Good morning. I’m Stuart Leavenworth, editor of Boiling Point, filling in for the vacationing Sammy Roth. He will be back next week.
Will this California drought result in another expansion of water-thirsty orchards?
“East of Eden” includes John Steinbeck’s famous quote about California droughts:
“It never failed that during the dry years the people forgot about the rich years, and during the wet years they lost all memory of the dry years. It was always that way.”
In his 2019 book, “The Dreamt Land,” writer Mark Arax examines the state’s culture of forgetting and mythologizing, especially when it comes to water, farming and urban growth. As Steinbeck noted, Californians have a short memory of past disasters, and a history of building myths around our ability to innovate and adapt. One theme in “The Dreamt Land” is the state’s sprawling manifest destiny — cities gobbling up wildlands; orchards replacing foothills; civic boosters and farmers demanding that politicians “steal a river” and secure them water from vast distances, no matter the consequences.
The final chapter in the book is a conversation with a Madera farmer, whom Arax calls “the Oracle.” The two hop in the Oracle’s truck to see 2,000 acres of new pistachio and almond trees, planted after the last drought on degraded cattle land in the San Joaquin Valley, with the help of three wells each dug at least 500 feet deep.
“Agriculture in the valley was unsustainable in the 1920s, and it’s only gotten more unsustainable as we’ve made more money,” the Oracle says. “We’ve dealt with agriculture the same way we’ve dealt with housing. We’ve given it over to a pattern of sprawl. We’ve spread the resource of water farther and farther out until we became hooked on a deficit model.”
Click here for full story https://www.latimes.com/environment/newsletter/2021-09-02/boiling-point-...