How to Heal the Heartland
APRIL 10, 2014
... But the most depopulated area is right down the midsection of the United States. ... But there are other ways to a livable (and that overused word “sustainable”) tomorrow. This future is just below ground level, and at the border’s edge: water and immigration.
The water is the Ogallala Aquifer, a great lake beneath parts of eight states, with enough volume to flood the entire United States in a foot of ancient liquid. And while that sounds like a lot of fresh water, it’s disappearing, because of heavy irrigation. At the current rate, 70 percent of the aquifer will be depleted by 2060, according to a study released last year by Kansas State University.
We can’t make water. But we can slow down the rate at which we use it. The solution would involve sacrifice, and resting croplands that are now saturated with water drawn through straws in the Ogallala. The mess of state and local laws makes a single remedy — say, from Congress — all but impossible. It will take the people who live in the area now and use its water — applying piecemeal conservation but on a broad scale, similar to what is now done with soil conservation districts — to make sure there is life for their grandchildren.
The other resource is people. Without immigrants, many of them illegal, huge parts of the prairie would be left with nothing but the old and dying. “Please come here,” said Michigan Gov. Rick Snyder, after the census report on depopulation was released last year. “Immigrants are innovators, entrepreneurs, they’re making things happen.”
Oh, wait, Musk lives in a mansion in Bel-Air. Perhaps rocket scientists from South Africa don't want to live in tiny towns in the Great Plains?
Perhaps other immigrants can be lured in to work in agriculture? Except, there needs to be less water consumed to save the Ogallala Aquifer, so that means less agriculture, so fewer jobs.
As immigration increasingly becomes the go-to solution for all conceivable problems -- Running out of water? Get more immigrants! -- I've noticed an increasing tendency on the part of pundits and politicians to believe that America must have mechanisms in place for forcing immigrants to live in godforsaken places like Detroit and western Nebraska. GPS ankle bracelets? Armed guards? Ball-and-chain?
Canada's experience is surely relevant. Canadian politicians justify massive legal immigration on the grounds that most of Canada is an unpopulated frozen wasteland that could use a few more souls sprinkled hither and yon. And yet, the overwhelming fraction of immigrants crowd into existing metropolitan areas.