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Dave Burdick's piece, "What if water from the sky didn't belong to everyone?", on the Huffington Post today piqued my interest.  It covers the story of a woman who "stole" rainwater, thus diverting it from the local streams and creeks so she could irrigate her small garden.  Ignoring the fact that she will be returning the water to the same ground it would have fallen to, I think it is important to note that the rain she collected was not the rain falling directly to the ground, but rolling off of her home's roof.  It begs the question, If she built her roof to slope only to the North, could her neighbor to the South sue her and the Northerly neighbor to reclaim the diverted water even if she didn't collect the water?

This got me thinking.  In addition to water rights, we apparently own rights to "views."  My grandparents couldn't build a small porch at their beach house 20 years ago because the neighbors to the South felt it would block a small portion of their view of the sand dunes and wetlands.  But in Spokane, we have an anomaly called "Mary's House" that is in the center of the Providence Sacred Heart Medical Center campus.  It is owned by a family that opted not to sell their property to Providence oh, so many years ago.  It is a large house, but is dwarfed by the main hospital, the Women's Center and the Doctor's building.  They apparently weren't able to preserve a right to their view of the city and surrounding mountainous area.  Their view is the medical menagerie in all directions.  This right to a view is apparently subjective and dependent on local building codes and neighborly whim.

But what if the owners of "Mary's House" had solar panels on its roof way back before the hospital engulfed it?  Could the family have blocked Providence from its ambitions based on a right to solar rays.  Obviously, if Providence effectively shut off the sun on "Mary's House" for a good portion of the day, the homeowners would suffer a financial loss because of the lost energy capture.  Maybe a suitable remedy would be to force Providence to place the homeowners solar panels atop the medical center roofs.

If a neighbor's tree grows to shadow my solar panels, can I have it topped.  If a neighbors new bedroom addition catches the rays "meant" for me, will he have to pay me every month to offset my loss?  If my neighbor's addition makes me want to elevate my solar panels, is that enough to earn an exception to building codes?  And what if my local power company figures out how to charge me for my solar panel use instead of buying the energy from me.  It's not far fetched considering they can charge me $5.00 per month for a gas line I don't have, just in case I opt for natural gas someday.

When corporate satellites someday collect and transmit energy to the Earth in satellites so massive in number or size that they blot out the sun, will we have any recourse?  When a thief steals jewelry from my home, I might have cause to shoot the intruder.  But what can I do when someone steals my sunshine away?


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May 2009

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