POSTED ON FEBRUARY 13, 2013:
As Water in a Sieve
Legislators entertain profitless endeavor
Across Oklahoma, the landscape is starting to look and feel uncomfortably like the parched '50s or the Dirty '30s.
Record warm years. Cracked earth. Blowing dust. Far too little rain for far too long.
Anyone who doubted water would supplant oil as the 21st Century's most precious natural resource surely has been convinced otherwise.
Even with welcome recent showers, drought maintains an iron grip on Oklahoma, demanding new, collective -- yes, right-wingers, collective -- resolve to protect life's prime sustainer.
Instead, our elected leaders at NE 23rd and Lincoln Blvd. in Oklahoma City are playing politics with H2O. Not just any politics, but radical, extremist, unconscionable politics.
It didn't attract nearly enough mainstream media attention, but a House committee last week voted overwhelmingly to negate a 50-year statewide plan for water usage and conservation approved by lawmakers just eight months ago.
Why the about face? Because wingnuts in the Legislature are convinced long-term conservation and sustainability are part of a U.N. plot to engineer One World Government.
This is what some members of our august elected leadership actually believe. Passionately believe.
In their minds, they stand vigilant against something called Agenda 21, a non-binding plan for sustainable development approved at a United Nation's conference in Rio in 1992 -- and supported by that well-known totalitarian, George Herbert Walker Bush.
Actually, these Oklahoma lawmakers don't stand against that Agenda 21. They stand against the Agenda 21 created in the fertile mind of Conspiracy Central's Bloviator-in-Chief Glenn Beck.
Beck recently produced a work of fiction entitled Agenda 21, described by one blogger as "the suspenseful and perhaps sobering tale of a futuristic America in which a U.N.-led program spawned an authoritarian state where individuals are stripped of all personal rights and freedoms."
First, Ayn Rand. Now, Glenn Beck. Whose fantasy will these guys embrace next? L. Ron Hubbard's?
"I've read it [the UN's actual Agenda 21] from top to bottom and I'd describe it as lot nice platitudes," said David Ocamb, the Sierra Club's Oklahoma director and chief lobbyist.
"Lots of things that should be pursued, but no enforcement. No 'world' government," he added.
This Agenda 21 nonsense would be hilarious if it weren't so serious.
It was this same sort of extremism that 18 years ago whipped Timothy McVeigh into such a frenzy that he bombed the Oklahoma City federal building, killing 168, including 19 children.
Remember The Turner Diaries? William Pierce's fictional account of the violent overthrow of the United States government -- triggering nuclear war and a race war that extermination of "impure" groups (Jews, non-whites and gays) -- was McVeigh's Bible. His involved or Atlas Shrugged.
Equally disturbing is that Agenda 21 conspirators are on the verge of muddying serious public policy debates regarding our stewardship of our most precious natural resource.
Then-Speaker Kris Steele's Water for 2060 Act -- approved by lawmakers and signed into law by Gov. Mary Fallin last year -- marked the first time in recent memory that Oklahoma lawmakers did anything of consequence to encourage water conservation.
It wasn't much. Baby steps, really. But it signaled that the state's elected leadership gets it. We don't have to have oil or natural gas to survive. We do need water.
Unfortunately, Moore Rep. Paul Wesselhoft's HB 1562 would, if approved by the full Legislature and Fallin, remove the standards for control of water usage through conservation -- the linchpin of the Republican former speaker's bill.
Wesselhoft's measure was approved on a 9-1 vote -- all Republicans on the House Rules Committee in support, as well as two Democrats, Kay Floyd of Oklahoma City and Will Fourkiller of Stilwell.
The only vote against was from Democrat Mike Shelton of Oklahoma City, who noted, "We have to be good stewards. We have to set goals."
"It makes no sense to say what most other states are doing with their water and how they're planning for their future is irresponsible, when just a few years ago, the Legislature had no problem with this same conservation plan," Shelton added.
The Agenda 21 tomfoolery is spreading like wildfire through legislatures across the nation. In fact, at least four Agenda 21-inspired measures are wending their way through the Oklahoma Legislature.
If you think it's an organic revolution, think again: It's the work of the big money American Legislative Exchange Council, a national bill writing machine financed by the billionaire, uber-right Koch Brothers and other corporatists.
The idea behind much of the legislation is to attempt to block any state agency or state-financed institution from partnering with any U.N.-connected organization.
The University of Oklahoma Health Sciences Center could be prevented from working with the World Health Organization on preventing emerging diseases.
Oklahoma State University's agriculture department could be thwarted from working with the U.N. Food and Agriculture Organization on drought-resistant crops and other farm technologies.
Another Agenda 21-related bill is attempting to block the federal Environmental Protection Agency from impacting anything in Oklahoma.
Maybe it's time to change the slogan on our vehicle license plates to Oklahoma: The Crackpot State.
You know the writers for Leno, Letterman, Maher, et al., are gleefully rubbing their hands. What material! Manna from comedic heaven!
Rep. Brian Renegar, D-McAlester, a thoughtful legislative voice on water issues, doesn't think Wesselhoft's Agenda 21-driven water measure is the least bit humorous.
"If back in the '50s, President Eisenhower had not had the foresight for developing the interstate system, we would all still be driving on pig trails," Renegar said. "The Water for 2060 Act was known as the 'Speaker's Conservation Bill,' when it passed under Speaker Kris Steele. That should tell you how important this was. It was the only recommendation from the most recent Comprehensive Water Plan, a plan formulated with robust input from the public, that made it into law."
"And now, HB 1562 renders that plan, and the people's will, meaningless, and threatens the water that the people of Oklahoma can use for generations to come," he added.
Given the debilitating drought we're enduring, most folks I know are more keenly aware than ever of the need to maximize water use and limit its waste.
One family member living in Texas -- which is in worse shape than we are (one reason they're fighting in the U.S. Supreme Court to gain access to Oklahoma water) -- actually fills buckets while waiting for his shower water to heat so he can give his plants and trees a drink.
According to the Sierra Club's Ocamb, the drought has had a negative $1.6 billion impact on Oklahoma's economy.
Think about it: Farmers and ranchers rely on water. Anglers and hunters rely on water. Tourism -- the state's third biggest industry -- relies on water.
"Access to water makes the Oklahoma we know and love," Ocamb said. "Without it we would be a desert. There's no question that water matters for the bottom line. Conserving, protecting water matters."
Such a precious resource should never, ever be at the mercy of the tin foil hat crowd, operating on a playbook written by ALEC, the Koch Brothers, and Glenn Beck.
The GOP dominates both houses of the Oklahoma Legislature. Where are the common sense, reality-based Republicans? They should be calling out such extremism, like their forebears did with McCarthy and the John Birch Society six decades ago.
If this Agenda 21 malarkey prevails, and the state's modest water conservation plans are nullified, you'll eventually be thirsting for more than common sense.
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