In the wake of the “what matters,” (long time in the making), nuclear bomb that has dropped on the nation and world, I bring forward points from a story I wrote while covering the Sandhills Cattle Association meeting for the June 7, 2018 edition of the Western Ag Reporter.

The meeting was held at the Cherry County Fairgrounds in Valentine, Neb. In the spirit of “Valentines” for the love of God, let’s please be laser-focused once and for all on what matters, as outlined by the guest speaker at the convention – John Winkler, General Manager of the Papio-Missouri River Natural Resources District. His presentation was, “How World-Wide Water Issues Impact not only U.S. National Security but Nebraska’s Future.” Winkler was a recent graduate of the National Security Forum’s Air War College at Maxwell Air Force Base in Alabama at the time. Below, I am re-quoting some of what he shared at this meeting. This matters to all of us and if it doesn’t – well, nothing else will.

“The U.S. Director of National Intelligence sees global water overuse as one of the biggest threats to national security. As of 2015, 2.1 billion people lacked access to safe drinking water and 4.5 billion lacked access to sanitation, more than 500 million in India alone. By 2030 the world will face a 40 percent global water deficit. Egypt, the most populous Middle East country as well as Saudi Arabia, Jordan, Syria and South Sudan are currently experiencing water scarcity. From 2003 to 2010 Iraq, Syria and Iran lost 35 square miles of stored freshwater, enough to fill the Dead Sea,” Winkler said.

Winkler pointed out the National Aeronautics and Space Administration (NASA) data has shown California’s groundwater reserves are so depleted that the depletion can be detected from 200 miles above the earth’s surface, “The average American uses 200 gallons of water per day and another 1,250 per day for food production. Land needed for roads, housing and new ag production will require change in land use of 3,000,000 acres annually (over 10 years that is roughly the size of the State of Iowa).”

“By several estimates, the loss of land and water resources will reduce food production in the U.S. to the point where it will cease to be a net exporter of food by 2025,” Winkler said.

Somewhere on a Reservation not far from you are human beings who have long suffered the forced starvation of being moved from the lands they once grew and hunted food upon for thousands of years. While we may laud many of our technological advancements as “advancements,” we should also be deeply sobered by the amount of resource extraction that has occurred in the roughly 240 years of United States history. When we read the above information, are we gravely concerned?

There are many stories in the Bible about mass migrations, rooted in loss of manna. Most of them do not figure out the error of their ways until the food and water run out. But those in most recent human history, who were abruptly moved from lands that once sustained them (without a choice), clearly understand this experience.

The above also does not outline the “water quality” issues that coincide with the “water quantity” issues. Water quality is a dire issue, especially when some rural municipalities and other economically challenged areas will simply not be able to afford the high cost of water purification improvements that need to be made to public water systems.

“Rights” will not matter if all the wells have run dry. What matters is pulling our heads out of the sands we have created before it is too late. We can go down one of two paths. One path says we have the right to extract everything to suit our every “need.” Another path shows us a multitude of ways we can regenerate and protect our natural resources while reaping truly worthy profits.

This is what matters or no other point we are trying to make stands a chance because we will have starved ourselves to death and shamefully wasted the last drop to drink.

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