Today is the biggest shopping day of the year for Americans when stores offer special today-only sales to tempt shoppers. After
celebrating the Thursday festival of “Thanksgiving” yesterday, when we
pause briefly to give thanks for our American way of life, we spend the
following day expressing the values underlying that way of life:
shopping! Many items are priced below their actual cost to lure customers into the store and get them into a buying mood. This year the sales started on Thanksgiving Day itself in a blending of celebrations: Give thanks for great deals on the latest electronics.
Why limit Black Friday sales to stores? Urban water utilities might consider reduced water rates on this day to encourage longer showers and extra toilet flushes, and maybe some winter irrigation of the lawn. Let’s lower prices and increase demand! Let’s get our consumptive economy moving!
Providing cheap water, below the “real” cost, and stoking consumer demand for that water, is the basis of American water policies. The advertising hype about Black Friday sales also conveys an important message for the environmental education of America’s water users: Open the taps wide and use as much as you can, and don’t worry. We’ll find new ways to satisfy your incessant demand.
Just as Walmart has constructed a virtual pipeline delivering cheap goods from China to the US, our water engineers have built a network of pipelines (sometimes in the form of canals, or “rectifying” natural rivers to work like canals) to give us cheap water, effectively boosting total demand to use more and more. Just as we didn’t know we needed a 60″ (1.5m) widescreen TV until the culture of Black Friday shopping convinced us, we didn’t realize how important it is to have green lawns in Phoenix, Arizona (or irrigated cotton fields nearby) until the federal government built canals from the Colorado River to make those lawns and cotton fields possible through the Central Arizona Project. Who cares if the river no longer reaches its delta in Mexico? Who cares about the working conditions in the Chinese factories producing those cheap TVs, or the labor contracts of the Walmart employees in US stores who don’t get to celebrate Thanksgiving with their families?
Shoppers standing in line waiting for the Black Friday sales are not thinking about Chinese workers any more than Phoenix homeowners are thinking about the dried up Colorado River Delta. In the rush to consume, there’s no time time to worry about consequences!