To the editor:
Einstein once said “A measure of insanity is to keep doing the same thing and expect a different result.” If two people jump of a cliff and both die, is it reasonable for a third person to think he can jump off the same cliff and walk away? Einstein doesn’t think so!California is one of those who jumped off a cliff. They either ignored, or didn’t bother to figure out, how many people and how much agriculture their water supply could support.
Doing the calculation now is a little too late. A drought was enough to make the result of their miscalculation a reality sooner than later.Adelaide, Australia has also jumped off the same cliff. Many years ago scientists plotted a line across Australia. South of this line the climate would not support agriculture. Over 100 years ago the climate of the Okanagan Valley would not support agriculture and looked like the hills around us. Bunch cactus and tumbleweed.In Adelaide they solved the problem by irrigating the land from the only river they had. The same thing was done in the Okanagan where our only water supply is the run-off from local area mountains.Adelaide developed vast areas into huge farms as did the Okanagan Valley with smaller farms. Because the city of Adelaide kept growing and the water supply stayed the same, the area farmers gradually had their water allotments reduced down to as low as 10-15 per cent of their water license. The agriculture industry is now gone in that area of Australia.
National Geographic did an in depth feature on Adelaide and its surroundings. Pictures of nothing as far as the eye could see except barren, dry ground prone to dust storms. A tourist village that once surrounded a lake now encircles a dry mud hole. Their river no longer reaches the sea. One inventive rancher switched from hundreds of acres of rice to growing cactus. Is that what lies ahead for the Okanagan Valley? Growing cactus? Einstein believes so.Our society limits the amount of people in almost endless ways. Elevators, hotels, restaurants, entertainment buildings, cars. The list is endless. These limits are for weight restrictions, availability, fire regulations, safety and many more reasons. If a hotel is full it is full. Please come back another time when there is a room available.For some reason, humans have not used the same reasoning to limit populations in areas that have only a certain amount of water.
Unlike hotels, municipal governments don’t say we’re sorry that we are full but please come back when there is a house for sale that you can buy. Instead, we just slap up more houses and build more infrastructure to support new houses. This means more water is needed for the new residents in the new housing project and more money is needed to expand the capability of the services these new residents will use. The only winners, really, are those who build the various forms of accommodation.For a new resident to buy an existing house and renovate it to their requirements is much more desirable than the environmental footprint of a new house. When new residents move into existing houses the water use stays the same. However, building materials and often new appliances are part of the renovation just as for new buildings. Construction money and jobs still exist but are used in a different way. I had a home renovation business for 15 years and that industry is much larger than most people realize. I always had more work than I could handle.
California and Adelaide jumped off the proverbial cliff and the result is obvious. Is the Okanagan going to jump off that same cliff, or instead, change our thinking about how we do things.California’s problem came to a head because of a drought. With climate change, it is possible for us to be hit with a drought. The way the valley exists right now, if a drought were to happen we could be in the same boat as California fairly quickly now and not just sometime in the future..Einstein, who has a reputation for being a reasonably intelligent fellow, believes that if the Okanagan Valley and especially Kelowna changes the way we do things we will have a much different result than either California or Adelaide, Australia.
Mother Nature says this is how much water you have. Figure out how many people that amount of water will support given the amount of agriculture that exists in the valley. Choose not to do so and you will pay the price. No question.Next Saturday is when you can help make Kelowna the leader in this valley when it comes to limiting our population. Inform yourself about the candidates for city council. Find those who agree with Albert Einstein. Elect them and do your part to save Kelowna and this valley from the fate being endured by California and Adelaide. It is up to you what this valley becomes. Apples and grapes or cactus.
Bruce R. Brown, Kelowna