#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.

Scown et al. in ES&T on the water footprint of US transportation fuels

Environmental Science and Technology has free access to their water issue. It says that free access expired 6/24/11, but I could still access the articles this weekend, so maybe they will forget to take the access away for a little bit.

Those of you with an interested in water should go check it out.

One manuscript that caught my eye comes from Corinne Scown in CE at USB:

Corinne D. Scown, Arpad Horvath, Thomas E. McKone. Water Footprint of U.S. Transportation Fuels.
Environmental Science & Technology 2011 45 (7), 2541-2553

From their abstract:

In the modern global economy, water and energy are fundamentally connected. Water already plays a major role in electricity generation and, with biofuels and electricity poised to gain a significant share of the transportation fuel market, water will become significantly more important for transportation energy as well. This research provides insight into the potential changes in water use resulting from increased biofuel or electricity production for transportation energy, as well as the greenhouse gas and freshwater implications. It is shown that when characterizing the water impact of transportation energy, incorporating indirect water use and defensible allocation techniques have a major impact on the final results, with anywhere between an 82% increase and a 250% decrease in the water footprint if evaporative losses from hydroelectric power are excluded. The greenhouse gas impact results indicate that placing cellulosic biorefineries in areas where water must be supplied using alternative means, such as desalination, wastewater recycling, or importation can increase the fuel’s total greenhouse gas footprint by up to 47%. The results also show that the production of ethanol and petroleum fuels burden already overpumped aquifers, whereas electricity production is far less dependent on groundwater.

The last sentence is the takeaway. Electricity, again.

The Water Emergency in Nigeria and Cameroon

Nigerians are currently being devastated by a disease that nobody in the 21st Century should die from: cholera. Here are some links where you can learn more about the emergency:

How Nigerians Die from Poor Water Conditions

I can’t find any links to organizations targeting medical aid! If you know of any, please send along so that I can post it.


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.



This is what we should be spending ARRA money on

Take a a look at this story:

Toxic Waters – Saving U.S. Water and Sewer Systems Would Be Costly – NYTimes.com

Water managers and infrastructure needs specialists have been warning us for years that our water infrastructure is big trouble. It’s been hard to get any attention paid to the sector, since there are no bridge collapses.

We finally got a big Federal commitment to infrastructure–$10 Billion–but that is only going to scratch the surface.

This quote I think is particularly telling:

“We’re relying on water systems built by our great-grandparents, and no one wants to pay for the decades we’ve spent ignoring them,” said Jeffrey K. Griffiths, a professor at Tufts University and a member of the E.P.A.’s National Drinking Water Advisory Council.

Americans need to grow up and learn that government services cost money.


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!