Chapter XXIX Dreamers, Ice Pirates, and Wishful Thinkers

 

When Alice and George first visited Miami in 1932, it is brilliant and coruscant. Hailing from the cold New England environs of Boston, MA, the verdant mango groves and lush green landscapes of this Southern Florida town wins their hearts and they decide to one day relocate permanently in the eclectic area known as Coconut Grove. It smells of lush, subtropical riparian woodland, which escapes my ability to describe but is unforgettable once experienced. It took them forty years, one son, and a lifetime of winters spent up North shoveling snow but when George approaches retirement, they knew where they would live out the remainder of their lives.

Leaving their only son with all their household goods, furniture, kitchen utensils, and the like they prepare to take their leave of their home of nineteen years and depart for South Florida’s promise of warm, mild winters.

“Goodbye Basil, take good care of yourself and do come visit us whenever you like.” Alice says holding her precious baby boy, now a young man on the cusp of twenty, close to her bosom.

“Sure Mom, I promise, I will visit just as soon as I can.” Basil mendaciously replies.

“Son, you are welcome to come with us.” George falsely states, eager to leave behind all the trappings and baggage of his former life and embark on his just reward for thirty years of dedicated service to a City he could not wait to escape.

“Thanks Dad but I have to finish school and all my friends are here, you know how it is.” Basil truthfully answered his father, shaking his hand for the final time. They are not an affectionate father and son.

Alice and George are by no means affluent; they are humble folk. Alice is the daughter of Irish immigrants; George is the youngest son of a single mother, widowed with six other young mouths to feed and no English language skills. This was well before there were any social safety nets established for the less fortunate. Therefore, they planned to drive to Florida and purchase a modest home in the Coconut Grove area, that they loved so much. Of course, they could never afford to live close to the coast so instead they chose a property suited to their means on high ground miles from the coast, yet possessing all of the delights that southern living offered.

After too short a period of time, a mere six years, George develops an aggressive lung cancer, the reward for twenty odd years of smoking cigarettes along with his partner inside the confined space of their patrol car, primary and secondary smoke is difficult to survive, for long. George passes at home with his loving wife by his side and Basil is summoned to attend. Alice takes Georges death stoically and faces life as a widow with aplomb and dignity. Unfortunately, George’s City pension dies with him and Alice is left with only her savings to survive. She owns the little house outright and with years of practice living frugally, she believes that she can manage; however, Basil has his doubts but as a single man cohabiting with three other young men, he is in no position to provide assistance.

There is a new paradigm in the South Florida Real Estate Market that promises to affect Alice’s fortunes dramatically. By whimsy or fate, the ground where her humble abode is situated is now desirable. People are departing the very beachfront communities that were off-limits to black people by law and custom until the mid-1960s. Moreover, in the era of climate change, those who are fleeing sea-level rise will be on the lookout for a place to live on higher ground, which is likely to push people of color and the poor out of neighborhoods that have historically been mostly black or Caribbean. 80 None of this is lost on the cogent Basil; unfortunately, he does not possess the acuity to exploit these circumstances.

***Boston, MA***

Basil Ring has a brilliant idea but no money or connections to realize it. Many have thought of methods to bring the fresh water stored in frozen form and locked away in the Cryosphere to the thirstier areas of Planet Earth. Many schemes have been floated to capture massive Icebergs after they calve from their parent glaciers, wrap them in plastic, and tow them to North Africa. 81

Feasibility studies have determined that one day it will be scientifically, and more importantly, economically viable but that day has not yet arrived. However, no one, with the exception of Basil, has thought of Strip-mining the ice in the same manner that coal is gathered from the earth and hauled away to be burned. Why not develop a similar process with ice and transport it using converted Oil tankers instead of allowing it to melt and flow into the Ocean? According to Basil’s logic, “If the Ice Sheets at the poles are going to melt anyway, why has no one suggested harvesting that ice before it melts and allowing it to add to global sea level rise?” It is a brilliant idea, even if Basil is the only one who thinks so! His current problem is to find someone who will take him and his idea seriously without dismissing him out-of-hand,  like so many have done before; at least in Basil’s mind, that is.

The need,

Fresh water is a finite resource that remains in a relatively constant supply; continually recycled through the atmosphere and back for the inhabitants of Earth to use. It makes up only 2.5 percent of the aggregate of water on the entire planet. The total amount of water that covers most of the surface of our little blue ball in space has a volume of approximately 332,500,000 cubic miles (mi3) or (1,386,000,000 cubic kilometers (km3)). This includes all of the water in the oceans, ice caps, lakes, rivers, groundwater, atmospheric water, including the 55 to 65 percent of water that makes up the human body, your pet, and the vegetables in your garden. 82, 83, 84 More than enough, one would think to address the inhabitants of Spaceship Earth’s thirst; however, the human population has exploded along with our uses for this precious resource. Just 1 percent of our freshwater is easily accessible, with much of it trapped in glaciers and snowfields. In essence, only 0.007 percent of the planet’s water is available to fuel and feed the needs of its 6.8 billion inhabitants. 82

Agriculture is responsible for 87 % of the total water used globally. Industrial usage is much more difficult to determine. An accurate percentage of Industrial Water Consumption varies from country to country and from industry by industry; however, Energy Production is considered a potent consumer or withdrawer of Fresh Water for use in Steam production and cooling.

In the United States alone, much (92 percent) of the surface-water withdrawals and nearly all (99 percent) of the ground-water withdrawals for industrial use were freshwater. 85

“Water scarcity is an abstract concept to many and a stark reality for others. It is the result of myriad environmental, political, economic, and social forces.” 82

 

 

The source, the means.

One estimate of water distribution:

Oceans, Seas, and Bays hold 321,000,000 cubic miles or 96.54 percent of the total amount of water on the planet. Ice caps, Glaciers, & Permanent Snow holds 5,773,000 cubic miles or 1.74 percent of the total. However, what is accessible and available is a fraction of that amount.

How much of the total water is fresh water? The world’s liquid fresh water (groundwater, lakes, swamp water, and rivers), the volume comes to about 2,551,100 mi3 (10,633,450 km3), of which 99 percent is groundwater, much of which is not accessible to humans. The water that people and the rest of life on Earth need every day comes from these surface-water sources. The volume of this water is about 22,339 mi3 (93,113 km3). 82, 83

Basil has researched this information, because he can, and thought to himself one day, “If so many people around the world are thirsty for clean, fresh water and there is so much of it sitting around frozen at the Poles waiting for a warming climate to melt and lose it to the ocean then why not mine it and distribute it to those in need?” Basil never inherited the gene for making money so he does not think in terms of a market driven economy; the concept of selling water for profit never crosses his mind.

Could surface strip coal mining techniques be used to mine ice for fresh water in the Arctic and Antarctic?

Forget towing huge Icebergs. 81   Basil envisions a stable platform on the ice of Antarctica or the Arctic to begin ice-mining operations. Break up the ice into transportable chunks using explosive charges then move the ice to waiting tanker ships. Processing the ice could be accomplished en route or when it reaches its final destination. If transporting crude oil by bulk-tanker is acceptable, profitable, and the norm, then why not water?

Even Lloyd’s of London produced a very comprehensive Study of risk assessments associated with business opportunities in the Arctic. However, no mention of mining ice for freshwater appears anywhere in their sixty page document, available on their web site. “Arctic opening: Opportunity and Risk in the High North”, Lloyds and Chatham House, 2012. 91

Which makes one wonder if it was very comprehensive to begin with and how much Lloyds paid for the study in the first place?

Perhaps it is because entities like Lloyds think only in terms of commodities and risk. The underwriters at Lloyds are not concerned about enriching or saving human lives; therefore, they overlooked the humanitarian benefits of bringing fresh drinking water to the millions who are currently without it. Basil, of course, does not think in terms of Return on Investment, Risk Management, or the Political ramifications of mining the Poles for fresh water. He only thinks of the lives that might be saved, enhanced, and afforded the opportunity to make the World a better place. Gain, personal or otherwise, never enters into his thought processes.

One bright sunny Sunday morning Basil is sitting in his apartment’s kitchen breakfast nook. He shares a flat in a Boston suburb with three other single men. All four men are reading one shared copy of the Boston Sunday Globe. The conversation finally turns away from the latest local sporting team’s win in the playoffs to topics that are more cerebral, allowing Basil to feel comfortable participating.

“Climate Change, how can these libtard tree huggers believe that the climate is warmin’ when it’s been so fackin’ cold out?” Paul states derisively in his strong Boston accent.

“Actually, you are expressing your dismay at our local weather’s temperatures; Global Warming is referring to Climatic conditions that are planetary in nature, so two different things.” Basil offers.

“Oh here we go again, the professor is going to give us a lecture on climate change and why we need to stop driving our cars, turn off the lights, give up meat, and go back to living in teepees.” Richard mocks to the laughter of the group.

“Laugh if you like but anthropogenic climate disruption is real and we had all better start thinking of changing our lifestyles to mitigate its affects if we want to continue living here.” Basil responds. This statement only elicits further pejorative comments accompanied with peals of laughter from his flat-mates all of whom, at six foot heights, are much larger than the diminutive Basil.

“So Basil, how is your big plan to save the planet and provide fresh water to all the towel heads in the desert workin’ out? You would be better off if you found yourself a better payin’ job and maybe a girl friend to occupy you time.” Roger comments, he is the largest and most critical of the three, relentless in his badgering of the knowledgeable but sensitive Basil.

“Explain to me why then it is perfectly acceptable to spend $29.3 billion in taxpayer dollars subsidizing the Oil and Natural Gas Industry but not OK to develop a way of mining ice?” 88 Basil asks, not knowing when he should just shut his mouth and just walk away.

“Because water don’t keep the lights on, cook our food, or fuel our cars, you dimwit!” Roger implacably and callously responds.

Three against one in a scientific disquisition is a winnable scenario_ if everyone agrees that scientific facts are the measure of reality; remove that leg of the milking stool; however, and all bets are off. Basil might just as well debate with a barn full of dairy cows than try to convince his burly but doltish roommates of the veracity of climate change or the benefits of providing clean, fresh water to those who need it.

“Well then, would you agree that temperatures have risen dramatically since the mid eighteen hundreds?” Basil asks.

“Yeah, so what.” Roger responds.

“Have you heard about the Pine Island glacier? Temperature rise and a warming Ocean melt the Ice at the Poles. That fresh water flows into the Sea and is wasted, resulting in Sea level rise and a desalinization of the Ocean. None of which are good things, yes?” 89, 9o  Basil begins.

“Again, so what. What’s your point?” Roger retorts.

“Rather than wasting that resource, allowing the melt to add to ocean rise, and ocean desalinization, would it not be better to harvest the ice before it melts and redistribute it where it is most needed?” Basil concludes.

“Dreamers gotta dream!” Paul states.

“Lets us know when you’ve got it all worked out, there Basil.” Richard mocks.

“Basil, you really are a fool. Why do you waste your time on such nonsense? Get a practical grip on yourself and find a decent paying job. You spend all your time thinking about things that don’t matter and can’t be changed. Find a girl and settle down, she’ll straighten you out.

Basil feeling dejected once again returns to his laptop; a suitable escape for dreamers, ice pirates, and wishful thinkers.

 

References:

  1. “The resurgence of Coconut Grove”, “Miami Herald”, By A. Viglucci, 29 NOVEMBER 2014. < http://www.miamiherald.com/news/local/community/miami-dade/coconut-grove/article4199797.html >
  2. “Mining’ Icebergs For Fresh Water Believed Possible”, Toledo Blade , 02 September 1973 <news.google.com/newspapers?nid=1350&dat=19730902&id=1tBOAAAAIBAJ&sjid=DAIEAAAAIBAJ&pg=7264,4925994&hl=en>
  3. “Freshwater Crisis” National Geographic, < http://www.nationalgeographic.com/environment/freshwater/freshwater-crisis/ >
  4. “Human Appropriation of the World’s Fresh Water Supply”, University of Michigan, 04 January 2006. < http://resilience.earth.lsa.umich.edu/units/freshwater/index.html>
  5. “The Water in You”, U.S. Department of the Interior | U.S. Geological Survey, 09 December 2015. <http://water.usgs.gov/edu/propertyyou.html
  6. “Water & Energy Efficiency by Sectors”, EPA, 23 February 2016, http://www3.epa.gov/region9/waterinfrastructure/industry.html
  7. “How much water is on Earth?”, The USGS Water Science School, 26-Feb-2016. <http://water.usgs.gov/edu/gallery/global-water-volume.html>
  8. “Just Thaw And Serve”, Time, 29 May 2011, <http://content.time.com/time/magazine/article/0,9171,2071147,00.html>
  9. “Direct Federal Financial Interventions and Subsidies in Energy in Fiscal Year 2013”, The U.S. Energy Information Administration (EIA), Release date: 12 March 2015, Revised: 23 March 2015 <eia.gov/analysis/requests/subsidy/>
  10. “Pine Island Glacier”, AntarcticGlaciers.org 16 September 2014. <http://www.antarcticglaciers.org/glaciers-and-climate/shrinking-ice-shelves/pine-island-glacier/>
  11. “Future sea level rise from ice sheets”, AntarcticGlaciers.org 03 March 2013. <http://www.antarcticglaciers.org/2013/03/future-sea-level-rise-from-ice-sheets/ >
  12. “arctic opening: Opportunity and Risk in the High North”, Lloyd’s and Chatham House, 2012 <lloyds.com/~/media/files/news%20and%20insight/360%20risk%20insight/arctic_risk_report_webview.pdf>

 

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