Why I have not been writing.

I have not been writing here because my mind is colonized by Trump.  Just like they warned us, the ceaseless distraction makes it very hard to concentrate and create.

I have not been writing because of Twitter.  If I only have one thought about an article, I mention that on Twitter and have done.  I used to gather those into a news round-up, but Twitter ruins everything.

I have not been writing because I do not feel that I have stayed current on my favorite topic, agriculture in the Central Valley.  I have never disguised the fact that I am not a local and that I get my information from text.  But I long thought I understood trends and I was one of the few foolishbold enough to extrapolate from them.  Now I am not certain I know where things are going, and I don’t want to be one of the geezers loudly repeating policy recommendations that were on point two decades ago.  I also don’t want to be making arguments for things that are already too timid or mostly accomplished; it is possible that events have passed me by.

Here are some things that I don’t know:

I do not understand the current labor market in the SJV.  I don’t know whether farmworker towns will persist or disperse, whether there will be a replacement generation of farmworkers, whether farmworkers are now receiving decent wages and able to choose working conditions.

I do not understand the forms of power in the Valley.  I had thought the connected-white-man form of power was on the wane.  It may yet be.  But it held out last year and this, although it continues to cost staggering amounts of money and not achieve desired results (new dams, the drainage deal, wet water, unlimited gw pumping, privacy). I cannot tell how much strength new woman-led coalitions (like the Community Water Center) have, nor how social media connections are solidifying new power nodes.

I also don’t know how to gauge the political temperament in the Valley.  I’d be embarrassed to make recommendations about zoning for food scarcity as if that were daring only to find out that the radicals in the Valley are themselves ready for a kibbutz model.  I do not know how much younger generations in the Valley identify with ag.  I do not know whether Valley farmers are still in denial about climate change.

I am no longer sure how water use is shaped.  I used to think the drivers were the human desire to maintain whatever they are currently used to and the international market for almonds.  Now I wonder about heat (literal hot temperatures) and how fury at Trump and older generations for what they’ve cost the young will show up.  I am certain that I am at least a decade behind on technology use in ag, especially remote sensing. More broadly, throughout the state, it is becoming clear that homelessness is now an important water issue, which I did not predict nor recognize until a local water manager told me.

As I watch, I see hints of new things that make me doubt my generalizations and extrapolations.  I want to safeguard OtPR’s credibility, but am equally certain that cautious blogging is boring blogging. So I haven’t had much left to say.


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18 responses to “Why I have not been writing.

  1. Thanks for writing!! It does some good!


  2. Mark Franco

    Your voice has been missed and I, too feel the stymying effect of social media. Looking forward to reading your thoughts again when you are ready.

  3. Terry B.

    Me, either. Perhaps that’s part of the desired effect of the confusion/chaos model the current Federal Administration employs. Stepping away from the daily craziness can be restorative. But you have been missed!

  4. Kimery wiltshire

    Thank you for your honesty – AG, climate change, water, social justice – all about as cimplicated as it gets. Re: homelessness – I didn’t know either until recently when some of the utilities in our netowork quietly mentioned that they don’t know what to do. Homelessness – add that into the complexity.

    • Laura Feinstein

      The issue of homelessness, water and sanitation has been on my mind a lot lately too. Seems it intersects in every way. People are living on the streets, without places to wash their hands, use the toilet, or drink clean water. We see disease outbreaks like Hep A. There’s also trash in the waterways, and it’s unclear how much is from homeless encampments, but probably at least a fair share. There’s fecal matter in the waterways – I’ve heard that’s a big issue in the Russian River lately, where there’s large homeless encampments along the river without toilets. And when rivers flood, homeless people living along the embankments lose their belongings. My one somewhat productive thought about the situation is that perhaps cities and counties responsible for meeting their surface water quality objectives on trash and fecal coliform could use some of their funds to offer public toilets and regular trach pickup at homeless encampments. Not that it’s a replacement for a home – but, good lord, we need to be able to offer at least some basic chance at dignity and health. I’m glad to hear that OtPR and Kimery are thinking about these issues as well.

  5. Anonymous

    I think one reason you’re at a loss is the focus on water has to a great extent burned away local issues. Seems to me water in the San Joaquin Valley has been politicized since the days of Lux and Miller. What we have here, anomalous to California, is the old southern slave ag system, well described in Arax’s “The King of California.” Water is the source of wealth in the valley and it’s a public resource. So why is the wealth so concentrated? It’s in large part because the public resource has been appropriated by private enterprise (ag) which has managed to socialize costs and privatize profits.

  6. Mel B.

    Thank you for this. I actually think you’re exactly on point. Chaos is in play and the future is cloudy. It remains to be seen which way things go and when. Some retrench within their own positions and may be stronger for a while. Others are emboldened to change. I here more rumbling about climate change being fake, as well seeing a lot more evidence that it isn’t. Don’t despair. Eventually, movements for change do succeed, although often they have to rise and fight the same battles again.

  7. John Ragozzino

    I think you are being quite disingenuous. Fact is, you bought into all
    the global warming propaganda, hook, line and sinker, and when the 6 year
    drought was over, as it has done for millenia, your socialist, anti-business narrative collapsed. Not Trump, not agriculture policy, not labor, you
    simply had a solution without a problem. I suggest you take up golf or tennis and enjoy your life.

  8. OtPR

    In the words of Bill Clinton. ‘Ah feel your pain’.

    But you have to remember we’re talking California here – California is dynamic. If you had the agricultural economy of Iowa figured out as well as you had that of California you’d be practically set for life.

    When I was a kid in Valley farm country 75 years ago farmers were a diverse lot, most the product of diasporas from Italy, the Azores and even present-day Pakistan. Their workers were largely Okies and Arkies. The farmers were mostly Republicans, the hands solidly Democratic.

    The government weighed in slightly and assisted development of seasonal housing in some of the more settled agricultural regions. Nothing fancy, but still better than living out of your car.

    The next thing you know the Dust Bowlers had become the landowners.

    They were still ‘Yellow Dog’ Democrats. Their field hands were braceros – folks who were supposed to appear from Mexico when needed and then magically disappear when they were no longer needed. (Many simply went ‘underground’ – literally – until they were needed again in the spring.)

    This Okie period shaped the water system we have now – think Bernice Frederic ‘Bernie’ Sisk.

    This is where I was coming up, this was my understanding of the culture.

    What disoriented me was Republicans getting elected to those San Joaquin Valley congressional districts in the early ‘90s, those which had been such predictable Yellow Dog D districts.

    But that didn’t change farm-worker communities. The bad parts of life in such communities simply got worse, as Lloyd Carter made clear in his epic Golden Gate U law review article ‘Reaping Riches in a Wretched Region: Subsidized Industrial Farming and Its Link to Perpetual Poverty’, likening the social pathologies of western Fresno County to those of NYC’s notorious Bedford-Stuyvesant neighborhood.

    And the next thing you know we have a whole new phenom’ – Beverly Hills billionaires converting Lost Hills – did you read Mark Arax’s California Sunday Magazine 31 January piece ‘A Kingdom from Dust’? – into another Levittown.

    ‘It’s not you, Jake’ (to mangle that Chinatown line horribly) ‘it’s California.’

    You’ll rally – hopefully as the result of this year’s elections.

  9. Martha

    You always have interesting things to say, especially when they are questions rather than recommendations. So much is in transition. The only for sure thing is that the past is not the future. Big adjustments in our assumptions are needed for the next generation of water planning.

  10. Curt Sanders

    Your voice is important. Your honest questioning attitude is refreshing and important. It’s ok to not be certain about a given issue. The honest exploration of the issue is of course paramount though. I urge you to Get back in the ballgame. Water in all it various aspects here in California and the West deserves your continued excellence. You are appreciated. Come on baby let’s see what you got…

  11. Diane Livia

    The questions are as important as answers at this particular political moment. No need to be cautious. I definitely look to your blog for information and perspective–and to remember that there are others who have a similar frame.

  12. Anonymous

    As long as the San Joaquin Valley remains a feudal system and ranks regionally below MIssissippi in so many metrics for quality of life, injustice will continue and it demands all the sunlight you can shed on it. Your observations are at least as important as the prescriptions you may doubt. Carry on!

  13. when you have no certainty, speculate! your analyses are quite interesting and valuable. i would be very happy to see you pick any of the topics you mention and do a little if-then analytical speculation. at this weird juncture nobody has a crystal ball, but sometimes candlelight is sufficient unto the day.

  14. Cam Murray

    I’ve missed your take and tone on water issues and agree homelessness has become a related concern. Last week we were driving north on 99 past almond groves and saw a tree-high stack of trimmings awaiting burning or hauling. Commingled with the organic trimmings were many items of the homeless culture – torn blue tarps, old tents, and the detritus of daily living without sanitation, proper shelter, or proper trash disposal. Did the farmer clean out an abandoned homeless camp? Did the farmer raid an occupied camp? I dunno but a problem that was thought to be urban has certainly become much more.

  15. Noel Park

    Don’t give up! I miss you.

  16. Anonymous

    “In times of trouble, render assistance; if that seems impossible, gather information; failing that, rest.”