Apocalyptic Schadenfreude: What the NYTimes -- and everybody else -- gets wrong about Californiaâ€™s water crisis, by Steven Johnson, Medium
Adam Rifkin stashed this in Medium
Steven Johnson's Medium post:Â https://medium.com/matter/let-it-rain-ac793178d51c
Found via triketora tweet: https://twitter.com/triketora/status/586914986317910017
Here's the main point of Steven Johnson's article:
I find those manicured desert lawns as offensive as the next guy, particularly when native succulent landscaping is so much more aesthetically interesting. And photographing the McMansions in their fake bubble of green may be an effective way to draw attention to the stateâ€™s plight. But the hard truth is the greenery of Palm Springs and Orange County is not really the problem.
The single most important statistic in understanding the current crisis is this:Â 80% of Californiaâ€™s surface water supports agriculture, largely the farms and ranches of the Central Valley.
Compared to that massive flow, the residential abuses are almost an afterthought. If every single human being living south of Los Angeles packed up and moved to rainy Oregon, it wouldnâ€™t improve Californiaâ€™s water situation as much as a mere 10% decrease in the water used by the Central Valley crops and livestock.
In other words, even if this drought is a sign of climates to come, California has plenty of water to support its lifestyle. It just wonâ€™t have enough to support its crops, without significant changes to make those farms more water-efficient.
It seems bizarre that a region like the Central Valley with just six million peopleâ€Šâ€”â€Šbarely more than 10% of the stateâ€™s populationâ€Šâ€”â€Šshould use so much of the water. But then you realize that the vast majority of people benefiting from that water donâ€™t live in California at all.
The Central Valley takes up only 1% of the landmass of the United States, but it produces 25% of the food we eat, and almost half of the fruits or nuts we consume.
California is running through its water supply because, for complicated historical and climatological reasons, it has taken on the burden of feeding the rest of the country. The averageÂ TimesÂ reader sneering at those desert lawns from the Upper West Side might want to think about the canned tomatoes, avocados, and almonds in his or her kitchen before denouncing the irresponsible lifestyles of the California emigres.
Because the truth is California doesnâ€™t have a water problem. We all do.
That is very well said. This isn't California's problem. This is America's problem.
daaang... he really nails it, doesn't he?
He really does. I've never seen this said as succinctly before. It really is an America problem.
California's whole agriculture industry only represents 2% of our GDP.
It could go away and not hurt California economically much.
But if it went away America would lose a lot of our fruit, veggies, wine, and nuts.Â
Google's $66 billion annual revenues are 1.5x California's entire Agriculture industry ($42b).
I learned that stat from StartupLJackson, and tweeted it here:
It's my first-ever tweet that got 100 retweets, mostly thanks to Marc Andreessen retweeting it and others retweeting his retweet.