Oh man. I am slow and creaky. I’ve been wanting to write some grand syntheses, but can’t pull them off. Perhaps you’ll forgive me if I ease in with the easiest of blogging: commentary on divers items.
You may remember that I was forced to reprimand some of our state’s most prestigious water law professors very sharply indeed. It was a regrettable episode, so I am delighted that I can praise them with equal force. The program for this environmental law conference looks great. I wish I could go, or at least watch some of the sessions online. Session 16! A discussion of the implications of growing the world’s supply of tree nuts while our own water supply dries up! How wonderful!
Just the other evening, I thought of two more crops that California growers are banned from growing. Besides the obvious, pot, California growers are also banned from growing qat and opium poppies. Every day, right now, we live in a world where growers may not plant every highly profitable crop because society has chosen a greater public good. Neither the existence of market demand for pot, qat and opium poppies, nor the good living they could provide to some growers are cited as self-evident, irrefutable proof that California growers should be allowed to grow them. If crazed Libertarians proposed growing them so that Californian agriculture could respond to the widest extent of market forces, we would be very comfortable saying that our government has made a decision, based on values, to forego participation in those markets.
I agreed with much of this Q&A in the NYTimes, and disagreed with some parts. I hadn’t read Mr. Fishman before, but admire that he laid out his arguments so neatly that I can parse where I agree and disagree. That’s one of my goals for my own writing. His best point is this one:
Here’s the hard part in tackling the problems: Facing reality. Water is subject to a remarkable amount of wishful thinking, even among the professionals responsible for making sure our water systems work well. Elected officials, water managers and the public all need to look at their situation with frank clarity — without optimism.
He’s right. They cannot. Absolutely cannot. Today’s example made me smile. In Stockton, an elected official with what may be extrapolated to decades of experience says of the new groundwater sustainability agencies:
“Who’s going to tell people, ‘I’m sorry, you can’t plant grapes because your groundwater basin is overdrafted and we can’t get you any more water?’ That’s almost what this comes down to,” Flinn said at a meeting last week involving many of the potential players.
That isn’t “almost” what this comes down to. It is exactly what it comes down to. That’s what local GSA will be doing. He knows there has been a five-to-six million acrefoot overdraft in the Central Valley in the past year, and stopping that is the same as stopping planting. He knows this. But he cannot quite bring himself to say it. He must soften the words, because the implications of the reality are so abrupt and difficult.
This drought IS what is predicted for our new climate. When people face that reality, they’ll understand why my recommendations are consistently for cutting losses early, choosing what we want to keep, and making a gentle transition.
I will read it again more closely, but this proposal from RAND looks like a bad case of this phenomenon. The problem I see identified in the RAND proposal is that “many valuable trades simply don’t happen”. What is the goal? What would be better if those trades happened? Urban people are happier because they have more green lawn cheaper? Many people are happier because the price of meat is cheaper longer into the new climate? Growers make more profits, so farm towns are more stable? The Resnicks can get even richer? Ag lands get retired? The goal isn’t to have a real cool market, so what is the fucking goal, exactly, in terms of our lived experience? After that is made explicit, we can model whether a market is the best way to achieve that goal.
Also, what Mr. Devine said.