"You do you" but for cholera

Civic programs can't save SF's antiquated sewers from flooding:

It's easy to see the appeal of this kind of civic action, especially when it comes with the right to give "your" storm drain cutesy names, like Lana Del Drain or Drainmond Green. The feel-good PR campaign obfuscates a grimmer reality, though. San Francisco's antiquated stormwater system is prone to flooding, particularly in low-lying areas, and specifically flooding that contains raw sewage. The problem will only get worse in the face of storms enhanced by climate change. Which makes Adopt-a-Drain the paper straw of flood management, a gesture that's as lovely as it is inadequate. [...]

Despite the existential threat, the utilities commission continues to focus much of its public messaging on the importance of individual action, rather than fast-tracking major infrastructure projects. Sweiss told SFGATE that climate change "requires everyone to do their part," suggesting that residents sign up for Adopt-a-Drain and apply for grants to help pay for "improvements on their property that help protect against flooding during heavy rainstorms." [...]

The truth is, "rain guardians" and "Drain Daddies" are band-aids on a leaking dam. It's up to our local government to take far bolder action to protect its citizens now, before it's too late -- not push convenient distractions, like naming drains.

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10 Responses:

  1. Elusis says:

    It's up to our local government to take far bolder action to protect its citizens now, before it's too late -- not push convenient distractions, like naming drains.

    But you can't drown that in a bathtub... or a storm drain!

    What's the Lolbertarian solution to "our sewers and storm drains are grossly inadequate and causing both property damage and health hazards"? (We know they don't care about the environment.)

    • Skivverus says:

      I mean, I happen to work for a company that makes recorders that allow for triaging this sort of thing. Corporatist solution is "buy more of our stuff, actually listen to it, and maybe hire more/competent crews to expand the worst drains/pipes first."
      Lolbertarian solution is "make sure your own drain is clear (getting there via raft if necessary), then worry about others', same way as you'd put on your own air mask first in the plane emergencies they tell you about at the start of every flight."

      The two aren't mutually exclusive, though.

      • Elusis says:

        What part of reading the above article made you conclude that "keeping drains clean" is an actual solution to the problem described?

        • Skivverus says:

          I mean, you asked for the "lolbertarian" solution, which I took as a desire for humor rather than serious thought.
          I expect it'll still work, when it's an immediate issue, but it's obviously not a long-term fix. Long-term fix involves paying people with backhoes to dig things up so they can install bigger and/or separate pipes. Libertarian fix probably involves getting the politicians to cut down the size of the manual you have to read before hiring someone with a backhoe.
          Or skip the digging, have the pipes aboveground, and insert disclaimers about "do not use these with basement toilets".

          • Elusis says:

            Lolbertarians are "humorous" mostly due to the fact that they keep trying to find ways to frame their political positions as serious and principled, rather than admitting they're just a combo of "I got mine, so fuck you, Jack" and "The Golden Rule: Them's That's Got the Gold, Makes the Rules." They have no serious answer to the policy problem of "the community's method of dealing with both flooding and sewage is inadequate to the task; people will drown, get sick, and lose their homes if we continue like this" because they don't believe in taking care of anyone but themselves. Their "solution" is likely something like "move on top of a hill, by force if necessary, and make sure my shit drains downhill at other people while cornering the market on water purification tablets."  Also something something "the invisible hand will save us before we poison absolutely ALL the fish and croplands," The Aristocrats.

            (OK they're also humorous when they're getting owned by bears.)

            • Skivverus says:

              I'd expand that a bit: it's not "them that's got the gold makes the rules", it's "help people for money, and you'll get money you can use to get people to help you. Now or later. The ones that 'got the gold' picked 'later' a whole bunch."

              The lolbertarian caricature of the left goes something like "someone actually doing something good without The Government forcing them to do it! The horror!"
              And of the right, "someone actually doing something fun without Society signing off on it! The horror!"

              Or, that's how it'd currently go. I think which one gets caricatured as "The Government" and which one as "Society" switches off depending on who's in power for that segment of things. If they're the same, I recommend checking for fascism (see, for instance, China).  

              Bonus: lolbertarian caricature of large institutions in general. "Someone actually doing something without a meeting to determine when to hold the meeting to determine where the meeting to determine who decides whether or not it's a problem... the horror!"

  2. Nathan Williams says:

    This bit (or the attitude in it) was surprising:

    San Francisco’s sewer system is nearly unique among California cities: It combines raw sewage and stormwater runoff into a single system. The San Francisco Public Utilities Commission, which operates the system, touts this as a greener option because most stormwater goes through sewage treatment facilities rather than being discharged directly into the bay.

    Out here on the East Coast combined sewers in old cities are common... but generally understood to be a bad thing, and construction projects to separate them are a steady grind, ebbing and flowing with municipal budgets.

    • jwz says:

      It does sound like an after-the-fact "well actually" wishful-thinking justification of a stupid situation. However it also sounds like something that could be unambiguously measured, by comparing runoff toxicity in two similar cities.

  3. Elusis says:

    We're working on mitigating some of the impact of our system here in Seattle.

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