Water is the new oil but is far more important since our very lives depend on it. Seventy percent of global fresh-water withdrawals are for agricultural purposes, and rural-urban conflicts over water are inevitable.
Until now, those of us in the High Plains haven’t worried much about shortages because of our magnificent underground water supply, the Ogallala Aquifer. But it is now being depleted much faster than it is being recharged.
What happens when new wells no longer strike water?
We have outstanding research capabilities, but we need them to be laser-focused. Research can be revolutionary, whether by developing drought-resistant crops and breeds, improving conservation or inventing new water-storage or desalinization techniques.
We need to scrutinize and modernize funding mechanisms for agricultural research to foster innovation and ensure coordination among research entities. A new report from AGree, an initiative that focuses on agricultural, food and rural policy issues, lays out the issue and solid recommendations, starting with a congressional hearing.
As former secretaries of agriculture, we know how difficult it is to effect systemic change. Where water is concerned, we also know time is of the essence. Research can help solve our challenges, but we must maximize every dollar and we must act now.
former U.S. secretaries
Hamilton on $10 bill
Several recent reports have noted the apparent decision of the U.S. Department of the Treasury to replace Alexander Hamilton on the $10 bill with a woman from American history. It is certainly important (and long overdue) to recognize the achievement of women, but why couldn’t the Treasury pick a better candidate to remove?
Why not pull Andrew Jackson from the $20 bill or Ulysses S. Grant from the $50? Both of these men contributed far less than Hamilton to American history.
Hamilton was a central figure in the drafting and ratification of the U.S. Constitution. In fact, he co-authored (primarily with James Madison) the Federalist Papers, which not only explained the new Constitution but provided cogent arguments for supporting the new government. In addition, as the first secretary of the Treasury, Hamilton can be viewed as the architect of America’s economic system.
It is quite understandable that the Treasury believed it could not remove George Washington from the $1 bill, Thomas Jefferson from the $2 bill, Abraham Lincoln from the $5 bill and, for that matter, Ben Franklin from the $100 bill. But Jackson and Grant, although successful military men, are not in the same league with those four.
In terms of contribution, Alexander Hamilton is in that league and should remain on our currency.
Difficulties at KCI
Kansas City International Airport management is poor. To help my mother, age 89, return home, we pulled the car to the curb and obtained a wheelchair, and my wife got in the shorter curbside check-in line. Mom, alone, was in the terminal.
Terminals B and C short-term parking were full. Terminal A parking was not for occupation. I drove to the long-term parking and nearly was hit by another driver who ran the locked red light.
Foregoing the automated $7 fee, I returned to Terminal B along with the growing number of other drivers dodging road construction while cruising the circle drive. Desperate, I followed a car into an unmarked area and parked. Saying goodbye was not to be.
Thanks to my wife, Mom made her flight to Tampa, Fla.
On the telephone, Mom was gracious: “Goodbyes are harder these days because I can’t help wondering if it will be the last time I will see the person I’m saying goodbye to.”
The human costs for no overflow plans, construction during high-volume traffic times, frozen traffic signals and unmarked parking areas result from poor management and are unacceptable in an old or new airport facility.
Kansas City, Kan.
The 25th anniversary of the Americans with Disabilities Act is approaching. On July 26, 1990, President George H.W. Bush signed the legislation into law. It represents the single most important and meaningful event to happen in my life.
The law is one of America’s most comprehensive pieces of civil rights legislation, granting equal access to social realms that non-disabled people may take for granted. It prohibits discrimination and guarantees that people with disabilities have the same opportunities as everyone else to participate in the mainstream of American life — to access employment opportunities and public transportation, to have the ability to purchase goods and services, and to participate in state and local government programs and services.
According to the Department of Labor, about 14 percent of our local population has some kind of disability. Many more non-disabled folks are affected by a disability because of a family member or friend they care for.
The Americans with Disabilities Act allows us to have the choice to lead meaningful, productive and independent lives. My gratitude goes to all the grassroots disability advocates and government officials who made this law happen.
As a college mathematics instructor, I find it extremely troubling that proficiency in algebra would not be a requirement for a degree (7-21, A1, “Colleges may alter algebra formula”). Knowledge of and ability to do algebra are fundamental to the development of logical thinking and reasoning ability.
I find it even more troubling that the impetus of this decision is a state goal of doling out higher-education credentials to 60 percent of working-age adults.
The way to reach that goal is not to water down a college degree by taking out the algebra requirement. The way to do it is to improve mathematics teaching.
Most students who can’t pass need better instruction to understand the unique importance of mathematics in our knowledge and to understand that they can do the work if they put in the time without considering math as awful from the start.
Giving students a college degree without requiring the ability to do basic algebra strikes me as not preparing those students for the world.
Guns, safety risk
A record 63 percent of Americans subscribe to the myth that having a gun makes you safer. This is primarily because of the mantra of the National Rifle Association’s Wayne LaPierre: There are bad guys everywhere, and owning a gun is the solution because the only thing bad guys are afraid of is a gun in your hands.
The NRA is wrong, and a recent article on slate.com cites studies that overwhelmingly illustrate that guns leave everybody less safe, including their owners. In fact, analysis of 16 studies showed that gun ownership doubles the risk of homicide and triples the risk of suicide.
A national survey found that a gun in the home is far more likely to be used to threaten a family member or intimate partner than to be used in self-defense. Criminal uses of firearms far outnumber legal defensive uses.
While the actual risk of death during a home invasion is virtually zero, the chances are high that a resident’s weapon will end up being used for harm rather than for good.
The tragic financial and emotional costs of gun ownership clearly outweigh the benefits and most certainly do not make us safer.
Americans love their pets. We love our cats and we love our dogs.
Then we go to the big box stores to buy Chinese goods. This is a country where some people eat dogs for a special holiday meal.
Shame on us.