Saturday, October 27, 2007

Man Versus Mussels

The city of Atlanta, Georgia, is running out of water. Despite this, the Army Corps of Engineers has ordered that sufficient water flows be drained out of Lake Lanier, the city's main reservoir, to keep alive the fat threeridge mussel located in Florida's Apalachicola River, some 350 miles away.

While the water level of Lake Lanier is poised to fall below the lowest level it set in 1981, a mandatory 3.2 billion gallons of water are drained each day from the lake to meet the requirement of the Endangered Species Act to keep the endangered mussel alive.

Officials estimate that Atlanta will run out of water in three months unless man takes precedence over mussels, and the water flows are stopped.

To place man above the mussel is illegal under the law. The Endangered Species Act is clear. All species are to be protected at any cost. Only one species is dispensable: man.

The citizens of Atlanta (and all men) only need one idea to protect them from this deadly mussel: man's right to his own life. If man has rights, animals cannot. If man has rights, his interests always come first and this absurd battle of man versus mussel could never arise. This incident illustrates very clearly that for man to survive, he must be completely free to alter nature for his own benefit.

When man's needs conflict with nature, as it must, man must always win: for man to drink, the mussels must die. Man's life depends on his right to his own life being inviolable.

There is a secondary, albeit crucially important idea that the citizens of Atlanta also need: property rights. If profit-seeking, private companies had owned the lakes and rivers and had been supplying water to Atlanta all along, instead of the government, it is unlikely that such a large, fast-growing city would have become so dependent on the smallest watershed in Georgia for its water supply. Even without the deadly mussel, Atlanta was probably vulnerable all along to drought simply because its water supply is so small relative to the city's size. A private company makes money by supplying water and has every incentive to actively develop and maintain adequate water supplies. City politicians do not have the same incentive, thus Atlanta's precarious position.

In conclusion, remember these lessons, Atlantans (and all Americans): your right to life and your right to property are the weapons you need to protect yourselves from all external threats, foreign and domestic. Without those rights, even a tiny, inedible mussel can crush you out of existence.


Jenn Casey said...

Thank you for feeling my pain! This water shortage is insanity and could be avoidable with proper management and ownership--in the hands of those who have the incentive to improve and protect the water resource.

This is just crazy--soon people will begin to lose their livelihoods due to the shortage and without major changes quickly all of us in the metro Atlanta area will be facing some difficult times.

Thanks for writing about this issue.

Galileo Blogs said...

Your welcome.

I almost didn't write about it because it is so absurd. Yet with serious people equating mussels and man and trying to find a "compromise" between the two, I had to point out the missing idea needed to sort out this grotesque gumbo. (Of course, credit goes to Ayn Rand; she identified the principle.)

Interestingly, any saboteur who blew up a dam and drained a reservoir that supplied a major city with drinking water would be thrown in jail, and rightfully so.

But let a biologist declare an inedible (!) mussel endangered, and every sacrifice becomes justified, including the lives of 5,138,223 human animals who live in the habitat called Greater Atlanta.

johnnycwest said...

Yet another story that could come from "Atlas Shrugs" - an invertebrate's value elevated above humans. Or more likely humans devalued to the point of no value. Since some environmentalists believe we are such vile creatures to be plundering and destroying our planet, our destruction would be valuable to them. I am afraid it will come to this with some.

Via Instapundit:,,2200256,00.html

A writer for the Guardian worries about man exploiting the moon - a celestial body with no life. And as Instapundit points out: "And note the defeatist, anti-humanity tone of many of the comments to his piece. Happily, others are more sensible."

More practically for the Atlanta situation, is water use metered? Has the price of water risen as its supply has declined? If not then the story is even more absurd. Good luck and I hope the situation improves with some intelligent decisions being made.

Jenn Casey said...

johnnycwest--I live in metro Atlanta. We're on the other side of town, so we get our water not from Lake Lanier, the main reservoir for the city, but from Lake Allatoona. Last night as I drove over the bridge of Lake Allatoona, the water flow was a shallow stream and there was a family with small toddlers wading in it. I should take a picture.

Yes, our water is metered and NO! the price of water has not risen! (I don't know for sure about the Lake Lanier users.) I got my water bill today and it's $27.07--the same as it's been ALL YEAR. Every time I get my bill I shake my head in disgust, as this whole scenario is simply ridiculous.

johnnycwest said...

That is wacky, but not surprising. Anytime I become a little frustrated with the price of gas - here in Canada more than $4.00 per gallon, I smile knowing it will last longer at the higher price. Geopolitics, our enemies, and environmentalists may be responsible for some (or most?) of that price, but at least the market is supplying the product which is more then one can say for you in Atlanta. It is hard to believe that such a vital commodity as water could be so poorly handled - but in some ways not - it is the vital commodities that governments tend to control or want to control the most. I suspect there is no shortage of bourbon in Atlanta or anything else produced and distributed in a largely free market. Again - good luck! And thanks to Galileo for the blog post.

Galileo Blogs said...

Johnny, your observation about prices is a good one. I will add another instance of government distortion of prices, with disastrous consequences. During the California Electricity Crisis of 2000/2001, there were rolling blackouts across California except, for a time, in one region, San Diego. In San Diego, unlike the rest of California, the local utility had obtained permission to let electricity prices reflect supply and demand characteristics. As a result, electricity prices paid by the retail customer soared. In response to the high electricity prices, he did the natural thing: he consumed less electricity.

San Diego experienced a huge decrease in electricity consumption during the crisis. In the rest of the state, Californians could read about the electricity crisis in their flood-lit backyards, but the price they paid for electricity never changed. It was fixed by law. At no time (until the crisis was largely over) did the price they pay for electricity reflect the fact that the hydroelectric dams could not produce enough electricity because of unusually low water levels in the reservoirs or that there was a shortage of generating capacity in the state because state and federal policies had prevented the construction of new plants for the prior decade.

The crisis only became real to these Californians when their lights went out because their utility companies were no longer physically able to supply electricity.

The consequences of no electricity was a major inconvenience: snarled traffic and rotting food in refrigerators. The consequence of no water for Atlanta will also be an inconvenience, at first.

Market prices provide valuable information. They tell buyers of the product how much to buy, and they tell suppliers how much to provide. A market price always equates supply and demand, not just in the present but in the future. If future supplies must be expanded, today's market prices will reflect that fact. A high price today will provide capital for the entrepreneur to bring on new supply, and it will foster conservation by today's customers, thereby ensuring an adequate supply in the future.

None of this happens when government is the provider. A government-set prices is never right. It is either too high or too low. When it is set too low by politicians afraid to offend their constituents, the result is a mismatch between supply and demand. People respond to the artificially low price by consuming too much of the product. The low price also denies revenues that can be used to secure more supply.

Thus, Atlantans whose price paid for water never reflected the scarcity of water are instead forced to consume less through bans on watering lawns and other coercive measures.

In the same manner, residents of Los Angeles and San Francisco, while they "enjoyed" politically mandated low electricity prices, consumed electricity in a profligate manner until the blackouts befell them.

The solution is that all "vital commodities," as Johnnycwest puts it, should be provided by private, profit-seeking businessmen. Get the government out of the water business, the electricity business and all other businesses. The more "important" the business, the greater reason to get government out of it.

Chuck said...

A little late to the discussion, but better late than never. This water situation in Atlanta reminds me of the similar situation in Klamath Falls, Oregon, back in 2001. There also, endangered species were judged of higher value than mankind, and irrigation water for farmers was cut off in favor of saving some creature or other.

Galileo Blogs said...

Thank you for your example, Chuck. All environmental restrictions on human productive activities are similar, although the case of water is dramatic because it is absolutely essential for human life.

However, don't we need housing, which is thwarted if a developer's shovel would hurt the habitat of an endangered moth or snail?

Or wood and paper, which is thwarted if the lumberman's saw would chop down a tree that bears the nest of a protected owl?

The list goes on.

In fact, I remind myself that I live on an island, Manhattan, that has been completely paved over into the "concrete jungle" that I love (and others hate). Just how many complete "ecosystems" and "species" were wiped out by man's depredation of nature here? I don't know and I don't care, and I am very grateful that all of it happened before the Endangered Species Act became law.