A more painful question is one posed by USC’s Jeffe: “When do we purposely hurt our economy in order to save water, and how do you explain to people that’s what you have to do?”
So far, no one in California, least of all its political leaders, has come up with an answer.
Really? That is a very easy question to answer. Here is a highminded answer:
California is rich enough that we can afford to leave some of our natural resources as living rivers and intact groundwater aquifers rather than converting them into cash. If we were poor, we might have to sell off every nice thing we have in order to have cash wealth to support our people. But we aren’t that poor and if we chose, we could take care of our people and have nice things even with a smaller for-profit economy. Californians have long decided that we don’t have to destroy beaches to get every drop of oil out of oceanic oil fields, or cut down every last redwood for timber to sell abroad. We can just as readily decide that the last of the fish in our rivers, or the benefits of a healthy aquifer are more important to us than a little bit more cash.
Here is an answer based on shameful demagoguery:
Why should some already rich almond farmers get to take the last of the rivers that run through your state and turn them into more cash in their pockets? Why should the rest of us have to face cracking roads and overpasses as they pump our groundwater aquifers dry, give up our lawns and pools, so they can send a luxury snack to China and India?
Neither of those were hard to come up with, so politicians should ask me for answers more often. What I wonder is why so few people ask the reciprocal question:
What do we need more cash for so urgently that we should let rivers dry up before they reach the sea and let our fish drown in warm shallow water? What part of almond profits are so deeply valuable to the public that we should tolerate 5 million acrefeet of overdraft every year of the drought? What is so sacred about that bit of profit that we should give up so much for it?