Town v. Country 2: Eco-coalitions

Worth a look are four interactive maps at the Public Policy Institute of California website.

The 1982 Proposition 9 voting patterns map was described in the previous post. It describes the relationship between voting and geography, California’s blue and red states. Two more present scenarios for how Delta flooding might occur over the next 50 years. One correlates real estate value with island reclamation post-flood; the other simulates how the Delta might flood if left to natural processes.

The last map is a vision that illustrates what the Delta might become if a coalition of environmental and water management interests managed physical change there. Of course, the Delta might become many things, but the PPIC chooses to show only one—a vision well-suited to this coalition, the eco-equivalent of politicians holding babies.

It is a reductive idea about the future of the Delta—neither explicit about how people will use the Delta’s land and water, nor about the economic scenario for its ambitious transformation. There is no vision about recreational space, despite the growing pressure the Delta faces to accommodate many types of eco-friendly tourism. The PPIC map conveys no vision about urbanism, either within the Delta or at its perimeter, despite the explosive exurban growth at the Delta’s perimeter. The vision contains no sense of the remarkable history and places of the Delta.

Nor does the vision acknowledge that its vast areas of “non-productive” land uses would have to be paid for. For comparative purposes, it is useful to refer to the Delta Wetlands Project’s almost twenty-year history of public review. The privately funded DWP’s scope is modest in comparison to PPIC’s vision, and relied on two large in-Delta water storage reservoirs to pay for the creation and management of in-Delta habitat.

Visions are, by definition, more art than science. And PPIC’s vision will certainly appeal to a powerful coalition of Delta interests: environmental advocates, water supply development advocates and, implicitly, water sportsmen. But why not envision extending the sphere beyond habitat and water infrastructure? Why not be explicit in envisioning diverse forms and spaces of human occupation as a critical element of the Delta’s future?

Posted by John Bass on 27 Jul 2009 | Comments (0)

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