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The "Community"of Borrego Springs, California

The overdraft of the Borrego Valley aquifer was and is caused by those who mine the aquifer for crass commercial and financial gain. The solution to the overdraft is made difficult or impossible, however, not so much by these extractive enterprises themselves, but a stubborn inertia that permeates and debilitates the broader community.

Awhile back Richard Louv had a column in the San Diego Union Tribune entitled "San Diego's bad case of 'presentatism'" He credits Steve Erie, a UCSD Political Scientist and Director of the university's Program in Urban Studies and Planning with coining the term. In Prof. Erie's expert opinion, "Either San Diego gets its act together and starts thinking more seriously about the future, or the region will suffer long-term decay."

San Diegan's self-destructive attitudes, as described in Louv's column, are:

  1. Whatever gets us by for now is O.K.
  2. Don't bother us with details.
  3. Don't make us think.
  4. Don't expect us to pay anything to prevent problems farther away than Tuesday.

San Diego, however, has nothing on Borrego where there exists an especially pernicious form of presentism coupled with a looming water crisis. The catastrophic consequences of this combination are utterly predictable and bearing down at an alarming rate. Borrego gives a whole new and frightening meaning to the concept "of presentism and is a poster child for the old adage that: "All that is necessary for evil to triumph is for good people to do nothing."

Borregans are masters of doing nothing. Here, in the Valley of the Living Dead, presentism is extreme in part because Borrego's population is largely elderly. Their concern for the future seems to be strictly limited by actuarial tables. Far too many, it seems, are simply waiting to die, and do not wish to be distracted from their death watch by concerns for a future they will not inhabit.

As long as there is sufficient water to keep the fairways green, their swimming pools full, and ice in their highballs (not necessarily in that order), they refuse even to acknowledge the obvious groundwater problem. Never mind that the aquifer is being overdrawn by four or five times the recharge rate each year and the water table has been steadily falling more than two feet per year for over a quarter century. Pretty scary.

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