Nobody is saying the impacts of this year's drought are on that scale. However, Alabama Senators Richard Shelby and Jeff Sessions have are already requesting a disaster declaration for 19 Alabama counties as corn farmers and cattle ranchers face potential ruin. The more drastic consequences may occur much further north, in Canada.
The US federal government, particularly President Bush, still has not agreed to impose mandatory cuts on greenhouse gas emissions. Until they do, they are effectively saying that they are prepared to live with the consequences of global warming rather than try to prevent them. For the states already affected by drought this will mean longer and more severe water shortages and increasing strain on already endangered farmland. If that occurs, the US government will be left with three choices to address the looming catastrophe:
- do nothing
- relocate millions of people to more economically productive areas
- gain controlling interests of Canada's fresh water supply.
One guess as to which option the US will choose. Abandoning large tracts of the country isn't just economically undesirable, it would also mean relinquishing two of America's most cherished bedtime stories - 1) that it's man's right to control and exploit nature for his own benefit, and 2) manifest destiny, the myth that "the American government was "destined" to establish uninterrupted political authority across the entire North American continent."
The US thirst for Canadian water is not a myth. It's a desire and policy goal that's been prepared for by international trade agreement's (NAFTA) and clearly stated by numerous US politicians, most recently Kansas congressional hopeful John Doll.
If the drought continues, look for renewed calls for large scale water diversions from Canada - an alarming possibility given rising world temperatures, shrinking glaciers, and a booming Canadian oil sands industry that has already swallowed up enough water rights to quench the thirst of a large city.