Bad Taste and Gray Water

After living in Santa Cruz County for 24 years, and in California for more than 35, I have developed an aversion to liberals’ and leftists’ style, to the form in which they present themselves and their beliefs. Same goes for Greenies ‘style, except worse because the irrationality with them is closer to the surface. Form matters, style matters. It infects content. Bad taste easily turns into stupidity.

This self-induced deafness is a concern because if one of them came up with something novel and potentially valid, I might miss the event altogether. I am that ready to tune them out entirely. This irritability is hardly compatible with my general stance that “facts matter.” New and relevant, important facts might elude me altogether. I listen to NPR and I read Left publications often but it feels a lot like jogging regularly does for a fat man. (Excuse me, I meant a “weight-challenged person of the -provisionally – masculine gender.”) I am proud to be doing it but I am clenching my teeth throughout.

This frame of mind is so solid that it affects my perception even of leftie and Green initiatives that have everything in their favor, actions I would approve of 90% if I became aware of them. The 9/9/10 issue of the Santa Cruz Good Times, a generally good throwaway periodical gives me a case in point. It contains an article by a Kimberley Wein about good news regarding gray water. The article is clear, well-written overall. In the middle of not passing a budget, the powers-that-be of the state of California amended the state plumbing code to allow for wider use of gray water. Gray water is the used water that comes out of your shower and of you washer but not out of your toilet.

It’s a fact that California suffers periodic water shortages. It’s true even if Green-minded alarmists regularly exaggerate the imminence of a water disaster. The City of Santa Cruz has normally dealt with shortage by imposing new water use regulations. Regulations are bad on several levels. First, they increase the cost of government. Second, they enlarge the power of government, creating precedents that are difficult to reverse. Third, regulations of public use of resources, such as watering gardens, encourage mean neighbors to spy. They create an atmosphere of ratting that rewards unpleasant people by making them feel virtuous about doing their civic duty. Fourth, regulations de-responsibilize citizens: I don’t have to use water reasonably anymore because Big Brother, Little Brother in this case, is watching me. Fifth. and I can’t prove it right now but I would bet on it, interdictions coupled with mild sanctions don’t work. If you want to stop drunk driving, send drunk drivers to jail for five years, no ifs and buts, no suspended sentence; do it at the first offense. Pretty obviously, even enviro-maniacs would not agree that watering the roses after hours justifies severe punishment. At least most of them. At least, I think so.

The new California law is a breath of fresh air, a dream come true, I would say if I were not afraid to sound like an effeminate liberal. First, it does the obvious: Most domestic water use goes through showers and dishwashers; what comes out is neither dangerous nor very offensive; its sources are concentrated. So,re-use gray water. It appears to be easy.

This makes sense to me because I am a conservative, although I am not an ardent conservationist. As a conservative, I dislike profligacy. As a conservative, I believe people can do whatever they want with their money but I have an aesthetic and moral preference for not throwing it away. As a rationalist (goes with conservative) I believe in the principle of the least effort. Begin improving the situation from its easiest angle. The new law does all this.

In addition, as if it were my birthday, or Christmas, the application of the new disposition does not trigger up a new permitting process and it makes registration/notification voluntary until such time as it becomes possible to assess whether the new practice create health or other problems. This is a model of reasonableness and an attempt to avoid coercive solutions. We should be able to take such qualities for granted in the area of public governance but we don’t because we are used locally to decades of mindless authoritarianism. (Note: Leftists have been at the helm of both city and county of Santa Cruz for thirty years or more.)

OK, I am painting a lightly rosier picture than I should. There are still plenty of opportunities for irresponsible government intervention into the new system. Don’t use this piece as a source for regulations. Still, what I see in this case is much better than what I am used to.

So, what am I bitching about you might ask? I am not bitching, I am delighted but I might have missed the good news because of how it is embedded in the article. It’s surrounded by mindless platitudes that usually cause me to turn the page and go home to watch Fox News. (I have good academic credentials. I can afford to admit that I watch Fox, even in Santa Cruz!)

The second paragraph in this otherwise good article quotes an elementary school’s “mission statement” to “prepare students to become contributing members of the world community.” What bullshit is this? There is not world community. The word “community” implies a degree of familiarity, of intimacy even. If it’s world-wide, it’s not a community. How about cannibals? How about people who think it’s proper and morally required to subject their little girls to genital mutilation (tens of millions of them at least)? How about ethnic cleansers everywhere? How about genocidal maniacs acting in concert in large numbers (as in Rwanda, as in Darfur)? How about societies where child molestation is institutionalized? How about the old Chinese men who believe that drinking tea brewed from the penis-bone of tigers will restore their virility? Read that one again, you might think you misheard. And yes, tigers have a penile bone. Anyway, I would rather the Siberian tigers survived than have old men shoot their pathetic ammunition one more time. Are these grotesque and cruel people part of my community, of my children’s community? They are not, fortunately. I don’t want them inside. I want them outside as far as possible. That’s because I am an averagely decent person.

The teachers/educators, administrators who devised this ridiculous “mission statement” for an elementary school should be shunned or pilloried. Tie them up in a public place and throw chicken-shit at them until they mend their ways.

(I say, “chicken-shit” because, like them, I am non-violent!)

And why should a public elementary school indoctrinate children at tax-payers’ expense. The missions statement is directly contrary to the one I would prefer: To encourage children to become self-sufficient by teaching them skills such as reading and writing, and a little math. To show them the wisdom of being good citizens of this great nation (not of some other, bad nation), of this great nation where none of the above horrors is allowed.

The paragraph from which this is taken in the Good Times article is not even in good English. It mixes “their statement” with “has plans.” Look here: A given object can be singular or it can be plural. I may not be both in the same sentence. Of course, the writer of the article can’t even think of the obvious: Elementary school must teach children their native language because she does not know it herself.

In the next-but-one paragraph, the writer cites approvingly a sixth-grader who speaks about growing …”stuff that is eco-friendly.” What’s eco-friendly?How do we know? It’s not a simple matter. It involves complex economic calculations based on real data: The production of the added plumbing supplies required to re-use some gray water may do more harm to the environment than simply bringing in more water from the Sierras and storing it. I am not saying it does. I don’t know, The sixth grader does not know either and she should be taught by her teachers that she does not know. In fact, letting children know what they don’t know should be the primary “mission” of a school.

What does eco-friendliness have to do with gray water, in any case? Why the drift into that language? Is it a more or less automatic religious incantation?

Does “eco-friendliness” mean anything at all, anyway?

Not only does the local commentator takes it for granted that the public schools must indoctrinate our children, she does not see that the doctrines are meaningless.

This was an article on the wise re-use of gray water. How about conveying the message, including to children: Saving is a good thing. Saving in an ingenuous way that does not cramp your lifestyle is even better. That’s how our ancestors rose from the beast.

Oops! I am sorry, rising from the beasts is politically incorrect. The beasts are better than we.

PS I talked about this posting in my radio show on 9/12/10. (“Facts Matter” on KSCO Santa Cruz 1080 AM, every Sunday from 11 am to 1 pm.) An engineer called the show to let me know of a problem I had not thought about. Apparently, sewer lines and sewer plants are built for a certain volume of water flow. If we decrease the flow by keeping gray water out of them serious technical problems arise.

That’s the miracle of radio. There is usually someone who knows something you don’t know and who is willing to straighten you out. Thanks you caller. (Sorry, I did not write down your name.)


About Jacques Delacroix

I am a sociologist, a short-story writer, and a blogger (Facts Matter and Notes On Liberty) in Santa Cruz, California.
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3 Responses to Bad Taste and Gray Water

  1. J, It took reading more than 75% of the blog before you stopped sounding like Bruce Bratton on one too many espresso’s.
    I’m one of those who worked on the graywater regulations regionally after nearly 40 years of seeing this yo yo in and out of a sea of regulation. I also grew up in a household where my father was a consulting engineer on major state water projects including the Peripheral Canal and the years of death threats that came with this. My own work is in water reclamation and reuse.
    Mention graywater in most circles today and it is still met with a smirk. Just like most people who think meat comes from the store and water from the tap, few realize where much less understand what it takes to deliver and how little planning is being done for the future. Graywater is the lowest technical contribution to water conservation on one end of the scale and a grass roots approach. It is the proverbial pitchfork at the castle gate. The other end of the rainbow is the head of the SC water department who has said, he is not going to worry about it because he is about to retire. The question at the end of the day is how are we planning for water in 100 years, now? Water reuse is clearly part of the solution.
    If we had to rely on government for any type of innovation, Columbus would still be standing on the docks with empty hands. Graywater is a part of decentralized approach to utility just as solar is. While the average use of water in the Monterey Bay is about 80 gallons per day per person, use in my house is below 22 GPD per person thanks to recycling and reuse.
    I will agree too that the well programed citizen piece in the Good Times made me do a literary about face but hey, it’s Santa Cruz, where you stop for coffee, stay for your funeral and make a life for yourself in between…

  2. P.S. it was researched and well documented that graywater will have a negligible impact on sewer flows as part of the adoption in chapter 16 of the UPC.

    • jacquesdelacroix says:

      Thank you, Arlos. I sound like Bruce Patton on caffein? Don’t flatter me anymore please. I am gratified by what you have to say about gray water and sewage flows but it would be useful if you could give a reference or two. Thank you in advance.

      On style and form, the real subject of my essay, of course, I make allowances for Santa Cruz; I live here. Yet stuff I denounce in this essay is not very different from what I find in the mainstream media and in Associated Press releases, for example.

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