The SJV Water Blueprint is not resilient in practice (4 of 3)

The irrigated lands that the SJV Water Blueprint is designed for are the lands that would go out of production because of SGMA. These lands. The way agriculture is practiced on these lands is itself not resilient. These are plantations, monocropped to the horizon. These specific plantations are all simultaneously vulnerable to disease, Trump tariffs, saltification, lack of winter chill. They create and embody huge wealth inequalities. These irrigated lands are tremendously brittle; note that at the first shock (that they cannot overpump groundwater), a million acres are instantly at risk.

Resilient agriculture includes a wide diversity of crops, so they don’t create disease and have options to thrive under varying conditions. Resilient agriculture hosts a great variety of wildlife on farm. In resilient agriculture, soil tilth increases. Resilient agriculture distributes wealth evenly in the ag community and supports real towns. In practice, we do not see the SJV Water Blueprint supporting actually resilient ag.

The San Joaquin Valley Water Blueprint, in both concept and practice, has no place in a Resilience Portfolio. Not if “Resilience” actually means anything.


I have a little more room and a few pixels left. Let us quote from the cannon. Once again, Anna Lowenhaupt Tsing on capitalist ruins:

…[T]here is one connection between economy and environment that seems important to introduce up front: the history of the human concentration of wealth through making both humans and nonhumans into resources for investment.   This history has inspired investors to imbue both people and things with alienation, that is, the ability to stand alone, as if the entanglements of living did not matter. Through alienation, people and things become mobile assets; they can be removed from their life worlds in distance-defying transport to be exchanged with other assets from other life worlds elsewhere. … The dream of alienation inspires landscape modification in which only one stand-alone asset matters; everything else becomes weeds or waste.  Here, attending to living-space entanglements seems inefficient, and perhaps archaic.  When its singular asset can no longer be produced, a place can be abandoned.  The timber has been cut; the oil has run out; the plantation soil no longer supports crops.  The search for assets resumes elsewhere.  Thus, simplification for alienation produces ruins, spaces of abandonment for asset production.

With our other lodestar, Donna Haraway:

There is a way in which the Plantationocene forces attention to the growing of food and the plantation as a system of multispecies forced labor. The plantation system speeds up generation time. The plantation disrupts the generation times of all the players. It radically simplifies the number of players and sets up situations for the vast proliferation of some and the removal of others. It’s an epidemic friendly way of rearranging species life in the world. It is a system that depends on forced human labor of some kind because if labor can escape, it will escape the plantation.

The plantation system requires either genocide or removal or some mode of captivity and replacement of a local labor force by coerced labor from outside, either through various forms of indenture, unequal contract, or out-and-out slavery. The plantation really depends on very intense forms of labor slavery, including also machine labor slavery, a building of machines for exploitation and extraction of earthlings. I think it is also important to include the forced labor of nonhumans—plants, animals, and microbes—in our thinking.

So, when I think about the question, what is a plantation, some combination of these things seems to me to be pretty much always present across a 500-year period: radical simplification; substitution of peoples, crops, microbes, and life forms; forced labor; and, crucially, the disordering of times of generation across species, including human beings.

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