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Entropy and Oroville, or…This Is What Happens When We Think We Are God

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There are some things that simply cannot be changed.  One of those things is something scientists like to call “The Second Law of Thermodynamics.”  I won’t bore you with the science, but you can think of it as how scientists codify the notion that nature is going to do what nature is going to do and if we want to change it we have to put a lot of energy into it.  It is corollary to the notion of inertia, which more people are aware of, but The Second Law has much broader application than does Newton’s First.  Practically speaking, if we are going to do something like dam a river, The Second Law of Thermodynamics tells us that we are going to have to expend a lot of energy (that means dollars in the real world) to build the dam and, even more importantly, to maintain it.  The river is going to keep wanting to be a river, not a lake, and our continuous effort is required to keep it a lake or else it is going to go back to being a river.  The United States supposedly learned this lesson the hard way back in 1889.

But the events currently unfolding in and around Oroville, California say that maybe that lesson has not sunk in so well.  Make no mistake, this is already an unmitigated disaster.  Nearly 200,000 people have been evacuated.  That is a fail of itself.  (Not to mention the untold amount of water being lost in a severely water starved state.)  The only question now is how much worse is this going to get.  The possibilities are horrifying to contemplate.

A dam builder from Ohio has said this about Oroville:

It is a case of pennies pinched producing dollars spent, perhaps tragedy.

To anyone in California with any common sense, this conclusion does not come as a surprise.  But it is truly tragic to see it be reached in such a fashion.  What is truly maddening is that by the time this is done – the investigations complete their misdirecting best, the alphabet soup of water and state agencies have all pointed fingers at one another, and the press has run all that through the washer and dryer a few times, the voters of California won’t have a clue what went wrong and will just keep going in the same political direction that has so obviously failed them.  It has already started.  According to ABC News:

The Mercury News, a local newspaper, reported that three environmental groups — the Friends of the River, the Sierra Club and the South Yuba Citizens League — filed a motion with the federal government in 2005 as part of the Oroville Dam’s relicensing process, urging federal officials to bolster the dam’s emergency spillway.

In that motion, the groups warned that the dam did not meet modern safety standards, The Mercury News reported.

The Federal Energy Regulatory Commission rejected their request after state agencies determined the refurbishment an unnecessary expense, the paper said.

ABC News reached out to the FERC for a comment about the 2005 motion but did not immediately receive a response. [emphasis aded]

But there is a deeper tragedy still.

The source of the penny pinching our dam builder notes is twofold.  On the one hand it is California officialdom thinking that they have done such a magnificent job in their dam construction that they can let this stuff slide.  The sheer hubris involved in thinking that they have finally and permanently beaten nature is staggering.  And what they have done with the pennies pinched is even more astonishingly prideful.  The monies devoted to “climate change” in this state are truly dumbfounding.  If we cannot build and maintain a dam, what in the world makes us think we can control the climate?

At the bottom of this disaster lies the seemingly simple notion that we think we are in charge, not God.  In reality there is nothing simple about that notion, and the results of holding it are monstrously disastrous. Reality is not ours to define, it is ours to live in and to cope with.  The laws of physics do not change just because we think we have different priorities.  In a sense this is the same as the driver that thinks their hurry allows them to ignore traffic laws – the difference is instead of a single car killing a single pedestrian, a wall of water and debris carrying the force of all the vehicles in the state could run over hundreds of thousands of people.  And all because we forget who we are in the created order of things.

If you are a person of prayer please pray today that this disaster does not worsen.  But add to those prayers a prayer for wisdom for the people of California that just do not seem to get it.  If you have not been a person of prayer, this might be a good time to start.  But always remember there is someone to pray to – and thankfully He does not live in Sacramento.


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