Monday, September 01, 2014

Water, Water Everywhere, But How Much Is Too Much?: The Global Water Crisis – Part II

In 1629 King Charles of England created the province of Carolina in America. In 1710 the province was divided, with the southern segment named South Carolina, and the northern section North Carolina. Since the northern portion was older, it was nicknamed “The Old North State.”

Its current nickname, surprisingly, has remained the same after all these years. With today’s emphasis on the concept of product branding, a nickname that dull doesn’t project an image that competes favorably in this aggressive world.

In today’s digital age, in order to attract corporations to set up factories, create jobs, and in addition attract young talented people, states want to appear cutting-edge, state-of-the-art, innovative. Every state competes on the basis of modernity and technical proficiencies. (Oh yes––subsidies help). They abhor the thought of being viewed as old-fashioned. Old North Carolina? C’mon now! Compounding the problem for North Carolina is the fact that the official state song is also titled “The Old North State.” Written some 180 years ago, the melody sounds more like a dirge, and the lyrics are not exactly scintillating. Imagine singing the state song at a football game, trying to maintain a straight face, reciting after every stanza:
Hurrah! Hurrah! The Old North State forever!
Hurrah! Hurrah! The good Old North State!
The Necessity for Rebranding

It’s true that I am not a citizen of that state (in fact, I think I was there only once many years ago), nevertheless, in a public-spirited attempt to improve its branding potential, I have come up with the perfect replacement song, where the lyrics not only perfectly fit the current state of affairs, they are apparently illustrative of the intellectual level of the body politic. As a plus, the lyrics also contain a nickname for North Carolina that is so germane, it seems custom made.

So what does all of the above have to do with the global water crisis? More than you can imagine. Last month’s column reported that, “The newest IPCC report now predicts a global rise of 2-3 feet by the year 2100, which would threaten the survival of coastal cities and even entire island nations.” One of the states most threatened by this forecast is North Carolina. In fact the US Geological Survey (USGS) reports that sea levels are rising much faster along the coasts of North Carolina and Massachusetts than anywhere else in the world. This could add from 6 to 9 inches to that local forecast of one meter.

In an unusually forward thinking moment back in 1974, the state formed a Coastal Resources Commission (CRC). The CRC establishes policies for the N.C. Coastal Management Program and designates areas of environmental concern, adopts rules and policies for coastal development within those areas, and certifies local land use plans. Apparently it has performed satisfactorily, without interference for 40 years.

By 2012, the CRC had concluded from their own, and outside scientific evidence that the state’s coastal sea level would rise by an average of 3 meters, or 39 inches by the end of this century. A rise of that magnitude would radically reshape North Carolina’s broad, low-lying coast, submerging most of the Outer Banks, moving shorelines miles inland and threatening an estimated 2,000 square miles with flooding and increased damage from ocean storms.

That degree of devastation is almost unthinkable considering the economic and social consequences––hundreds of millions dollars of real estate literally underwater, and hundreds of thousands people who must move to higher ground, minus their homes. Obviously, a report of such consequence would require immediate and robust action. And to give credit to the politicians in The Old North State, that’s exactly what happened, in the form of a rather bizarre piece of legislation.

A Very Unhappy Group

That rather alarming projection did not sit too well with a group of home-builders, realtors, land developers, and lobbyists from 20 of the counties most affected. Forming a committee called 20-C, a statement was issued maintaining the projected one meter rise was “a myth promoted by manmade warming advocates” (Ah yes!, the good old science denier syndrome) and that the cost of accepting the CRC’s estimate could be incalculable.” Actually they were right on both accounts (except for the myth part).

An Aberrant Piece of Legislation

The committee took its objections to the newly Republican dominated legislators in the state House and Senate. Already well greased by political donations from these business groups, politicians were eager to please. As it turned out, the Democratic governor was equally infected and one of the most ludicrous and intellectually dishonest bills that could be contrived was written into law.

Instead of recognizing the existence of the problem and attempting to find ways to mitigate the consequences, the new law decreed that the information provided by the state’s own CRC does not exist, and since it does not exist whatever information it ever contained cannot be used. That’s logical huh! It actually makes it illegal for the state to base any coastal policies such as budgeting, planning, or rule making to use the latest scientific predictions of how much sea levels will rise.

As the public in and outside of North Carolina became aware of the new legislation, it was viewed (by sane observers) as outlawing the existence of climate change, therefore denying sea levels would rise. The new legislation, and as an extension the state, became a laughing stock. Perhaps this new law could be attributed to what might be called the “Harry Potter Syndrome” whereby the legislators now believe in magic––wave a legislative wand and presto, your problem disappears.

Basically, this is how it was described on national TV when Stephen Colbert scorned on his TV program: “If your science gives you a result you don’t like, pass a law saying the result is illegal––problem solved.”

A PR Disaster

This has become a public relations debacle for North Carolina. It’s stature in the community of states, and the reputation of both its political leaders and its populace has declined precipitously. After all, it was the people who voted in the Republican politicians who passed this legislation (as well as voting for the Democrat governor who allowed the bill to become law).

As indicated above, I have taken it upon myself to resurrect the apparent lost honor and prestige of the state by fighting fire with fire. As they say in the advertising world, I intend to make lemonade from a legislative lemon. I suggest that North Carolina ignore the jokes, and the mockery. It must continue to stand up proudly for the principles that climate change and a rise in the sea level do not exist. Then take the bold step of doubling down by initiating the concept of Quantum Jumping. This does not refer to the instantaneous switching between energy levels in the atom that was recently validated in the field of physics.

The Quantum Jump

Quantum Jumping is the latest life-enhancing, mind changing absurdity being peddled by the one billion dollar “life coaching” industry to help victims “maximize their personal and professional potential.” This is a new process by which a person can envision some desired result or state of being that is clearly very different from the existing reality. By mentally observing that possibility and supplying enough energy, hope and desire (prayers anyone?) one can supposedly convince themselves that a leap into that alternate reality is not only possible, but that it has actually been accomplished (pretty weird, right?). However, isn’t that what legislators did with the above sea level legislation? Now these North Carolinian science deniers can do the same by persuading those “manmade climate change advocates” and others that we really live in a multiverse of parallel universes, and all things unscientific are possible.

The New Strategy

As cited at the beginning of this article, to initiate the entry to this alternative reality, my strategy also employs a change in the state song and the state nickname. The song I have in mind not only fits this situation perfectly, it also seems to describe the intellectual level of much of the North Carolina business class, the vast majority of its politicians and at least a portion of its population.

As mentioned above, the current state song was written in 1834, and while the one I have chosen is old by today’s standards, it is still new by comparison. It was written by a remarkably talented and prolific song-writer and musician, Victor Young, in 1941. (He was nominated for 22 Oscars but received one only posthumously.) The song’s popularity is evidenced by the fact that it was recorded by some 15 big bands, and single performers such as, Glen Miller, Tommy Dorsey, Woody Herman, Larry Clinton, Charlie Barnett, Jimmy Lunceford, Nat King Cole, Jo Stafford, The Pied Pipers, Fats Waller, and The King Sisters. (If you’re old enough and remember every one of those names, then you still have all your marbles.)

Here are the first two stanzas of the song I believe should replace the existing state song:
(Ohhhh Whatcha Know Joe)
I Don't Know nothin'
(Whatcha Know Joe)
Tell me somethin'
(Whatcha Know Joe)
Ain't connivin'
Just aint jivin'
I don't know.

(Whatcha know Joe)
Well I don't know Latin
(Whatcha know Joe)
Ain't high-hattin'
(Whatcha Know Joe)
I aint foolin'
I need schoolin'
I don't know.
The rest of the lyrics are just as relevant. Just picture the members of the 20-C Commission opening each of their meeting sessions, singing that song as their anthem. One more very critical and important addition to the formula described above is the augmentation of the state’s current nickname. I mentioned earlier that the new catchword would be found in the song itself. Consider this: NORTH CAROLINA: THE KNOW NOTHING STATE.

So there you have it, a new strategy, a new state song, a new nickname, all of which is certain to confirm North Carolina’s standing as it relates to the degree of honor and respect it actually deserves.

Of course that might change with a new, let’s say less conservative group of legislators who are not followers of an ideological alternative reality.

Do I think that is possible? Hey Joe, I Just Don’t Know!


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