Apocalyst: SAWS, Toxic Floods, & Canine Saviors

Hokusai, Katsushika (1760-1849). “The Great Wave off Kanagawa.” ~1829-1833, Color woodblock.

A Deceleration news summary of WTF happened this week. And maybe how to make it all better.  (Week of 02.05.2018)

Greg Harman

Sprawl, What-Me-Worry? lawmakers, smog, and the big ass water pipes that keep fueling the asthma-inducing flames of ill-informed development. San Antonians have been struggling against these intertwining challenges for years. Yes, our gallons-per-capita has gotten remarkably better in recent decades, but the current trenching of the soon-to-be largest transfer of water ever in Texas means all those savings are about to be blown out of the water.

One of the most significant conversations of the week was about the 142-mile Vista Ridge pipeline, set to feed exploding growth (perhaps far, far) north of the city. Here it is captured by the Rivard Report’s Brendan Gibbons:

“Flush With Water, SAWS Seeks Guidance on Selling to Other Cities”

With a flood of new water coming into the San Antonio Water System in 2020, officials are taking the following question public: To sell or not to sell?

An argument supporting Vista Ridge has been: If we don’t pump the water, $omeone else will. Now the same logic is being applied to the water we suddenly have rights to but can’t actually use. If we don’t water to the many formerly rural points between Austin and SA, $omeone else will.

At a Thursday meeting, Deceleration caught up with a few long-time opponents of the Vista Ridge project and enjoyed an engaging conversation with SAWS CEO Robert Puente (10:30 mark below), whose ballooning salary has again become a point of local debate.


Mayor Ron Nirenberg seems to be favoring selling V(irtual) R(eality) water. At the SAWS board meeting earlier in the week, he spoke of the “enormous responsibility” of being the big water broker on the block (potentially) and in favor “regional water diplomacy.” (See board discussion starting at 1:20 minute mark.) Meanwhile, Nirenberg is also pulling on progressive water attorney Amy “how important are lawns, anyway?” Hardberger for a seat at the SAWS board table.

Area News

Environmental educator Alejandro de la Cruz of Matamoros, México, discusses his comic “Superpatrullín” with Deceleration’s Marisol Cortez at the Latino Comics Expo in Brownsville, Texas.

How Saving Street Dogs In Matamoros, Mexico, Can Save Humanity (Deceleration)
Federal Ruling: Lawsuit Over Golden-Cheeked Warbler Can Proceed (Rivard Report)
New Report Shows Where SA’s Affordable Housing Stock Most at Risk (Rivard Report, again)
Julián Castro says he has “every interest” in running for president in 2020 (Texas Tribune)
Judge smeared by Trump as a ‘hater’ and ‘Mexican’ to hear environmental case against the border wall (McClatchy)
Tsunami warning sets off wave of angst in Houston area over false alarms (Houston Chronicle)
Harvey: How far did Superfund toxics spread? (Associated Press)

“My daddy talks about having bird dogs down there to run and the acid would eat the pads off their feet,” he recounted on Thursday. “We didn’t know any better.”

Among the surge in post-Harvey interest in toxic sites, the AP found another 327 toxic Superfund sites are threatened by climate change. While The New York Times took another tack, finding an estimated 2,500 “chemical sites” in “flood-prone areas.”

Funding Opportunity: #JustRecovery money for filmmakers

Beyond Tejaslandia

Solar jobs fell for the first time in 7 years last year. Now Trump could make it worse. Draining corn syrup from the D.C. “swamp” proves unlikely. How else would we set USDA Dietary Guidelines without the stuff (or its lobbyists)? Would-be AG, climate-denying, coal-loving EPA Admin Scott Pruit is prepping for a transfer of power … to a climate denying, coal lobbying, Milo Yiannopolous defending, and one-time Inhofe aide. And mutant crawfish are poised to devouring Europe—probably a Trump export, since the EU is now threatening not to trade with any nation that fails to ratify the Paris climate agreement.

So where are else are we to look for hope in this time? Until very recently, China seemed like an unlikely answer. Not any more.

Chinese President Xi Jinping … with flowers.

Recommended Read:

Is China Really Building an ‘Ecological Civilization’?

China’s leader affirms an ecological vision aligned with progressive environmental thought—to “facilitates green, low-carbon, and circular development,” to “promote afforestation,” “strengthen wetland conservation and restoration,” and “take tough steps to stop and punish all activities that damage the environment.”

Whether it’s mere rhetoric or has a deeper resonance within Chinese culture will have a profound global effect.

While the peril of our time is real, reinvigorating and defending our democracies only takes three things, according to Frances Moore Lappé and Adam Eichen’s new essay at Waging Nonviolence:

We have what it takes to meet the crisis of our democracy

In fending off despair and effectively taking on democracy’s degradation, one insight has helped us a lot: that it’s not the magnitude of a challenge that crushes the human spirit; rather, it’s a sense of futility that does us in. Homo sapiens evolved, after all, as doers and problem solvers.

Yet, to seize a challenge — and certainly one as mammoth as building a strong, inclusive democracy — our species seems to require three ingredients. First, we must believe that meeting the challenge is essential; second, that it’s possible; and third, that there’s a meaningful place for us in the action.

We can and we will because we must.


Greg Harman is founder and co-editor of Deceleration.

{Want to get involved? Climate Justice SA and supporting and member community organizations such as Southwest Workers Union, Alamo Sierra Club Group, Esperanza Peace & Justice Center, and Vecinos de Mission Trails are just a few of the local groups pushing back on development pressures and wasteful water policies. Plug in; you’ll feel better.}