Tuesday, 29 May 2012

The law of unintended consequences 2

Save the World arrived in a North African country known to cognoscenti as Blowfly Central with a convoy of mining engineers, artesian specialists and drilling equipment. They’d selected a desolate corner by mineral survey partly paid for by an Ecumenical Foundation (Known to the same cognoscenti as God’s Own Dowsers). Although set apart from the traditional migrations of nomadic herdsmen, they had found considerable water resource beneath the baking earth.

Collection tins rattled, tax deductible donations were wrung from the business sector, tax concessions were shamed from home governments and local cooperation was bought outright.  Save the World set out to produce sparkling fresh water in the wilderness.

Although the depredations of parasitic worms killed one of them and sent two back to Europe, comatose and incurable, Save the World built its well-head. It then bribed one local warlord to allow nomads to water their herds, while keeping other brigands away. The UN sent a couple of Scandinavians to see fair play. They stood pink-faced and blue-helmeted while the herdsmen queued with their spavined beasts for water.

They’d broken all the tribal patterns this way, and attracted a large number of goats, sheep and cattle to one corner of the country, away from the seasonal treks from one meagre waterhole to the next. There was water for all, though.

There just wasn’t enough grass. The sheep cropped the grass so close the cattle couldn’t eat it, and there were gun fights. The cattle walked farther and farther away to find fodder, and found themselves unable to get back to drink. And they starved.  The sheep and goats removed all the rest of the sparse vegetation and then, in their turn, starved too. The water glistened in its shiny new pipes and valves as their bones littered the scrubland.

This happens.

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