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Auchter's Art: Water Diversion Worries

Jun 24, 2016

Artist's POV:

Remember the comedian Sam Kinison?

It's fine if you don't.

In fact, I would advise against YouTubing him. (And I disclaim all responsibility if you do.)

But back in the 1980s he had a particularly edgy standup bit about world hunger and Western popular reaction to it (Feed the World, USA for Africa, etc.). As was his style, Kinison suckered you in with a low-key, seemingly reasoned assessment of the situation, then, BANG!, smacked you upside the head with a loud, audacious screaming rant.

In this case, he went from sympathetically describing the plight of starving people suffering in deserts to highly suggesting they were stupid for not moving to where food can be grown: "WE HAVE DESERTS IN AMERICA, TOO, BUT WE DON'T LIVE IN THEM!!!"

This routine was one of the first things I ever heard described as "politically incorrect."

It most definitely was. But unlike some politicians who "tell it like it is" and "say things others are afraid to say," Kinison was crossing lines for laughs, not votes. I think that's an important distinction.

The bit is also funny because it's wrong.

Americans do in fact live in our deserts, and we've done nothing but accelerate that population over the past 30 years. Unlike poor countries, we have been able to beat nature with air conditioning and water pumping. Continuing to condition the air is not a big problem. But deserts are deserts by definition because of limited fresh water supplies.

It's no wonder that the parched southwest would cast its thirsty gaze toward our abundant Great Lakes.

I say too bad. We've already been kind enough to share our Vernors with the rest of the country. If they want water, they're gonna have to move here.

John Auchter is an editorial cartoonist. Views expressed in his cartoons are his own and do not necessarily reflect those of Michigan Radio, its management or the station licensee, The University of Michigan.

*Editor's note: We're experimenting with a weekly editorial cartoon on our website on Fridays. Let us know what you think. Send praise or criticism to vduffy@umich.edu