasteland known as the Desert Southwest? Maybe I'm wrong, but I don't think people are supposed to live in the desert. That's why it's called a "desert" -- it is meant to be "deserted". If it were a "dessert", I'd live there too. But it isn't. Maybe that is where Americans go wrong, vocabulary is not exactly our forte, ain't that right Mr. President?

I came across an article recently published in Las Vegas City Life that discusses a plan by the Nevada State Public Utilities Commission to raise the minimum allowable temperature at which the power company can shut off your electricity (for failure to pay your bill) from 105 degrees to 110 degrees. Says Carol Marin, Nevada Power's executive of customer care, "Our concern is that there are so many days in the summer in Las Vegas when the temperature falls between 105 and 110 degrees. Customers do get pretty big bills in the summer compared to other months, and they have a harder time making their payments. If they don't make any payments during those summer months, we don't really have the opportunity to help remind them that they need to make payments by cutting off their power."

WTF? Did she just say with a straight face that they need to cut people's power when it's 109 degrees as a "reminder" that they need to pay their bills? Look, I'm not sure what the limit is in New York State, but I doubt that they're cold-hearted enough to turn off someone's heat if it's below freezing here. I hope I'm right about that. Nevertheless the point is, what the hell are people doing moving to places like Las Vegas, Tucson, and Phoenix? It is a crime against humanity every time these locales approve the construction of thousands of new homes and their associated Wal-Marts and Bed Bath & Beyonds, when they cannot promise their new residents even the most basic of human necessities.

Take a look at aerial imagery of the sprawling Las Vegas suburbs. Only the wealthiest residents have grassy lawns and only the wealthiest of municipalities have grassy parkland. Regular working-class families are deliberately flocking to a place where their children have no choice but to play in dirt, rock, or sand. Of course, that only matters on days when the air is actually clean enough for them to be outside. This is America for God's sake, not Sub-Saharan Africa! What's next for them? Malaria? Ebola?? Sally Struthers???

I can only assume that if this development continues unabated, desertification will spread throughout the West and over the Rockies into the eastern half of the continent. Is the comfortability of the fools that chose to live in the desert fair-trade for destroying America's heartland and crippling our agricultural output? Is their comfortability worth building enormous pipelines to divert our fresh Great Lakes water to them, thereby harming ages-old ecosystems and shoreline communities? Absolutely not. It is time for the Federal Government to take a stand and demand a stop to development in the desert until technology allows for such development to be sustainable. If a guy from Syracuse can invent air conditioning, surely someone from Vegas can figure out how to make water out of sand.