Note: I wrote this commentary over a year ago and find nothing much has changed – but it might explain the land grabs … just a thought
California is experiencing a horrific drought. Over 80% of the area is considered at risk. Climatologists – and of course the media – are espousing this as the worst in history. But actually, that ain’t so:
California has a history of droughts dating back to 850 A.D. (the earliest recording) in which two droughts lasted 180 and 240 years respectively! Given there were no fossil fuels or ozone depletion or carbon releasing industries polluting the atmosphere during these historical times, it is safe to say these droughts were persistent without blaming ‘climate change’. And in the last 1000 years, 10-20 year droughts have been documented as rather ‘typical’ of the state/area.
While these droughts can have drastic consequences, they are not uncommon. The real problem is the fact that this commonality has simply not been properly mediated. The government, climatologists, scientists, etc…know its going to happen. It happens all the time. And every single time, they act as though this is the worst, it is the end, it is unusual, it is ‘global warming’, caught off guard. But what has California done to prepare?
And that’s the true problem. Have they built more storage? No. More underground reservoirs? No. Have they built desalinization plants? No. Do they still allocate water to farms that grow nothing? Yes. Do they require lawns to be drought tolerant or rock gardens? No. (Note: They just implemented this change). Half of ‘individual’ water use is for lawns. But 80% of the water is used for agriculture. For rice paddies in desert land. For growing water absorbing Alfalfa which is mostly exported to China. Almond trees consume 10% of ALL water use – that’s NUTS! And yet they are preserving these cash crops – for hopes of greater $$$ – to the decimation of lower crop values like vegetables. Add to the fray that 60% of almonds are an export crop, its just not practical. Its not about what is best or right – it is about what is going to make me the most money in the quickest time and allow me to high-tail it outa here jack mentality!
So what are farmers doing to make it better? They’re digging deeper and deeper wells, more and more wells, sapping up every last dribble of water that they can without concern for the longer term consequences. And no one is stopping them. In some over-pumped areas, the ground has actually sunk a few dozen feet.
What is Governor Jerry Brown saying? Why after three years of consecutive drought, he is asking that the 20% users, citizens, voluntarily reduce their consumption by 20%. Honk! JIBE! Ugh. Have they? NO! Surprise. And the farmers are now selling water that is allocated to them for huge profits. Because they can make more money selling the water than irrigating crops.
What would be the economic effects of a prolonged California drought?
Some experts feel the economy would not be impacted much because only 3% of California’s economy is derived from farming. However, that stat does not take into account – people. Nor does it understand the domino effect that drives an economy. No more farms, fewer jobs, more expensive food, restaurants close, small markets close, no more wine, less tourism, and all the support industries begin the domino effect.
People begin mass exodus. Housing falls. Tax revenue falls.
The state splits into factions of the only remaining uber rich – Silicon Valley and Hollywood.
The ripples can then be felt across the country as 50% or more of the nations fruits and vegetables come from California. Mexico, by far, is the greatest source of imported fruits and vegetables. But Mexico’s underground water is on an annual depletion rate. Mostly due to the same perils as the US, Alfalfa.
So the US is not the only country with drought issues and risk. The northern portion of South America, middle Europe, Pakistan, central Australia, western to central Africa, and most of Asia into Japan are all experiencing dramatic droughts.
Where is the rain? Northern Europe, southern South America, eastern US, Afghanistan, Iran, Siberia, Mongolia, southern China, south and western Africa and Colorado (go figure).
Where there is drought – somewhere else there is flooding. The problem is – we have historical reference of these occurrences, and instead of taking action, being pro-active, DOING something, we sit back and blame. Oh, it’s global warming – told ya! But our world weather has shifted continually since the beginning of time. So I guess that would mean global warming has been happening since the beginning of time. Nah. Climates shift. Period. El Nino. El Nano. El fresco… whatever, they move and ebb and flow and move. It is a constant.
But sitting back and blaming global warming does little to nothing about adapting to the continuum of shift. If every single year a tornado ripped your house to shreds, would you just keep rebuilding, or at some point would you say, “hey, maybe this isn’t the best place to build a house…”. Would you year after year build that house from wood sticks or would you build it out of rock?
I know most guys have this abject fear of change. It’s why you wear the same hairdo at 65 that you had when you were 25. “Hey, you liked it then…” But sometimes ‘change’ equates to survival.
“California agriculture is nearly a $36.6 billion dollar industry that generates $100 billion in related economic activity.”
California’s dairy industry generated $47 billion “in economic activity” in 2004 and employed over 400,000 people.”
The largest source of freshwater for central and southern California comes from Colorado. The second largest source is the Sacramento Delta which is polluted with salt water and unusable for most crops. It typically supports grapes and asparagus. A Bill on the floor now proposes to redirect 90% of the delta water to central and southern California at a cost of $25 billion, thereby decimating the grape and asparagus crops… The tension is high! Is it a solution or a bandage? Does the bandage cause more harm than good? Who pays?
But there is another issue; in the US, 25% of fresh fruits and 10% of fresh vegetables are exported out of the country. What if we – didn’t? If we really have a shortage, doesn’t it make sense that the first line of defense is to just stop exporting them? And farmers would save the cost of transportation to Transalvania… And do we really need to be growing rice? It is native to Asia and parts of Africa, if its native, let them do all the watering and growing. Initially, rice paddies were a crop of Georgia, Louisiana, the Carolinas – where it rains – ALL the time. Growing rice in California is like having a banana orchard in the Rocky Mountains of Colorado… Hello? Its like a 90 year old German woman wearing a bikini.
But then you’d have the Feds subsidizing the banana orchard and buying the bikinis. So its free…?
Where’s the Beef? Hopefully, in a climate where it rains a lot because raising cattle is notorious for using the most water – over 2500 gallons per pound. Ugh! Part of that water use is in the diet we demand these cows consume – corn and soy (Monsanto’s favorites) which are two of the highest water consumable plants. Comparable; veggies and fruits consume 1/10th of that per pound of output. Relocate those cows to Arkansas and Missouri, and Tennessee. Let them stand in the rain and eat grass for criminey sake. With an Anaerobic Digestor the methane from manure can provide all the farms energy need and has a huge positive impact on the environment – water, air and soil.
As a people why are we so obsessed in making square pegs fit into round holes?