Thursday, Nov. 15, 2007 By MICHAEL GRUNWALD
Georgia was enduring its worst drought in a century, and it had already asked President Bush and the Supreme Court for relief. So on Nov. 13, Republican Governor Sonny Perdue appealed to a higher power, hosting a statehouse vigil to "pray up a storm," begging God to bring the rain he had withheld for 14 months.
But it wasn't God who allowed an outdoor theme park to build a million-gallon mountain of artificial snow while the Southeast was running dry; it was Governor Perdue and his fellow elected officials. They also allowed the wasteful irrigation of Georgia's cotton farms and the rampant overbuilding and overslurping of metropolitan Atlanta.
Like Hurricane Katrina or the California wildfires, this drought was a natural event transformed into a natural disaster by human folly. And while it's still hard to say whether global warming caused any particular drought or flood or fire, it's going to cause more of all of them.
Politicians always call catastrophes "acts of God," blaming unnatural destruction caused by natural phenomena on supernatural forces. When Perdue's spokeswoman said prayer was the answer, because "the issue at the heart of our drought is a lack of rain," she was wrong. The issue is a lack of water, and the best way to retain more is to consume less--with less lawn-sprinkling, car-washing, irrigating and sprawl. At Perdue's vigil, the Rev. Gil Watson acknowledged that "we have not been good stewards of our water," and even Perdue suggested that God was trying to "get our attention" for failing to do "all we could do in conservation."
Amen to that. But now Georgia's politicians are fighting to protect their culture of consumption and development by suspending the Endangered Species Act, so that they won't have to send any water downstream to preserve endangered mussels in Florida's Apalachicola River. It's not a very holy attitude. Those mussels are God's creatures too--and so are the oystermen and fishermen who depend on the Apalachicola. Anyway, stiffing them won't save Atlanta. That's going to require serious water management and long-term thinking. In other words, a miracle.
AMEN. And may God bless us all.