Earth Day, California. Changing the focus.

New tactic. I’m plugging my ears. I’ve reached saturation point and can’t absorb one more apocalyptic message warning Californians that water tables are dangerously low and the economy will implode, slightly before or after we turn on the taps and nothing comes out.

Droughts are synonymous with California, and although I personally believe that climate change is contributing additional havoc with strange weather patterns fueling drought conditions, our water problems, and certainly our water management issues are not new. Not new at all. I’ve written before about the California Water Wars and the issues are so old that it boggles my mind that anyone is surprised we have a problem.

So to breathe lighter while sharing an Earth Day conversation from drought-plagued California, I’m peppering the post with favorite photos of some of the places around the state that offer peace and tranquility. It hasn’t dried up yet!

Santa Ynez Valley

I am committed to conservation measures and think waste is deplorable. I also think ecological responsibility is for good times as well as under mega-drought conditions. I probably wouldn’t object to scare tactics if I thought they worked!

Lompoc, California

The late Native American activist and first female chief of the Cherokee Nation, Wilma Mankiller, is quoted as saying, “In Iroquois society, leaders are encouraged to remember seven generations in the past and consider seven generations in the future when making decisions that affect the people.”

When is the last time you saw that principle in action?

San Clemente Beach

Traveling through the center of the state in rich agricultural areas you’ll see “Stop the Congress Created Dust Bowl.” Sometimes the messages are on a slickly produced billboard but more often they’re crudely spray painted by a farmer forced to let crops and orchards die because of water shortages. Water allotments are not equally available. Often it’s the smaller enterprises negatively affected and it’s hard to see those signs and think of families and livelihoods.  It’s also hard to see dead trees and vines.

I was in the fifth or sixth grade when we started learning facts about the Dust Bowl.  I didn’t understand the magnitude of the  worst environmental disaster in American history, and what did a child living in the middle of suburban Los Angeles understand about Roosevelt’s Tennessee Valley Authority Act, crop rotation, terracing and other beneficial farming practices?

California Wildflowers

Nevertheless, I won an essay contest about environmental responsibility, although that would not have been the language of the mid-60’s. I had also been chosen to participate in a special program of classes at the Los Angeles County Arboretum and I was slowly introduced to an age-appropriate knowledge of the importance of creating a healthy balance between water, soil and sunlight for optimum plant health. I was learning to care about “the environment,” even though I didn’t yet know all that word encompassed.

Earth Day officially took stage as a grass-roots effort in 1970, and although school children today, much like I experienced in the 1960’s, are given cheerful and hopeful projects that imply we are all naturally committed as good stewards of the earth, reality is that one of the most polarizing dinner party hot topics is environmentalism.  I know.

Coneflowers

Californians will need to have many difficult, often uncomfortable conversations, but I would like to see a huge shift from finger-pointing to a concerted effort at changing the way we relate to water usage in the first place.

I’m disheartened to see particular farmers targeted as though removal of their water-thirsty crops will greatly improve the circumstances.

Almond farmers are currently taking a lot of heat as Californians learn, probably for the first time, that it takes a gallon of precious water to produce one single almond. If you want to read more on this politically complex web, THIS is a great article from Mother Jones.

 

Oak Groves

Frankly, I don’t think we need to be the almond growers for the world, but I would like an equal serving of sincere scrutiny in other areas. I don’t hear an honest challenge to the environmental costs of animal agriculture. Want to start a small war? Start with this fact: Crops, although indeed water intensive, use a fraction of the water consumed on California’s factory farms

California grows over 200 different crops, some grown nowhere else in the nation.  Your guess is as good as mine as to the future of these crops. But what I can say is that “crop demonizing,” currently very popular, isn’t going to address any of the major issues. Change will come because people see the need to adapt to our climate conditions, and significant changes in habits will be slow for those who didn’t see this coming.

I’m naturally drawn to people who do make a difference and take bold action in their own lives.

Split rock Silent Valley

We can all use a little inspiration.

This Earth Day I would like to recommend you visit a beautifully sensitive writer at “Through the Luminary Lens.” Bruce and his wife, Francis, live in an off-grid home on Vancouver Island. His topics interconnect conservation, renewable energy and social ecology with a variety of other interests he weaves in so well. I’ve included the LINK to a favorite post that seems particularly satisfying to me for Earth Day.

I’d also enjoy sharing an award-winning short documentary that shows what one family has done with their city lot. The Dervaes family lives very close to my home, and what they’ve done with 1/10th of an acre is nothing short of impressive–maybe in my mind miraculous. To learn more about their family operation, you can see “Homegrown Revolution,” HERE. 

People in action always inspire me. Many of YOU inspire me. What are your Earth Day thoughts? I’m listening.

 

49 thoughts on “Earth Day, California. Changing the focus.

  1. Having spent a week in the Pacific Northwest, I’ve been stunned to hear of water shortages here. Low snowpack reduced spring runoff to fall levels on our afternoon hike. As Americans, we have to make tough decisions for the future. Everyone agrees……as long as it doesn’t impact them. And I don’t have a solution. I just spent four nights hanging up my used towels and asking that my sheets not be changed (following their green protocols) only to have them replace it all every day. So much of our green policy is a marketing tactic. And that’s sad.

    1. I am guilty of being so focused on California’s water shortages that I didn’t have any idea that there were problems further north, Andra. I am definitely interested in learning more about that. I honestly get really sad that politics and personal interests rule the day, therefore NO effective decisions are being made, and very few, if any really reasonable solutions are being discussed. Finger-oointing is the new sport, isn’t it? It is a little surprising to me that housekeeping didn’t pay better attention to your expectations with towels. You tried! I think you could enjoy the towels with immunity. LOL! 🙂

  2. That’s a very good principle and no, I don’t think any political leader abides by it these days! It reminds me of Joseph in the Bible when he interpreted Pharaoh’s dream and told them there would be 7 yrs of abundance followed by 7 yrs of drought so save grain during the first 7 yrs. We all need to less wasteful and in times of abundance, put something aside for the future. I know you live in a very dry part of the world (as do we in Oz) and I hope you soon get some rain. It has been pouring in Sydney with some dams about to burst and many homes having to evacuate for safety concerns. I don’t know about you but over here it’s either too dry or too wet – nothing in moderation xx

    1. I think it’s so interesting that you mentioned Pharoah’s dream. Joseph has always been one of my favorite biblical characters and I know that story well…AND I was actually thinking about it the other day. I was wondering what we’d do if we had a drought of biblical proportions! I have no reason to worry about something that dire, but it did, does occasionally, cross my mind. And I hadn’t heard about all your rain, Charlie. That’s just as worrisome in another direction. It’s hard not to envy rain, but I don’t want it in dangerous proportions. I haven’t yet given up on hoping that our conservation policies will at least make sense! Thanks for stopping by, Charlie. I know with Ruby you time is very precious!

  3. Very inspiring links Debra! That seven generations idea should be put into practice today too, as I doubt if our politicians think beyond their own lifespan – even those who constantly go on about making the world a better place for “our children”!

    1. I only recently read the quote I used about “seven generations,” Cathy. I think it is such a fine way to think and I only wish we had public policies that supported that ethic. We can dream! It’s a little hard not to get disillusioned, but that won’t take us anywhere either, so one day at a time! Thanks for sharing your thoughts, my friend.

  4. I think one needs to exclude the politicians from this as they are only concerned about themselves and those that back them to get into their positions… This needs a scientific solution that the politicians are forced to put into practice even if it hurts their backers…

    1. I agree with you, Rob, that politicians are just not the answer. There is so much self-interest and the very best of them can’t get the job done! I think the hope for water conservation is going to be technology, and that’s private enterprise. A little rain would help, too. 🙂

    1. Thank you for that information, Philip. I admit I don’t know much about the pollinating policies in almond farming, or any of the nut productions. That’s something I’d like to learn more about. I am certainly not positioning myself to be an “apologist” for the almond growers, that’s for sure. The proliferation of large-scale almond production really doesn’t make a bit of sense to me. I do think we need to take a serious look at who is getting all the water. I don’t know enough to be in charge of the decision making, however. 🙂 I really appreciate that you stopped by and shared some very valuable information.

  5. For all of the drought news I’ve been hearing…this is the most information I have ‘seen’. I’ve already gone through a few of your links provided. Thank you for taking the time to give us something to think about and look in to. And possibilities for ourselves.

    1. I’m really glad I could share with you, Colleen. We are all faced with different ecological concerns, but we are really living this drought! And I think the links are quite interesting to anyone interested in learning a little bit more. I’m really glad you got something out of this post–I don’t often get on my soap box! 🙂

      1. 🙂 Soap boxes were invented for a reason Debra! Well, originally for holding soap. But to go with your theme….let’s recycle and use them for other reason. One being recycled to use for stages to stand upon and make good points about the world we live in what’s going on around us. And how we should pay attention to it. 🙂

  6. ” . . . remember seven generations in the past and consider seven generations in the future”
    What a great idea. Yes, we should think about this.
    Here in New South Wales, Australia, we have a deluge right now. Lots of places are flooded.

    1. You and one other person mentioned the floods, Uta! I hadn’t heard a thing about them until today, so I’m glad you brought them to my attention. Isn’t it such a picture of how things can change. We seem to have extremes–drought or flood! I love the “seven generations” concept as well. It’s such deep wisdom and we don’t see decisions made based on that principle, which is a shame. Thank you for sharing, my friend.

  7. It is instructive to learn about the relationships between government, giant agribusiness, water usage, and the family farmer. The little guys, who turn out to be the most efficient farmers on the planet, are the ones who feel the blunt force trauma. Agribusiness, the factory farms you mentioned, rolls along with little impedance. And thanks for the mention of Wilma Mankiller. She is a rich source of knowledge and inspiration.

    1. I wish I could tell you that I knew a lot about Wilma Mankiller, but I don’t–yet! In some recent readings her name kept appearing and I can see that I need to dig a little deeper and know much more about what she stood for. There are so many aspects of agribusiness that way outside of what I understand, but as I listen to what is said and read for myself all too often the stories don’t line up factually. At this point I mostly hope that we can one day see environmental challenges as a “group effort” and not become so factionalized. I can hope–I just won’t hold my breath. Thank you for your very thoughtful comment, Narble.

  8. Ah, Debra, you have, of course, captured my attention with this fabulous, insightful, and informative post. When you stats go up even higher today and tomorrow, you’ll know it is me, checking and re-reading your many links.

    I am the Conservation/Education chair for my garden club, as well as the co-chair of the upcoming 90th anniversary celebration. We will be celebrating each month with each of the 90 decades (September is 1920′, October 1930’s, etc) and are already having great fun planning this. You have given me a wealth of new readings, starting with the 12 Environmentalists . . . a great list, with a few I don’t know. I’ve bookmarked it for reference and a few ideas for a book the club can read this year.

    I think that each and every one of us has a responsibility to be responsible stewards of this good earth we live on. We can all be mindful and less wasteful to start with. Today, I have a post of my own brewing, with Arbor Day just around the corner.

    Love, love, loved this, Debra. Here’s to many more Earth Days – with a healthy, vibrant earth to live on.

    1. I’m really so pleased that I could give you any information that might inspire some additions to your 90th anniversary celebration, Penny. What a big undertaking you’ve aligned with! I hope you’ll be able to share more about that as it unfolds. I am very concerned about the issues I raised in this post. You can well imagine the way the press and politicians banter back and forth and we seem to swing from silly to explosive within any hot topic. If it does rain with any regularity we still don’t have effective catch basins in many parts of the city. I could go on and on (and often do!). 🙂 Thank you for always being interested, and I do know, of course, how much you value environmental responsibility. I can count on you!

    1. Thank you, Andrew. I went to a symposium on the topic of water conservation and a professor spoke at length about how he predicted that in the future the American southwest will have migrated to Canada because of water. Now THAT’S a hard conversation! I wonder if the Canadians will be more than a little disturbed to hear this. LOL!

  9. Those signs are disheartening! It’s hard to think about farmers and agricultural workers in line with California’s issue with drought. I can honestly and confidently say that I made the effort that I conserved water when I was in California. I just wish every households make the same effort, and be reminded or educated to do so.

    1. I know that you are not wasteful with anything, Rommel! That was one thing I learned about you long ago. I think some of the anger and frustration that is fueling a lot of very unhelpful arguing is the perception that everyone isn’t equally committed to conserving water. In the end, though, each of us has to do what we can whether or not other follows. Thank you so much for your very thoughtful comment. It’s good to hear from you!

  10. Thank you for sharing, Debra. We are definitely a society out of balance. But, without inner balance how can we manifest it in our world? I mean this generally. Not at you 🙂 or others posting here. Wonderful photos, also ~ wishing you a lovely day, Lisa

    1. I’m glad you enjoyed the photos, Lisa. And I agree with you about inner balance. I totally believe that. Without a commitment to maintain inner balance and peace we don’t have the strength resolve to adapt to the changes we are going to inevitably face. I am very weary with all the political rhetoric, but then, who isn’t? LOL! Thank you for your very thoughtful comment, Lisa. 🙂

  11. M-R

    I can only say that Wilma Mankiller’s quote is the most relevant to today that I’ve read in a looong time, bD: that is the world problem – all our city elders seeing no further than the next election and their mad drive to stay in power …

    1. I so appreciate your comment, M-R, because I do feel that the future appears to be the LAST thing on the minds of policy makers, so the only ones that can learn from the past and build for the long-term future will be the citizenry. Effective change always seems to come from grass roots efforts. I appreciate your comment. I think we definitely agree! 🙂

    1. Oh I’m so glad you know Bruce as well! I always find inspiration. I hope others will take the time to become familiar as well, Lisa. I hope you enjoyed Earth Day in your beautiful Pacific Northwest! 🙂

  12. Your words here and commitment move me Debra, like so many of your posts that I’ve read. I hadn’t turned on my computer yesterday, so I thank you now for your kind words and reference to Fran and I and the link to the Brandt series on “through the luminary lens.”

    I’m currently working in an out of the way area, (out in the bush we say), and the web is marginal… I can’t even see the photos of this earth day post so I’ll check those out later on the weekend. But for your now, your words are more than enough.

    A couple more thoughts on what you speak … Only a couple days ago, Fran turned to me when we were enjoying some almonds said she felt a bit guilty knowing that California is suffering with the drought and we’re benefiting with an abundance of lovely Californian almonds (and other food). I think I’ve heard it’s 80% of the worlds almonds come from California, as you refer to.

    And as for your winning the essay contest about the environmental awareness when you were young… that explains it all! Bravo! It brought back a similar memory. My first public speaking engagement was when I was about 10… the topic I choose was about garbage and littering. Seems like we have been on parallel paths, Debra 🙂

    I’ll revisit when I get a chance…. sometimes if a drive around here a bit there are a couple hotspots… I look forward to reading about the Homegrown Revolution on 1/10th of an acre. Amazing!

    Bye for now … let’s all keep up the good earth.

    1. I am quite sincere when I say that you have challenged me to read more and to be more determined to do what I can in addressing local and even more broadly considered environmental challenges, Bruce. One of the best parts of blogging, for me, is finding people with similar interests, values and beliefs, and perhaps expanding on those interests by learning from another person’s direct experiences. That’s how I have a felt about what you share, and I do hope others took the time to make a visit. I know they would be pleased. I hope your time away has gone well this week, and you really must see Homegrown Revolution. I think you’ll be amazed, in particular given where this property sits in the middle of the San Gabriel Valley, not more than about 15 miles from downtown Los Angeles! Very impressive! 🙂

      1. Hi Deb. It’s so good to know we make a difference to one an another. Broadening our horizons, so to speak. I love blog because you show and speak of so many interesting and diverse places and events, esp. in Southern California…. and always with a view of social and ecological consciousness.
        I got back late Sunday and only now opened my blog. And yes, the past week I’ve had visitors drop by from ‘breaththelighter.’ So I thank you. I will look closer to your post and blog and the Homegrown Revolution. For now, peace and solidarity, towards building a better world – Bruce.

  13. This is such a well-researched and challenging post, Debra. I followed your links and was stunned by the greedy attitude of the big nut farmers – so short-sighted and selfish. You’re also so right about the high water demand of animal agriculture. DH and I try to do our bit by eating less and less meat, but it needs a society-wide shift in attitude, led by politicians capable of thinking beyond the short-term goal of their own re-election. If only that wonderful quote from Iroquois tribal wisdom could be made required reading for them.

    1. Thank you very much for your very thoughtful remarks after reading my Earth Day post, Perpetua. I don’t often write about these “complaints and laments” because I almost don’t know where to stop once I get started. But I hoped that there would be some interest in the links, and I’m so pleased you took the time to note them. Although my particular focus is currently on water conservation, I do know that ecological concerns and the way we conserve resources is a worldwide issue. There’s always plenty to think about, right? 🙂

  14. I agree with you that it would be nice with a shift from finger-pointing to changing the way we relate to water usage. And I can certainly understand that you can’t absorb one more apocalyptic message warning. At the same time too many people unfortunately reject the idea of man made climate changes. This obstructs the constructive discussion you are looking for. It’s quite unfortunate as it would be more productive to discuss what could be done instead of finger-pointing.

    1. It’s unfortunate that here in California there are too many competing viewpoints and instead of just accepting that without an adequate water table we all must do our part to improve efficiency and conserve wherever we can, there are numerous private interests pointing fingers at each other and in the end, the message is diluted by exaggeration and partial truths. It’s difficult to stay focused when it’s also hard to learn the truth, but I think simply addressing waste and being careful to conserve wherever possible is good practice. I’m always interested in your perspective, so I am really pleased that you stopped by, Otto. Thank you!

  15. I am tired of hearing this water stuff too. Period. Dang politicians – local, state and federal – only enrich themselves. That’s what drives them. What’s the general percentage supposedly consumed by farming? 80%, give or take? Do we need all these almonds? That’s something supply and demand should take care of but the government intervenes… And what’s funny is… rice. Rice does not naturally grow in our semi-desert land. They grow in WET climates like Japan.

    But on the other hand, too many people… Millions who are not here legally to boot. American families don’t generally have more than two children… Who should be using our limited supply of water? So if the government wants to nit-pik and be “PC” and tell us to sing shorter songs in the shower, they’re not acting sensibly.

    Do hair salons have to stop washing ladies’ hair? Golf courses stop watering? And this climate change/global warming stuff. Weather people can’t even predict the weather… ☺

  16. This is an absolutely fascinating read Debra with so many outside sources tied in. So many issues which defy easy resolution – and yet… perhaps the resolution is just a simple case of everyone being just a little more responsible with how much water they use for simple daily things. I don’t know if they use water metering to calculate your water bills but if they don’t that’s a sure fire way to bring some pain to those who waste!

    Earth Day doesn’t seem to have been widely publicised in the UK which is sad 😦

    A few weeks back there was a major flooding incident on the Thameslink line that I use when I go in to the office. It was caused by a burst water main and over a seven day period more than 1 million litres of water were pumped out of the tunnels! Now Thames Water and Network Rail are arguing about who should compensate the passengers 😦 I think you would have liked some of that wasted water for your garden Debra.

I always enjoy hearing from you!

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