Sunday, June 03, 2012
North Carolina in a world of its own creation—state plans to legislate away sea level rise
“The Pythagoreans had discovered irrational numbers! If we take an isosceles right triangle with legs of measure 1, the hypotenuse will measure sqrt 2. But this number cannot be expressed as a length that can be measured with a ruler divided into fractional parts … So shocked were the Pythagoreans by these numbers, they put to death a member who dared to mention their existence to the public.”— A Brief History of the Pythagorean Theorem
by Larry Geller
Legislating against or otherwise suppressing science is nothing new. Or killing the whistleblower when that works, as the Pythagoreans did. Ultimately, the word about pi got out. You’d think mankind would learn. Yet here we are, in the enlightened 21st Century, still trying to suppress scientific knowledge.
Another example: despite Galileo’s ultimate triumph, flat-earth science prevailed in Victorian England although the British don’t want to talk about it now.
What exactly has changed? In the past, many were deluded, but now, many others suppress science because they are simply greedy and dishonest. We’re better at the science, but those in power are motivated to deny it, usually for profit or to retain or advance their status.
The Internet is abuzz because a bill that would halt climate change by law, HB819, is making its way through the North Carolina legislature:
Perhaps searching for a way to one-up their much derided anti-marriage law, North Carolina lawmakers are considering ban on science with a new bill that would essentially make it illegal to predict a rise in the sea level.
After a state-appointed board of scientists determined that a one meter rise in sea level is likely by the year 2100 — echoing the scientific consensus on the issue — a coastal economic development group called NC-20 decided to push back against the results. They are upset that such an estimate would thwart development along the coast, as it would be illegal to build in the “flood zone” where there is under one meter of elevation.
[The National Memo, Today In Stupid: North Carolina Considers A Law Against Predicting Sea Level Rise, 6/3/2012]
Good thing they are passing a law against it, because it looks like that one-meter rise will happen at least by the end of the century, perhaps sooner. So sometime before then, it would become illegal to develop in the coastal region. They better hurry up with that law.
Hawaii hasn’t attempted to legislate their coastal development problem into oblivion. Instead, it seems they prefer to give some of the problematic land to Native Hawaiians. That’s exactly what the state did in making a deal with the Office of Hawaiian Affairs to “pay off” part of the state’s obligations by transferring land to OHA that is in the tsunami evacuation zone.
Just as the sea will rise in North Carolina, it will rise here. Even before the coastal area is covered with water, it will be flooded by storm tides and ground water will rise. Generally speaking, the coast is not going to be an attractive place to build in the coming decades. (image snipped from the Star-Advertiser)
How convenient (for state government) that OHA wants to accept that land.
Those pesky “affairs”
Not always, but often enough, an organization title ending in “Affairs” identifies some group of people who are troublesome to government—people who won’t conveniently just disappear from the planet, so there needs to be an organization to deal with them.
- Bureau of Indian Affairs
- Office of Hawaiian Affairs
- US Dept. of Veterans Affairs
- Bureau of International Labor Affairs
There are plenty more—Bureau of African Affairs, etc.
Regardless of the stated mission, these departments are designed to control, in some way, the problem that government is experiencing. It’s questionable whether they work effectively on behalf of their putative beneficiaries. For example, the mission statement of the Bureau of Indian Affairs is given as:
The Bureau of Indian Affairs’ mission is to enhance the quality of life, to promote economic opportunity, and to carry out the responsibility to protect and improve the trust assets of American Indians, Indian tribes and Alaska Natives.
Yet the BIA has been used by the US Government as a way to destroy the “threat” of American Indians, cheat them of promised treaty benefits, contain them, and effectively end their way of life.
Veterans are finding that they are being denied medical and psychiatric care by the VA. The Iraq and Afghanistan wars have dumped thousands of wounded servicepeople at the doorstep of the VA, but reports keep coming in that the door is closed. And so it goes.
Arguably, the state has given OHA land that already belongs to the Native Hawaiian people, but only the areas that the University of Hawaii, the occupier of the center of the Kakaako peninsula, doesn’t want. In addition to ocean rise, at least part of the area apparently must be remediated before any development can occur. Kind of a fixer-upper that has no long-term future.
Hawaii won’t follow North Carolina’s lead in outlawing climate change. We’re not that stupid. Besides, the state government has found a way to use that questionable coastal land to “settle” a debt.
I suppose it’s necessary to mention, for readers outside of Hawaii, that OHA is a state agency. The state has given the land to itself. The state thinks it has wiped out a debt to Native Hawaiians by giving land to OHA that arguably belongs to Native Hawaiians already, since it is part of the so-called “ceded lands.” So also is the land still reserved for University of Hawaii use, the part smack in middle of the peninsula and not in the tsunami evacuation zone, but that prime land wasn’t included in the “deal.”
So North Carolina may be “stupid,” but Hawaii is just too clever.
Wow! Larry! Very thought-provoking. And now that I think about it, you're the only writer I've seen talking about the liklihood that the new OHA lands are in the inundation zones...
Yeah, I kind of took advantage of the North Carolina news to shoehorn the OHA stuff in again. You're right. People are not getting terribly excited about it.