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Friday, March 21, 2008

FAR Future, Episode 26: Let the Water Wars Begin

Turbulence ahead. Please cap your water bottles tightly.

Wednesday, July 24, 2013
Let the Water Wars Begin!

I hope you’re enjoying the Southeastern Political Theater Special, “Water Wars,” this month. Laugh-a while you can; it’ll be going on tour soon enough.

OK: I was utterly gobsmacked when the Supreme Court ruled in favor of Planet Georgia last week. Tennessee did everything they could, but the Court ordered all injunctions lifted. I knew nothing good would come of that stunt where they sent a truckload of bottled water to the Capitol when the whole thing got started back when.

“Our” governor attempted to calm the situation, saying something about continuing to honor the injunction with regard to Hamilton County and the City of Chattanooga. “Their” governor wasn’t having any: “Of course they will. This has never been about fixing the border — it’s never been about anything but a blatant water grab, by a state that has consistently refused to get a handle on over-development or water usage. Know this: we will not lie down, even at this point, but we will fight on to protect the resources of our citizens.” A reporter asked how far he was willing to go, and he pointed straight at the camera and said, “As far as we have to.” Ominous.

That gave the national laughingstock, that some here call the “state legislature,” a rare opportunity to look and sound reasonable. “The State of Tennessee has been a good neighbor for over 200 years, and we see no reason for that to change,” the Speaker said. “We’ll review all border changes on a case-by-case basis, with an eye to minimal disruption. As for the water issue, we don’t intend to draw water from the Tennessee River any time soon — we’re just securing an emergency supply for the next drought. Anyone who lived through the 2011 drought can understand that we are looking out for the needs of our citizens.

“But in the long run, the entire Southeast can expect wetter summers, so any draws from the river in question will be temporary at worst.”

Don’t watch the mouth, watch the hands. That goes double for Planet Georgia politicians. The state has actually secured easements for a water line over the last few years, all the way from Lake Allatoona to the old border, and they started work on the right-of-way the day after the Supreme Court ruling. Now they’ve already started on easements for that last 300 feet to Nickajack Lake, which the landowner (backed by the Tennessee State government) is already fighting. There have been threats by various individuals on both sides, and both governors have threatened to call out their respective National Guard units…

If you grew up in Michigan or Ohio, you may remember hearing about the Toledo War in 1835, brought on by a similar surveying error. Michigan was bought off with what’s now known as the Upper Peninsula, which turned out to be a mineral-rich prize. But with no unallocated territory next to Georgia, how will our planet be bought off? It’s amazing to me, sometimes: all this history, all this bloodshed even, that people have been willing to risk to be king over a little patch of dirt. Did they ever ask the people living on that land which king they would rather have?

Ah well. There will certainly be plenty of this to come. Meanwhile, Daughter Dearest’s boyfriend made it to FAR Manor. He took the bus from Savannah to Atlanta, then rented a scooter for the last so-many miles. Man… it doesn’t seem that long ago when riding a scooter up the freeways was suicide. Then again, that’s when people were bitching about $3/gal gas and still “walking” the dog by holding a leash out the SUV window (as Billy Joel said, “the good old days weren’t always good”). He seems like a decent fellow, but he isn’t around much — he’s one of what the techie media calls “Sailor 2.0,” the people who crew the new Auto-Sail freighters. The skill set these people have is amazing: you have to be familiar with both computers and mechanics, have the classic “weather eye” to understand weather patterns and make the most of wind conditions, read sea conditions and adjust course, navigation… I might have been good at it, if I’d been born 35 years later and had enough confidence in myself to try it. I’m trying not to monopolize his time, but it’s hard to avoid the temptation — we’ve had a good time talking into the last couple of nights about different things.

The Auto-Sail ships are pretty amazing too — built from the newest composite materials, lighter than a wooden ship and about as strong as an iron one. But the real fascinating part (to me) is the propulsion. They’ve evolved a long way from the part-kite-mostly-diesel ships first trialed only a few years ago; they use a combination of kites and sail-wings, all computer-controlled, to move the freight. They have small diesel engines (“trolling motors” is what the sailors dubbed them) for maneuvering in the harbor and to keep moving when they’re becalmed. All in all, according to Paul (the boyfriend), they use less than a fifth the fuel of a traditional all-diesel freighter, on average. His ship, the Magnolia, has a crew of four — enough to manage the ship in emergencies and more than enough under normal conditions — and sails between Savannah GA, San Juan, Puerto Rico, and Santa Marta, Columbia (The Three S’s). They carry a lot of coffee, cocoa, and bananas north, and various stuff (usually equipment and electronics) south. They have a lot of time to kill; they work eight-hour shifts that overlap the previous and next shift by an hour, so they spend six hours on their own each day. They need satellite feeds for their weather station, so they always have decent Internet access and plenty of time to take advantage.

And they have no lack of water. Desalinization supplies all they need. I told Daughter Dearest that if we get another major drought, she should just sail away with the guy.



  1. Excellent Far! I must say, that's the first I've ever heard of the Toledo War in 1835. Went to wikipedia and read about it over there. Ha! I can see why they were fighting over it, being fertile land. I'll just bet there's more black dirt in that little stripe than in all of the U.P.!

    Gee, do you think ships will change that much in five years? Better yet, do you think a new lock will be in store at the Soo, in the next five years? I think you're right, there has got to be a better material for building ships than steel, even if plastic has got to be a foot thick, you'd think this would be the way to go. Does it take more power to push steel and a fraction of that to push fiberglass through water? Wouldn't kites get tangled up? Sail-wings? Sails on both sides like wings of an airplane? That's an interesting idea.

    If I were Daughter Dearest, I'd forget about the sailor, they make poor husbands, now. Especially so, when everything is falling apart all around you.

    Thanks, yooper

  2. Hey Yooper... didn't they cover the Toledo War in your Michigan History class in junior high? They did in my school. I used to joke about Michigan having won that war from every aspect: they got a large piece of land that turned out to have buried treasure, and Ohio had to keep Toledo. LOL!

    I don't know if ships will change that much or not, but things change quickly when they change. The technology is pretty much in place; someone just has to put it all together. I don't think it's a matter of pushing a certain material through the water; it just stands to reason that a lighter ship is going to be easier to propel though. Carbon-fiber, if it can be made in sufficiently large quantities, might be a good candidate.

    Wing sails are a proven technology; they're essentially an aircraft wing turned vertical. When you point it into the wind the right way, it pulls the boat through the water — the lift is just horizontal instead of vertical! I figure you could run two lines of masts down the deck of a cargo ship (maybe eight sails total) and computer-control the whole thing.

    Use a kite or two to catch winds aloft (which are usually stronger and more reliable) — one kite at the bow & one at the stern should keep clear of each other without a lot of effort. "They" are already trialing a single kite on a standard cargo ship; the designers estimate it will save 20% on fuel costs.

    We'll see how the romance with the sailor goes… I have no clue how it'll turn out. He might turn out to have another girl in Columbia (and/or Puerto Rico) or something. ;-)


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