Coming conflicts over resource depletion

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People are already choosing sides for the coming conflicts over resources that could be shared more equitably if people were wiser, less profligate, and less afraid of each other.


We live in interesting times, don’t we? So many cans that our ancestors threw on the road can’t go any further, and the chickens come home to roost. Apparently, suddenly, we are faced with a multi-predrug stacking: supply chains are breaking in the wake of a global pandemic (which, itself, has been exacerbated by political divisions, emergency preparedness funding cuts and people encroaching too far into the natural world), the growing effects of climate change, depletion of natural resources, pollution, debt, rising energy costs and long-simmering social issues are turning our world into a barrel of powder. The seeds of conflict to come are visible as society cracks and cracks, people taking sides, vying for position in order to prevail as violence predictably erupts when there is no longer enough to go around at the current rate of use.

Consider two recent examples.

The American Southwest is experiencing a long-lasting drought, climate change is making it worse, and there is a serious lack of water. One wonders how long people can even live there in the coming decades. As it stands, Southern California water districts are urging residents to cut spending. However, when the Municipal Water District of Las Vergines held a virtual town hall announcing new restrictions limit water consumption to around 80 gallons a day (and one day of outdoor watering) in this incredibly wealthy enclave, residents worried about exemptions for their koi ponds.

While the average statewide water consumption in California is 91 gallons per day, residents of Las Vergines consume an average of 193 gallons per day, filling those precious ponds, washing cars, filling their swimming pools and watering lawns that may have cost thousands of dollars to install in what is, understandably, a desert. Meanwhile, in California’s Central Valley, the wells are drying up and people have no water coming out of their taps at all. Not for drinking, not for washing.

In the coming disputes over water use in the thirsty desert, make no mistake: on the whole, the wealthiest pull out all the stops to make sure their fancy goldfish can drink before the poor humans. Will they feel bad about it, or will they just assume it’s their due, especially if they’re wealthy enough to ignore the fines or penalties associated with wasting an abundance of water when in others deprive themselves of it? What will they do when they finally realize that no amount of money can evoke water that does not exist?

It’s one thing to be rich and somehow still not have the right to fill your pool, but when the effects of our converging problems are felt on all levels (and more heavily on those less able to afford it), future conflict can and will become deadly. Consider the recent mass shooting at Tops grocery store in Buffalo, NY. However pasta copy the screed displayed by the shooter was, one thing is clear. He was motivated by the “great replacement theory” of the right wing.

If you’re unfamiliar with this theory (more of a hypothesis, actually) and don’t tune in regularly to hear Tucker Carlson using it to warm up the MAGA base, it goes like this: Democrats import ” chain migrants” (presumably from “shitty country”) to be more docile voters who will align themselves even more readily than authoritarian conservatives, and cross paths with “American heritages” (i.e., of course, white people) in order to stay in power. Good patriots are therefore forced to support certain conservative policies (such as rolling back Roe vs. Wadefor example, to increase domestic supply white babies) and, perhaps, even start a race war, to preserve the pale hegemony. Or so it’s fine.

Mainstream news sites have collapsed to debunk the replacement hypothesis, and rightly so. However, what they largely fail to address is how plausible this all seems to a large number of Americans, who know that something is wrong, that they are not doing as well as they or their parents, they are stressed and living from salary to salary. It is not difficult to notice that American demographics really change (with 4 in 10 identifying as a race other than white in the 2020 census) and as previously disempowered groups such as women, LGBT+ and BIPOC Americans increasingly gain a seat at the table . that he is so closely correlated with the depletion of resources and the precarious existence of workers seals the deal. “Be careful, mate”, as the cartoon says. “This stranger wants your cookie!”

Public domain image courtesy of rawpixel.com. CC0

An idea doesn’t have to be factually true for people to believe it. If enough people base their identities on this “replacement theory,” future conflicts will divide us by race as well as wealth. Poor Americans are likely to compete for relatively higher positions than the people around them (let the devil take over!) and bond with the social identity “team” they believe to be the most likely to have their backs, the actual truth will matter less than security and their ability to access resources.

One last thought. In the game of musical chairs of resource depletion, future conflict is a collective choice, not the only option. While much of the wealth of upper-class Americans is on paper, some, like land, is not. Distributing less ephemeral wealth more equitably would make more resources available, especially if we reorient our way of life to make it easier to use them wisely. So would the realization that the world is changing and that we are all in the same boat: all races, all identities, all creeds. We all need water, we all want to be safe. We have more in common than we think. We just have to act accordingly and fight what divides us and impoverishes us rather than fighting for the crumbs.

Related: Carrying capacity still matters today

Sources:

Human encroachment on nature will cause more pandemics, warns UN

New climate maps show a transformed United States

And my koi pond? Wealthy LA enclave faces water restrictions

Once-a-week lawn watering and $2,000 fines: Southern Californians brace for water restrictions as drought worsens

California enacted groundwater legislation 7 years ago. But the wells keep drying up – and the threat spreads

Let’s talk about when the rich meet climate change….

The energy/food crisis is much worse than most Americans think

The white replacement is MAGA’s unified field theory

The racist ‘replacement’ plot is underpinned by a genuine scarcity of resources

Nation is diversifying even faster than expected, new census data shows

Let’s talk about an unusually honest message….

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