February 22, 2006

Fragmentation of the (political) landscape

The New York Times reports this morning that South Dakota is on the verge off outlawing (nearly) all abortions. In an editorial earlier in the week the Times also noted that the Supreme Court will hear a case that could severely constrain the EPA's ability to regulate natural services such as clean water.

So what does this have to do with Earth Management? It has occurred to me that the US is on a trajectory toward fragmentation of our political landscape through the introduction of (perhaps strong) heterogeneity across our country with regard to the quality of the environment and of health care. With these developments, it is not hard to imagine a future where the US is split into three regions with the NorthEast and WestCoast developing stronger knowledge based economies that might provide better natural services and health care. With WalMart based economies, the FlyOvers would be the third region.

Fragmentation in natural landscapes severely weakens an ecosystem's resilience. I can't help but make the jump here and see the rejection of the future by large parts of our country as a huge blow to our National resilience. What are the parallels here with the arguments in the US in the early to mid-19th Century?

This dystopic vision is clearly fueled by too much late 20th century cyberpunk. Open questions include: What of the Congress? Can natural services be managed regionally? (consider the Regional Greenhouse Gas Initiative in the NorthEast, could that be a precursor to a regional government?).

As dystopic as it is, this vision may also represent a failure of my pessimism (with a nod to Sarah Vowell).