Thank god for the Great Lakes. Aside from the treacherous rip currents, the current and looming threats of invasive species and the many toxic pollutants that have poisoned regions of five lakes — aside from that, they’re a blessing. The few problems associated with having 21 percent of the world’s surface fresh water supply is well worth the benefits. Fishing like you wouldn’t believe, fluffy lake-effect snow and droughts that occur about as often as a Congressional compromise are just the tip of the iceberg. The sweltering summer months have reinforced one thing: Michigan may not have a booming economy, but damnit, we have water.

Our counterpart? Texas. They have some of the fastest growing cities in the United States, and according to a May 5 Forbes article, the best job markets in the country. Comparing the state of Michigan to Texas on an economic level is like comparing the coaching résumés of Rich Rod and Bo Schembechler — it’s not even close.

In spite of a booming economy, Texas is faced with one of the worst droughts on record. Since January, Texas has recorded a record-low six inches of rain. How these two events can coincide is somewhat of an anomaly when looking at the history of mankind. Throughout time, droughts have driven man to adapt and evolve. When lush terrain turned arid and barren deserts, nomads were forced to pick up and move shop, or shrivel and die. Though we’re a far cry from our hunting and gathering ancestors, at some point we need to evaluate the logistics of having so much of our population in an area that doesn’t provide the necessities for life.

Looking at the climatic history of the Southwest will certainly not ease any of our fears. During the past couple thousand years, droughts have spanned decades. The dustbowl of the 1930s and the droughts of the 1950s are not even the worst examples of dry times in the South. The devastation that a 10-year drought would have on our country will force us to look at our infrastructure and see where it can be improved.

Stopping 7 billion gallons of water from being wasted through leaking pipes each year might be a start. But with a budget deficit in the trillions, the money to fix the leaky pipes might be hard to find. As a civil engineer, it pains me to say that fixing our infrastructure may not be the immediate answer to our prayers. Perhaps fixing our attitudes is the remedy we need to avoid a catastrophe.

The attitude of Americans is one of the driving forces behind the South’s current predicament. We have always been the type to throw caution to the wind when it comes down to the location of our population. There are native tribes defending their terrain in the Great Plains? Well, we’ve got Winchester rifles for that. That city is being built below sea level in hurricane ally? Nothing a couple levies can’t fix.

Each example has proven to be costly and dangerous, and that same haphazard train of thought can be applied to the population growth in the South. Though we eventually conquered the whole of our country — and have somewhat rebuilt New Orleans — the countless lives that were shattered or ended by our stubbornness should have taught us a lesson. But then again, this is America, and we can’t let a couple bad experiences bring us down. Though history can often predict outcomes before we have a chance to second guess it — just ask Hitler if he thought invading Russia would turn out the same as Napoleon’s attempt — some lessons must be learned first hand.

I’m not predicting an apocalyptic ending for Texas — we have the Mayans for that — but I am saying we need to seriously reevaluate where our population to expand to in the future. If we continue to try to squeeze water from a rock — pun intended — we might find ourselves in a situation that cannot be fixed without serious detriments done to surrounding environments.

Only recently has water not been considered the deciding factor for where a population decides to settle. I propose that we go back to thinking like our nomadic ancestors and settle where available resources — namely water — are plentiful. A place like, say, Michigan has these resources in excess, and if we ever decide to stop defying nature, we could end up with the majority of our population living somewhere that can actually sustain life.

Things may be bigger in Texas, but they’re wetter in Michigan.

Joe Sugiyama can be reached at

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