In a moment of candor, an official of the Alumni Association or U of I Foundation or other money-raising activity of the Univsersity of Illinois told me that soliciting people like me — nonrich people — barely repaid the effort. We were solicited, persistently, so we'd give something and the "Development" people could record that gift and add it to their statistics and appeal to serious potential donors with "Hey" (or the equivalent in rich-people's speech), "89.37% of alums have contributed, so don't you want to do your part?!" Also, getting us to contribute small amounts early on in life kept or got us "invested" in the Big U, which would be of use to the solicitors if they hit us up later on, when we might have made some money.
Something like that is going on in California where our Governor, Jerry Brown, is asking — with increasing intensity — ordinary folk to
We in California do need water discipline. In a surprise best-seller, Brian Fagan looks at The Great Warming of about 900-1500 C.E., with the arresting subtitle Climate Change and the Rise and Fall of Civilizations.
Viking and more generally Nordic and European people did rather well
the last time Earth warmed up; peoples in water-sensitive areas —
including what is now the US Southwest — often did not come through
well, if at all.
Which is why out here arguments on the
causes of climate change and the details of proper responses can seem
weirdly pedantic and perversely political.
immediately, without debate, we ought to be taking the more obvious
actions on all levels, including individuals: doing things we should be
Given that future generations might want petroleum and maybe some coal for what are significantly called "petrochemicals," we should be leaving a fair amount in the ground and not, for God's sake, burning it.
Given that beef is good and good for you — the film operation I
work on is looking for money from ranchers ... — but Americans should
reduce beef and pork consumption on health grounds, we would do well to
go over to more chicken and fish to reduce methane release, a greenhouse gas.
And for the last part — personal conservation of water — a story.
I had Legg-Perthes
disease as a child: bone death in the ball and, in my case, socket of
the hip. I recovered completely by sophomore year in high school, but I
still found it of karmic appropriateness that I got through adolescence
and young adulthood with no broken bones beyond one finger and a couple
of toes. Anyway, I had never worn a cast until one time well into
adulthood I slipped on black ice while jogging and got myself a carpal navicular
fracture and wore a cast for three months. The cast removed, I went
into high-rehab mode squeezing balls — and was back at my internist's
office very quickly thinking I'd sprained every ligament and tendon in
My doctor checked me out and said my hand was fine
but that I should start with the big ball (a tennis ball) and work my
way to the little ball of Silly Putty. He reminded me that I hadn't used
that hand in three months and that the pain was normal and, indeed —
"If you weren't feeling pain I'd have you at the hospital for
neurological tests. ... Didn't the orthopedist explain that to you?" I
told him the orthopedist had said, "There may be some discomfort," and
my GP replied, "Ah! Doctor talk. You layfolk would say, 'There will be pain.'"
And we got to talking of other things, one of which is relevant
here. I told the doctor that I was happy to be showering again
regularly, though I'd gotten proficient at sponge baths and had received
no complaints on body odor. He said that spong-bathing was good — it
turned out to be a crucial skill for when I broke my foot and that took a
year to heal — he said it was good I'd learned about alternatives to
showers since, "Americans bathe too much."
My doctor was
convinced that we showered and bathed more than was good for our skin
and that this would become an increasing issue as I aged and — strongly
relevantly here — as the US population aged.
It won't make
up for much of the water wasted on golf courses or sloppily used in
agriculture, but Californians to start with can start adjusting to
long-term drought with learning to take more sponge baths; and rich
Californians (et al.) can cut back on demands for private swimming
We should be cutting back there already, and if we
ordinary folk start conserving, the Governor can go to the heavy-users
of water and say, "Hey," or the proper agri-biz form, "89.37% of your
human-individual fellow citizens have cut back even on showers; so it's
time to do your part." And we ordinary folk will have "investments" in
water conservation — and maybe laying off the lamb and beef and pork — to support conservation by important people.