Supply-Side Economics and Demand-Side Planning: U.S. Southwest Water Challenges, the Case of Oklahoma

Thursday, July 17, 2014: 11:45 AM
Room: 303
Oral Presentation
Hannah HOLLEMAN , Amherst College, Amherst, MA
In 2013 the U.S. government categorized all 77 counties in Oklahoma a disaster area due to persistent drought conditions. While 597 counties nationally were included in the declaration, Oklahoma, Kansas, and western Texas were hardest hit. Years before this, scientists’ projections of anthropogenic climate change showed “widespread agreement” that in the Southwest “the levels of aridity seen in the 1950s multiyear drought, or the 1930s Dust Bowl, become the new climatology by mid-century: a perpetual drought.” However, such information is not the basis of ecological and economic planning in the Southwest.

I examine the development of the Comprehensive Water Plan recently adopted by the state of Oklahoma to demonstrate how planning in the region continues to operate on an undemocratic and “demand-side” basis. With disastrous consequences, the OCWP offers no real plan for long-term change subject to science or the democratic process. Rather, politicians demonstrate their commitment to historical modes of development in the region while downplaying the costs and publicly encouraging skepticism of scientific projections. Drawing on Michał  Kalecki’s distinction between “monopoly-capitalist” and democratic planning and exploring the historical turn identified by Forster Ndubisi towards “demand-side” (in ecological terms) planning, I offer a theoretical approach to understanding the limitations of the dominant mode of  planning for addressing such long-term anthropogenic ecological crises. I argue that the official designation of drought-stricken counties as facing “disaster,” has short-term implications and is therefore misleading. This region must be recognized as facing an historical transition, in need of genuinely democratic, and ecological or real “supply-side,” economic planning to avoid some of the worst ecological and social outcomes. To end, I offer suggestions based on current, localized attempts at planning outside of the dominant framework, for alternative approaches that, if forced by movements to the state level, or beyond, could help reverse current trends.