Patricia Nell Warren

Stupidity in California

Filed By Patricia Nell Warren | June 15, 2008 2:00 PM | comments

Filed in: Marriage Equality, Politics
Tags: California, California politics, same-sex marriage

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?


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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?

Truer words were never spoken...

In Carmel, IN, the water sometimes gets rationed in the city. No one respects the rules, like only watering their lawns every other day and after sunset, and no one really cares about whether others do.

It doesn't seem to make much sense to come down on farmers first. It's not like they're watering plants for the hell of it.

I agree, Patricia. But how would they enforce the "no swimming pools" rule?

Good question. Probably by using satellite photography to pinpoint any home-owned pool in California that has water...cross-reference with addresses, and send the guilty party a summons.

Robert Ganshorn Robert Ganshorn | June 16, 2008 6:39 AM

Patricia, I have never owned a pool, played a round of golf or consciously over watered. In fact, I tried to have as many native Florida plants that required no water at all. Golf courses should have no water supplied to them in drought Period. Florida has heavily fined golf courses who over water. Donald Trump (who would put a golf course over a graveyard) was regularly fined in Palm Beach and paid the fines which kept increasing until even "the Donald" cut back.

This having been said, pool walls can collapse if there is no water in them, which could undermine a house foundation if the soil dries out.

Don't people respond best to avoiding taxation in California? In our increasingly hungry world I would give free water to the farmers provided they do not waste it (as they have in the past) and taxed water to the city dwellers (and I mean taxed. By cutting use they decide how much they pay in taxes. Of all the water in the world only 3% is fresh and usable for human and agricultural needs, but we have three times the world population as we had sixty years ago. When do we wake up? Thank you for your post and best birthday wishes.

As a US citizen who has a foot in the city (formerly suburban Los Angeles, now Indianapolis) and a foot in the country (a small family farm in southern Indiana) I can see that the world, and Americans in particular, need to take the need for clean water more seriously. Cutting off water supplies to the San Joaquin Valley, which has been called the "bread basket of America," is like shooting ourselves in the foot when food prices are rising, wheat and corn are in short supply, and many in other parts of the world are literally starving. This form of selfishness is immoral, and needs to be labeled as such.

And on the economic side, doesn't anyone realize that the food we export balances against all the oil that we import when America's trade deficit figures are computed?

Unfortunately, I have to deal with this mindset myself --- I have family members who out-voted me, who would rather burn gasoline all summer mowing an extra three or four acres of green lawn instead of raising an extra three or four acres of corn or soybeans. A trivial case in itself, but multiply that by several million throughout the US and it is clear that we aren't good stewards of the earth the way we should be.

Luckily here in Indiana we don't have to irrigate --- in fact, over the last few weeks we have had the opposite problem, too much water! But generally the US needs to conserve its water resources wisely, especially in California, Arizona and Nevada where so much of our population and our economy is situated.

Thank You, Patricia, for yet another message that is urgently needed.

P.S. I forgot to say: I expect the reason that the farmers are being forced to conserve while the cities get to do as they please is quite simple: there are more voters in the cities than there are on the farms. Just another Achilles' Heel of democracy that leans it toward dysfunction. What can we do before it's too late? --- AJL