#FirstWorldProblems hashtag thrown

This item crossed my desk via Business Insider’s Fboo feed. Here’s the original ad.

Business Insider then posted a follow up, reporting that people got angry over the ad largely because the #FirstWorldProblems label on twitter means exactly that: a sardonic admission that these aren’t, in fact, real problems. The ad, therefore, alienates the very people who are actually aware of their privileges.

Yah, sure, whatever, taking a tweet out of context may not be fair, but, jeez, people, this is a world where you get tweet about your minuscule problems while other people die for lack of water. So, yes, fair would be an issue, but not the issue you’re making it out to be. If the misinterpretation of the tweets leads to greater awareness about people living in poverty, who cares? If you have the ability to look sardonically at your own problems that are not problems, then let other people use that, too. It’s not about making you feel validated for being aware of your privilege: it’s about raising awareness about poverty and resource deprivation in Haiti.

Water quality and the CDC

via Andrea Hricko

The Washington Post has the following story on the VTech professor Mark Edwards. Though the heroes’ journey tone of the article is a bit heavy, it is a good example of what research and scholarship is for, and the necessity for scientific accountability within agencies like the CDC. Here’s the full story:

Virginia Tech professor uncovered truth about lead in D.C. water

2017 is too soon; an urban water crisis in Yemen?

Story from IRIN Middle East | YEMEN: Capital city faces 2017 water crunch | Middle East | Yemen | Early Warning Environment Water & Sanitation | Feature

So the city of Sanaa is a position where greater levels of urbanization and water usage have led to mining the city’s aquifer down–some wells are having to go to 1,000 meters–but all this has happened in 30 years. Shortages are already coming: during the summer months, families buy from trucks.

This is one of those situations where a plan, indeed, would be nice. This is not time for magical thinking. Come on, UNDP.

Matt Kahn on bad water pricing

Matt Kahn at UCLA is one of those economists whose work I cite quite a bit. His blog is smart and funny and edgy, and he has up a very good post comparing how the LA Department of Water and Power’s pricing regime makes no sense from a sustainability perspective. To wit–he compares the pricing schedule he faces with that of Candy Spelling, TV producer** Aaron Spelling’s very wealthy widow.

The water pricing story in southern California is larger than life with movies like Chinatown out there (great movie), but the DWP’s past attempts at implementing marginal cost pricing should be a case study in implementation for young environmental economists everywhere. To make a long story short, marginal cost pricing was on the table until Valley constituencies–all predominately single-family houses with yards–got out their calculators. The resulting outcry prompted deal-making that, while perhaps reassuring to us lovers of citizen participation, landed us with the pricing mechanism we have now. The basis for the changes revolved around an equity concern–as it so often does–not about people who are actually impoverished, but over the costs to people who are solidly middle class but not affluent per se. In order to protect these folks from what seemed prohibitively high water prices, we struck the deal that Matt discusses, considering usage as a function of lot size and occupancy. The end result bears little resemblance to marginal cost pricing or pricing based on social equity goals.

For people like me who study social equity and justice, the political discourse surrounding most pricing schemes tends to be entirely about equity and yet entirely miss the point about equity. We tend to protect the wrong groups–as in those with some discretionary income if not a lot– from the consequences of their consumption choices because we worry about affordability rather than the proper pricing signals and affordability.

**Aaron was the purveyor of such time-wasting, high-camp glory as “Dynasty” and the original “90210.” O the cat fights! O the shoulder pads! O the gigantically big hair!