As we ooh and aah over the California Supreme Court's brave decision to allow same-sex marriage, the Governor of California just made a less-than-brave decision about water conservation. On June 5, Schwarzenegger signed an executive order that California is in emergency due to a second year of drought. He warned residents and city managers that they would be slapped with rationing if they didn't cut back on water use. He also directed that water delivery to Central Valley farmers be cut by 60 percent.
So here's the stupid part of the Schwarzenator's order. He's already coming down on farmers like a ton of bricks...but he's leaving it up to the discretion of city people as to whether they will cut back. And they won't cut back unless a gun is held to their heads.
When I moved to the Los Angeles area in 1991, the state was in the grip of the last drought cycle. I had been living in rural northern CA where the drought had hit hard. Crops had failed. Ranches had shipped their cattle because they had no grass. Hay was in short supply. People who had their own wells were down to a few gallons a day.
But when I got to Los Angeles, most people didn't give a damn about the drought. Rationing was about to start, and everybody was rushing to fill their swimming pools one last time before the cut-off date. Sprinklers were running freely everywhere. Lawns and golf courses were as lush and green as ever. After all the hardship I'd seen in the north, I was so disgusted at the mindless attitude that I wrote the first op-ed of my life as a writer, and sent it off to the Los Angeles Times, who published it.
Agriculture happens to produce something that we all need worse than swimming pools and golf courses. It's called food. California is one of the agriculture powerhouses of the world - whatever Americans don't eat, we export. Central Valley farmers produce $1 billion dollars worth of food a year.
So how about prioritizing, Mr. Governor? Crack down on non-farm water use FIRST, especially non-essential use. I'll bet that outlawing the filling of privately-owned California swimming pools for a year would free up water for quite a few alfalfa fields...which help supply all that California milk and cheese that the TV ads are about.
California now faces more battles on the marriage issue, at the polls. Meanwhile, the Governor's spin on water conservation is a good example of how government gets in trouble with human-rights issues -- they forget how to establish real priorities. If they can't keep their priorities straight on things like water and food, how can they be expected to keep their priorities straight on things like freedom of thought and human dignity for minorities?