I found this Newsweek article that ties up some various stories I have been reading over the last couple of years. The Sita, Alaska opener didn't surprise me much. At the peak of the extreme drought in the Southeast last year, Georgia and other state governments were making noises about transporting water from the Great Lakes to their neck of the woods. States bordering the Lakes raised quite a howl. The point towards the end concerning the inelasticity of water demand is quite accurate and parallels the discussion we have been having here as our local utility has tried to raise the electric rates. The company claims that the increase will only amount to about 10% and they haven't been allowed a rate increase in the past decade. But consumer groups challenge that charging that the increase may be as much a 30% for the lower income consumer who doesn't qualify for the discounted prices of the bulk user. Do we really want predatory capitalism to rule our water resources?
And we should be asking that question rather urgently if the scenario presented in this MSNBC article is accurate in its predictions If you think that the prediction is merely extreme environmental scare tactics from a lunatic fringe, compare the first map projecting drought conditions between 2030 and 2039 with the last map showing the conditions for the last decade. We catch the news on a South Bend station every Saturday morning, when our normal stations carry fishing shows or infomercials, and they have been reporting dry conditions there that are threatening the corn crop. I have read reports from Kentucky which say that a large proportion of counties there are either 'dry' or in stage 1 and 2 drought. Some local areas have put water use restrictions in place. Some areas west of us got enough rain in the first three weeks of September that they exceeded the yearly average but October has been drier than normal. And our area got very little of that rain. I grew up in the area and I can't remember any time in my childhood when local officials urged people to conserve water as I have several times over the last decade.
As I started reading this article my skepticism meter was pegged at the high end. I read a lot of articles and blogs about economizing and simplifying. I have never been impressed with 'either/or' solutions and my first question at the beginning was 'does this really have to be framed as either I penny pinch or I concentrate on the big things issue?' Well, the author finally got to the notion of a middle path that advocates both but I thought it was a half-hearted, johnny-come-lately inclusion. The article was very unsatisfying in a number of ways. The penny pinching segment totally ignored the fact that, as we have found out here, cheap isn't always our friend. Cheap is no bargain when the quality of the product makes it unusable to any significant extent, makes it break or wear out long before a more expensive item, or requires double or triple the more expensive product to achieve the same end. Just to illustrate--we used to buy the cheapest dish soap available. It was one-third the price of the name brands. But we found that we were using three times as much (or more) to get the job done. That was no bargain and we went back to name brands on sale. Cheap, in this case, is not our friend. We have become much more discriminating in what buy and price is only one of the factors we consider. We haven't let the big things go either. After two years of unemployment (for me) we sold my car for scrap. It required far more maintenance that we could afford and it was the least reliable of the two we had. We held on to it on the expectation that I would need it when I got a new job. Once we recognized that that was a slim if not a when, it wasn't hard to economize. The point I have taken a long time getting to is that people need to realistically look at where their money goes and then decide if they need to make that expenditure and whether a cheaper item is as good for their purposes as a more expensive item. Unfortunately, our society has brainwashed us to the point that we no longer recognize what we need versus what we want and we assume that 'cheap is always our friend.' Most of us would be far more solvent if we break those two habits of thought.
I am back. We did our grocery shopping late this week because of our other chores. We decided to go to Target because our local Target just opened its 'fresh produce section' and expanded grocery. I would say that the reality did not live up to anticipation but we didn't really anticipate much. They did not add on to the store so the only way to expand the grocery section was to limit other areas. They don't have much to draw us in. We go there primarily for cat food--the canned Friskies is the cheapest in the area--and health and beauty--toothpaste etc. The bananas are $.30 cheaper than any others we have seen but they were also the greenest. Overall, few choices and many of the items we wanted just were not there. We think Target is catering to singles and couples who don't cook.