Thursday, July 2, 2015

Watch and Warning: errant communication?

During an interview for Wx Geeks, the subject of the confusion caused by the terminology of messages - namely watch and warning - came up as a topic.  Given the short time available during the show, I want to offer some more comments about that topic.  The claim is made by some that the similarity between the two words (what I refer to as the "wa-wa" problem) is the source of the confusion.  I don't pretend to understand how and why this confusion arises; after all, I'm a meteorologist, not a communications expert.  However, I find this premise to be pretty much ridiculous.  To my knowledge, no one has done any work to validate that the public's inability to distinguish between a watch and a warning lies exclusively or even primarily in the "wa-wa" arena.

Imagine we decided to coin new terms for the content of watches and warnings, calling them instead kenutenaries and chinkaderas, respectively.  Does anyone honestly believe that calling them tornado kenutenaries or severe thunderstorm chinkaderas would clear up the underlying problem?  I seriously doubt it.  So what do I attribute this problem of distinguishing watches from warnings?  Anything I'm about to say is pure speculation, of course;  I've done no studies and have no scientific basis for my ideas, but I do have decades of experience with the meteorology and our attempts to communicate its hazards.  What seems plausible to me is that many people in that great, faceless mass called "the public" are basically not interested in the weather very much, unless it's going to affect them directly and personally.  I understand that.  I appreciate that not everyone shares the passion of weather geeks when it comes to the atmosphere.  Not everyone is passionate about hockey, or pole dancing, or scrapbooking, or mathematics, either.  I get that.  Most of the topics limited numbers of people are passionate about don't involve events that can prove fatal to the general public. 

Here's the kicker regarding this widespread lack of interest in the weather (and geophysical hazards, in general):  it can rise up on occasion and kill you!  One would expect, naively, that knowing that risk would get most everyone's attention.  It seems clear this isn't the case.  If you're uninterested in the atmosphere, that doesn't protect you from its threats.  There's one very effective way to protect yourself from atmospheric hazards:  being prepared for them.  If the distinction between watch and warning is an important thing for you to recognize in order to take appropriate action (and it is!), whose responsibility is it to know that distinction beyond any doubt?  Yours!  Everyone's!!  We meteorologists can turn ourselves inside out and backwards trying to figure out how to wordsmith this difference so that no one could possibly misunderstand it, and still, there inevitably will be those who will, by personal choice, not make any effort, and so will remain confused and unable to articulate the difference.  After all, it could never be of concern to them, right?  Until it is.  Then those very same ignoramuses are quoted in the media after a weather disaster "We had no warning!" even when they did have a warning!

If I've learned anything in 40+ years as a meteorologist, it's that you can lead horses to water, but they won't necessarily drink it.  There will always be those whose lack of a sense of responsibility for their own safety will mean they have no clue about things, and certainly won't be sensible enough to plan for what is, after all, a rare event.  Yes, it's "normal" not to be hit by a tornado, so the so-called normalcy bias means people are reluctant to accept that something rare might actually affect them directly and personally.  That normalcy bias is reflected in their behavior when a tornado is in their vicinity:  They want to confirm that it's actually about to happen to them.  But when this complacent, it-will-never-happen-to-me attitude is confronted by an approaching tornado, the odds are good that such people will be ill-prepared and therefore only luck enables them to survive.  They'll be ready to blame anyone but themselves for their misfortune.

Yes, a significant fraction of folks, even in Oklahoma, don't know the difference between a watch and a warning, despite decades of attempts to educate them for their own safety.  Some horses always will refuse to drink, no matter what name by which we refer to the water. 

Yes, we should do the social science studies to learn in more detail why people choose to be ignorant and perhaps there is some verbiage we can use to make ourselves more clear to the public.  At some point, however, we must also recognize that there will never be a time when 100 percent of the public understands perfectly those weather hazard messages we're attempting to convey.

Sunday, June 28, 2015

Speaking of the war on equal rights ...

My last blog was focused on my struggle to understand the necessity to drive marriage equality all the way to the SCOTUS.  It seems to me that the 14th Amendment is not really very difficult to interpret: "No person" is to be denied equal rights without due process.  What's to be interpeted there?  I made mention of the war on equal rights, and I need to expand on that a bit.

This "war" springs from the terrorist attack on the World Trade Center in New York in 2001.  With the aid of the military-industrial complex and religious tribalism, we as a nation have succumbed to fear as a result of that attack - an irrational fear of terrorism from the outside - you know, islamic jihadists and all that.  It's an irrational fear because the actual American death toll from terrorism (excluding military casualties in our ill-conceived, ineffective military actions against terrorism) doesn't warrant the level of fear that has been generated.  We'll never solve the problem of external terrorists by military action.  Some of the "patriotic" conservative politicians have joined hands with the terrorists in promoting this unreasoning fear for their political (and pecuniary) gain, aided by some media pseudo-pundits* and the news media in general.  We're allowing this exaggerated threat to frighten us to give up our Constitutional freedoms in the name of "security".  This is precisely what we've been warned not to do by no less a person than Benjamin Franklin:

Those who would give up essential Liberty, to purchase a little temporary Safety, deserve neither Liberty nor Safety.

What we've done is to give the terrorists precisely what they want:  to transform ourselves into the de facto enemy of muslims around the world.  Along that path, we're denying ourselves the very freedoms of which we're so proud that have distinguished this nation for much of our history.  We're losing the war on terrorism, badly.  Not only are terrorist actions causing us to waste vast resources on "security theater" as well as huge military expenditures leading nowhere, but we (including the courts!) have gutted the 4th Amendment:

The right of the people to be secure in their persons, houses, papers, and effects, against unreasonable searches and seizures, shall not be violated, and no warrants shall issue, but upon probable cause, supported by oath or affirmation, and particularly describing the place to be searched, and the persons or things to be seized.

Our lives are being tracked by the so-called National Security Agency (better named the National Insecurity Agency!) without warrant or probable cause, police are being transformed into a paramilitary arm of the government with the apparent right to use deadly force with impunity whenever they wish, and so on.  Edward Snowden, like Daniel Ellsberg (remember the "Pentagon Papers"?) before him should be honored as a hero for exposing the NSA's intrusions into the lives of ordinary Americans.  Instead, he's cast as a traitor and so has been forced to become a fugitive from the "American Justice" for being a whistle-blower.  We're sleepwalking our way into becoming a fascist oligarchy and international bully.  The "collateral damage" from our foreign incursions recruits new terrorists every day.  Ordinary Americans are being bombarded with propaganda about the terrorist bogeyman from islam, while the real threat, resulting from real acts of murder, is home-grown terrorism from right-wing extremists willing to commit any crime to advance their cause.

What makes our nation attractive to the residents of other nations is its opportunities.  Those opportunities spring from the freedoms guaranteed by our Constitution.  We're being led to yield those freedoms for the illusion of our own "protection".  What we truly need protection from are those who would gain from our irrational fears.  Those who profit from that fear are the real enemy and we need to stop giving in to this pressure from our enemies (foreign and domestic) to sacrifice our essential liberties.

*A true pundit is:  a person who knows a lot about a particular subject and who expresses ideas and opinions about that subject publicly.  That is, a subject matter expert.  Most of the media's pseudo-pundits are pretty far from experts in their public proclamations of their opinions about various topics.

Saturday, June 27, 2015

The Supreme Court and the war on equal rights

There certainly is a lot of "celebration" going on in liberal ranks, and deep consternation (if not outright howling in agony) from many conservatives regarding the recent Supreme Court (SCOTUS) decisions.

From where I sit, I'm certainly happy about the same-sex marriage decision.  Despite the narrowness of the margin, it was the right decision.  Although the Affordable Healthcare Act is not what I prefer to see (i.e., the single-payer option), it confirms what the program was intended to do: make affordable healthcare possible for millions of Americans who otherwise had no healthcare support.

But what this blog is about is not the rulings, per se, but rather concerns my puzzlement over why it was necessary for the SCOTUS to rule on same-sex marriage.  In my view, this is already covered by the 14th Amendment to the Constitution:

Four principles were asserted in the text of the 14th amendment. They were:
  1. State and federal citizenship for all persons regardless of race both born or naturalized in the United States was reaffirmed.
  2. No state would be allowed to abridge the "privileges and immunities" of citizens.
  3. No person was allowed to be deprived of life, liberty, or property without "due process of law."
  4. No person could be denied "equal protection of the laws."
Source:  here

It seems to me that it would take some pretty severe distortion of these principles to suggest that it would be legal in the US for anyone to deny anyone else equal treatment under the law, regardless of who they are (i.e., race, gender, religion, sexual identity, or anything else).  In fact, a lot of things are going on right now where some Constitutional rights have been wrongly taken away in the name of a bunch of conservative talking points.  The Constitution is being invalidated routinely these days by the same SCOTUS that has enjoyed the approval of the very people currently upset with the SCOTUS' recent rulings.  Constitutional rights are being abridged with impunity, everywhere.  Evidence of that abounds on social media.  Absurd cyrpto-fascist notions are being bandied about by some of the religious reich, such as abolishing the Supreme Court or intentionally violating the SCOTUS rulings.  These are clearly unconstitutional ideas and border on being sedition.  Interesting that such notions emanate from that very segment of our population which claims to represent law and order, and family values.  They're hypocritical frauds.

The divisions are deep and ugly these days in American society, and the rather odd, mixed collection of rulings by the SCOTUS over the past few years has not healed those divisions but, rather, has deepened them.  It seems we must make up a complete list of every possible human trait and state specifically that we shouldn't discriminate against that group, and then ram that through the SCOTUS before they can be afforded equal protection of the law.  Does a reasonable interpretation of the words above not automatically include everyone?  What part of "no person" do you not understand?  Evidently, I have to be realistic enough to know that many people have unreasonable interpretations of the Constitution, and they won't give those up, regardless of battle defeats.

Regardless of the battles won (on both sides) by particular SCOTUS rulings, when they go against the religious reich, the victories are always local.  The war will never be won against the religious reich, until they die out completely.  The problem is clearly that logic and evidence mean nothing to an irrational belief system.  They'll never give up so long as they assume their version of religious belief trumps our secular government's mandate (see the 1st Amendment) to run the nation with church and state clearly and totally separated.  When religion is allowed to push its beliefs and principles into everyone's public life, democracy is transformed to theocracy - a fascist form of dictatorship - for examples, review the Middle Eastern muslim theocracies.  Like the muslim zealots, the christian fanatics are under the belief they're doing their deity's will, and that's impossible for logic and evidence to overcome.

Nice to win battles from time to time, but the war goes on unabated.  Social progressives must be prepared for the war to go on for a long time.


Monday, June 22, 2015

A national discussion of racism?

Recent events include the racism-motivated murder of nine people in a South Carolina church, as well as the spate of racial injustice events by law enforcement.  The never-ending string of such incidents suggests to me that racism is alive and well here in the USA, and no one's hands are entirely clean.  We've been trying to address this topic for our entire national history and, so far, have been unsuccessful in truly coming to grips with it in striving to see it expunged from our national psyche.  It lives on like an insidious disease that has become immune to many attempts at finding a cure.

Racism has no roots in science.  Our genetic heritage demonstrates we all came from the same place:  The Rift Valley in Africa.  Interbreeding is so widespread, virtually all of us contain genes from one or more races different from what we wear on the surface.  Isolation of different groups led to the inevitable divergences in certain traits, such as skin color or physical characteristics, but these divergences are trivial.  We're all just humans, and "racial" differences amount to virtually nothing of any real scientific significance.

So why did we invent racism when it has no scientific basis in objective reality?  Racism is the child of tribalism.  Tribal unity and support for one another was an evolutionary advantage for humans at our beginnings.  Our ability to subordinate our personal needs for the needs of the tribe has been a powerful influence on the "success" of our species.  But that evolutionary success comes at a price:  hatred and distrust of other tribes, different from our own.  Given that some groups of humans look notably different from other groups of humans,  it's virtually automatic to let that hatred and distrust run free.  Differences in religious beliefs clearly stoke the fires of tribalism, as well.  And that hatred is handed down from one generation to the next - children tend not to see racial differences as very important, so adults have to inculcate such "values" in their youth.

Can we have a discussion that could lead to the eventual repudiation of racism?  I like to think it's possible and I certainly want to see that happen.  But there are powerful forces that make this difficult to envision any time soon.  For instance, many people use racism (and, more generally, tribalism) to prop up their personal sense of identity, seeking to lift themselves above others by the simple expediency of de-humanizing those who are different, proclaiming them to be inferior.  This is a familiar refrain in human history, and it's not likely to go away just because some of us want it to.

The current discussions about the Confederate flag indicate that many in the South are unable to let go of the failed Confederacy, the aims of which were to promote and enhance the spread of bigotry and treason.  The tribalism of the South causes them to cling to what was thoroughly defeated and shown eventually to be immoral, no matter how noble their troops were in their vainglorious failure.  They couldn't imagine being loyal to the "American" tribe because they aimed to perpetuate a hideous Southern institution:  slavery, so they formed their own tribe:  the Confederacy.  The rest is history, of course.  Surely the time has come to face the reality that the Confederate cause was based on a racist falsehood.  Not much to be proud of in that cause.

Racism is hardly unique to the South, of course.  Urban ghettos all over this nation are the visible result of widespread racism, even if it's not "institutionalized" in law (as it has been in the South for so much of their history).  In the final analysis, when it comes to human interaction, many Americans (inside and outside the South) are uncomfortable with those whose racial characteristics are different - on both sides of any specific racial divide.  At least Southern racism has been overt and clearly made manifest in obvious ways (e.g., the ostentatious display of the "stars and bars" symbol).  Racism, like the HIV virus, can wear many disguises that make it difficult to detect, much less to eradicate.  Many people harbor racism despite imagining themselves to be completely free of it.  I know people who vigorously repudiate racism, and perhaps they genuinely like and care for some individual of a different race.  While they may like individuals, however, they still harbor a tribalistic contempt and distrust of groups of people they don't even know.  This is an insidious form of racism because it involves a self-deception.  "I have friends who are XX!"

People who harbor irrational beliefs are incapable of being persuaded by logic and evidence.  They stubbornly cling to those beliefs without regard for their basis in reality.  Perhaps, with time, such beliefs will die out - but it may take a very long time!  Tribalism is deeply embedded in our genes.  Having that conversation is likely to prove futile, in the face of so much willful irrationality.  But I think we have to continue to try.  Hence, this blog post.

Saturday, May 23, 2015

Bigotry, oppression, liberals, freedom of speech, and hate

A recent Facebook "discussion" with a friend has brought to my attention some disturbing trends.  It seems that in some "liberal" circles, it's become fashionable to redefine racism as "prejudice + power" - this new definition assumes that racism can only be applied by those who have the power to enforce their bigotry.  Hence, in the USA, it could be said (using this new definition) that only white people can be racists, because whites are the majority and traditionally have excluded participation by non-whites from having much power.  As I see it, the combination of prejudice and power can equate to "oppression" - but not to racism. 

My personal definition of racism is when someone assumes they can know something meaningful about someone else simply by knowing the person's race.  If I had experienced many of the things my African-American friends tell me about (i.e., if I were black), there's a good chance I'd be a racist.  My life would be dominated by white people making assumptions about me based solely on my race, so it would be natural to reciprocate.  Tit for tat, and all that.  It would take an extremely strong sense of shared humanity to shun that path and instead allow every person I meet to show by their actions who they really are.  I discovered this concept for the first time in the Army, when I was forced to interact with a very diverse set of people - I learned on my own that someone's outward appearance said nothing at all about their character.  Not all racists are white!  Why condemn those not participating in racial oppression?  Race is a useless, divisive concept ... but I've discussed that in other blogs, so let me move on with today's thoughts. 

It's clear that the combination "prejudice + power" often results in oppression.  Women are the victims of male dominance in many professions and in many aspects of their lives.  Misogyny (literally, woman-hating) is a gender-based prejudice - another sort of bigotry.  Naturally, misandry (literally, man-hating) is its female equivalent.  If we assume that men have more "power" (at least in some ways), then they could be misogynists if they combine their power with a prejudice against women.  Obviously, it would be natural for someone consistently victimized by misogyny to develop misandry, and such women exist, some of them in the halls of academia.  Unfortunately, prejudice against men (or women) is just another form of bigotry.  It's understandable why some women might embrace it, but it's not very effective in doing something about misogyny in the long run.  Not all men are misogynists!  Many men support and even encourage the legitimate aspirations of women.

No matter what people think, and no matter how bigoted they might be, I strongly support their right to express their views.  I've commented on freedom of speech several times in the past - it only means something when it's applied to the expression of ideas with which we disagree.  What's disturbing to me today is the news that dissension is being suppressed by "liberals" in academia.  Personally, if someone is actively shutting down free discourse on any topic in a university (or anywhere else), such a person is not what I consider to be a "liberal".  My notion of being a liberal is that dissent should be encouraged, not suppressed.  The founders of this nation clearly intended free speech to be the law of the land, and so freedom of speech was the very first item in the Bill of Rights - the first 10 Constitutional Amendments.  To suppress dissent is an implicit admission of either a fundamentally flawed viewpoint, or a weak foundation for that viewpoint.  Lacking valid logic and/or evidence, one way for a viewpoint to dominate is to suppress other viewpoints, perhaps even with violence.  History has shown us many examples of this and no truly liberal person should ever support suppression of dissent.  The willingness to allow dissenting views implies a sense of confidence in one's viewpoint - its logic and evidence are sufficient to convince a rational person of its validity.  It's in academia where many of us first encountered ideas that weren't in full agreement with the culture in which we were born and raised.  This is a good thing, forcing us to think about our ideas, and is the principle so nicely embodied in the University of Wisconsin's "Bascom Plaque".  It's precisely in academia where free speech is most important!

One characteristic of bigotry is the use of hurtful epithets hurled in the faces of the oppressed.  Thus, many liberals espouse the notion of banning "hate speech".  To me, this is an unacceptable tactic.  Who decides what qualifies as "hate speech" and what's the basis for that decision?  Sounds like censorship to me, which is the antithesis of free speech.  I continue to argue that words only have power over someone when that someone grants that power to those words.  I always refer to the old childhood chant, "Sticks and stones can break my bones, but words will never hurt me!"  To be offended, one must agree to be offended.  We may well find the use of hurtful epithets to be distasteful and off-putting, but they're just words and if we choose not to be offended, they lose any power over us. 

Finally, let me repeat comments I've made in previous blogs - the notion of "hate crimes" that some "liberals" have embraced.  The general idea is that if a criminal act is perpetrated by someone who hates the victim for some reason, then that adds to the level of criminality and so deserves more punishment than normal for that crime.  This is, to put it simply, a ridiculous notion, because it requires us to know what the perpetrator was thinking before and during the criminal act.  It's a concept similar to the Orwellian notion of "thought police" - that you could be punished just for thinking incorrectly.  If you've committed a crime, you should be punished for that crime, not for what you were thinking before and during your criminal act.  Perhaps the concept of "hate crime"  was an outgrowth of WWII and the evils perpetrated by the Axis powers, but I find it a disturbing concept that's likely to be abused.  If you think "hateful" thoughts but commit no crime, should you be punished just for thinking them?  Not in my world, thank you!!

Tuesday, May 12, 2015

Security, bureaucracy, and information flow

Ruminating on some recent events discourages me about bureaucracies once again.  An incident of late was characterized by an appalling absence of information flowing to the public, evidently because "public affairs" types are dead set against providing any information about negative events.  They seem to think that the best thing they can do is limit the discussion by providing no information, even when there's no conceivable harm to do sharing that information.  To such bureaucrats, the quicker the incident disappears, the better.  Unfortunately, such a policy opens the door for speculation and even encourages conspiracy theorists to allow their imaginations to run wild, while there isn't any information by which to dispute talk of conspiracies.  In an investigation following such an incident, it seems to me it would have been helpful to update the public about the situation - choosing utter silence is disrespectful to the public.

Our whole national paranoia about threats to our security, encouraged by many politicians, leaves me disgusted with the process of "security theater" - in which seemingly rational security measures make access for innocent people more time-consuming and even privacy-invasive, even though such measures represent little or no meaningful barriers to a determined terrorist.  Yes, creating barriers to external threats is rational, but the barriers I see would be little more than a minor annoyance to anyone with reasonable intelligence and a fierce will to do harm.  I think of it as I think of the act of locking your home's doors at night: door and window locks prevent honest people from entering, but represent little challenge to any criminal with half a brain and a determination to do you harm.  The act of locking your doors offers little more than a trivial contribution to your home security against those truly intent on harming/plundering you.  Security theater gives you the illusion of security, but does little to improve on it, in reality.

In our national obsession with foreign terrorism, we've been allowing government more and more license to commit unconstitutional acts in the process of "protecting" us.  The 4th amendment has been eviscerated in the name of security.  There's now a tolerance for widespread use of electronic surveillance measures, including the NSA's collection of emails and cell phone calls into a giant national data base for them to "mine" for whatever strikes their fancy.  There are reports of ugly abuse of security measures by TSA employees in airports.  The so-called "Patriot Act" continues to sanction abuses.  Bureaucracies impose stupid rules and "protocols" that may be totally unnecessary, but must be followed at the operational level by the agents of the organizations.  Such protocols seem mysterious and disturbing to the public, so without any information explaining their actions, the public is left to speculate about what's going on.  I consider that to be more harmful than good.

I've seen the notion of being ready for a storm result in a "certification" process that's mostly an empty sham, without much real substance in terms of storm readiness.  No matter how many certificates they may have, the city of Norman and the University of Oklahoma are far from being truly "storm ready" - it would take many years and cost a lot to provide what truly is needed to be ready for a storm (e.g., a tornado). 

In some situations, it's difficult to imagine just how to protect everyone in real-world events.  If the public is not equally committed to accepting responsibility for their own safety, and I'm pretty confident in assuming most people are not committed to that, there's little organizations and governments can do to protect them beyond what they're doing now.  It's comforting to see them working to improve the situation, but I doubt seriously they can protect themselves from lawsuits in the event people are harmed by a storm.  I can foresee circumstances in which people are killed but am powerless to do anything about it.  This situation is not helped when the bureaucrats place the protection of property as a higher priority than protection of people!  I've seen many examples of this, unfortunately.  "Oh, we can't use that space as a storm shelter!  It holds too much valuable property!"  Wait long enough, and the big disaster will occur ... and the lawsuits may well follow.   Being silent is not helpful or beneficial.  

Friday, April 24, 2015

Dealing with drought

Lately, some alarming messages have been spread via the media about drought in California - some of them are a bit misleading (e.g., that CA has only one year's worth of water left - the situation is dire, but that's a hyperbolic statement of the reality).  There are those who will lay the blame on global climate change.  This is also not an appropriate position, since there always has been a danger of drought in the semiarid and arid regions of the US, and no guarantee can be made that what we've observed in the historical record is as bad a drought as natural variability can generate.  Climate change may be making the situation worse, but it's not the whole challenge.

A major part of the problem for CA and, indeed, for much of the western third of the USA (east of the coastal mountain ranges) is that drought always has been a frequent visitor - from the Great Plains westward to those coastal mountain ranges.  The notion that the expanding population centers from the continental divide westward are living on borrowed time is not a new one.  I recommend reading "Cadillac Desert" to learn some of the history of the "water wars" in the west.  Dividing up the scarce water resources among all the competitors has always been a challenge even during non-drought years;  increasing populations demand more of everything.  Making choices is not necessarily easy.  Drought magnifies the urgency and the seriousness of the consequences for any set of choices.  Large population centers, like Los Angeles, El Paso, Denver, Las Vegas, Phoenix, Tucson, etc., are reaching out over increasing distances to find new water to support additional growth. 

A lot of agriculture west of the Mississippi River uses irrigation to grow crops that in most years would not be possible depending only on natural rainfall.  On the plains, much of this water for irrigation is "fossil water" in underground aquifers that represent finite resources.  When (not if!) those aquifers dry up, that agriculture can't be sustained.  Decreasing fresh water sources in the west leave agricultural (and industrial) uses competing with human water needs.

What's worse is that water is being squandered stupidly ... for example, building grassy golf courses in the desert is an ecological nightmare.  Where I used to live in CO, the neighborhood association discouraged xeriscaping, and encouraged homeowners to maintain Kentucky bluegrass lawns that required heavy watering at least every other day in that semiarid climate.  Wasting fresh water in such stupid ways has potentially harmful consequences even in non-drought times, but when drought is ongoing, such waste can be criminal.

Some simple calculations show that the cost in terms of energy to pipe in water from water-rich areas, mostly east of the continental divide, is quite high.  Using that much energy to import water - generally uphill - creates problems in its own right, and will make that water very expensive.  The real problem here isn't the current drought.  It's the growth of unsustainable populations in regions that inevitably are going to experience serious droughts that constitutes the real problem.  Anthropogenic global climate change may be enhancing that concern, but it's always been there.   Whenever local sources of water become inadequate for the population centers, those centers have populations that have become unsustainable.  Even before anthropogenic climate change became a topic for discussion, there were ongoing battles for fresh water resources.  Everyone feels their personal concerns take priority, but politicians who make the laws governing water rights can be influenced by the rich to favor the claims of the rich to that fresh water.

Drought has been ongoing for several years in the western half of Oklahoma and the Texas Panhandle, to the extent that an old bogeyman is making an unwelcome appearance:  cloud seeding.  It's not widely understood that the conditions of a real drought - an absence of rainclouds - make seeding completely useless in mitigating that drought.  Even in cases when rainclouds are present, the actual contribution of cloud seeding to net rainfall has never been shown to be effective in any carefully-done statistical trials.   I have a more comprehensive discussion of weather modification, but the substance of the science is that weather modification to enhance rain has never passed rigorous statistical tests of its effectiveness.  The weather modification companies who sell their "services" for the purpose of drought mitigation haven't a scientific leg to stand on, and yet are profiting from the misery of those suffering from drought.  Those companies may well honestly believe in what they're doing, but the opinion of weather modification activities from the science of meteorology is pretty much dubious.

In OK, we now have vast quantities of waste water from fracking being pumped underground, which not only consumes that water, but has the potential to contaminate the underground water (to say nothing of causing earthquakes in certain areas).  As I said, drought makes many "minor" concerns morph into serious concerns.

Dealing with drought is never easy ... as fresh water availability declines, there will be winners ... and losers.  Who decides who wins and who loses?  On what basis?  The simple fact is we can't survive without adequate fresh water, and as the resource declines, it's going to get ugly.  The sooner we face the unpleasant realities of drought and its consequences, the better.  Sticking your head in the sand won't solve anything.  Solutions won't come easily and it's impossible to use the diminishing resource to satisfy the needs of the increasing demand.