Following Governor Brown's announcement last week about mandatory cutbacks in water usage, the New York Times has suddenly decided to take California's worsening drought seriously with a whole package of pieces discussing things like the role of climate change, and the dilemma of enforcing conservation measures. Then over the weekend they piled on two more pieces, one of which loudly rings the death knell for California's "history of endless growth" and seems to take some pleasure in informing us, as a state, that we are doomed.
Remember the joy the East Coast media took in the rolling blackouts of 2000/2001? And then our state's budget crisis a few years ago? Well, the drought has given them their latest dose of schadenfreude after a long, cold, extra-snowy winter. And the piece is paired with dramatic aerial shots of Rancho Mirage, and its juxtapositions of barren desert with green lawns.
Below are a few choice quotes from the Times piece, which focuses on the ultimate limits of population growth and not on the biggest culprit of water use in the state, which is agriculture a follow-up piece published today focuses on the over-tapping of groundwater in the Central Valley and the water-hungry crops (ahem, almonds) that will have to suffer this year as the drought deepens.
"For more than a century, California has been the state where people flocked for a better life ... But now a punishing drought and the unprecedented measures the state announced last week to compel people to reduce water consumption is forcing a reconsideration of whether the aspiration of untrammeled growth that has for so long been this state’s driving engine has run against the limits of nature."
"Can Los Angeles continue to dominate as the country’s capital of entertainment and glamour, and Silicon Valley as the center of high tech, if people are forbidden to take a shower for more than five minutes and water bills become prohibitively expensive? Will tourists worry about coming? Will businesses continue their expansion in places like San Francisco and Venice?"
"This disconnect, as it were, can be seen in places like Palm Springs, in the middle of the desert, where daily per capita water use is 201 gallons more than double the state average. A recent drive through the community offered a drought-defying tableau of burbling fountains, flowers, lush lawns, golf courses and trees. The smell of mowed lawn was in the air."
Dr. Starr, the University of Southern California historian, said the crisis would force California to do what was needed to carry on. “Our destiny is not just to be a fantasy place,” he said. “As much as we enjoy the good life in California, we have to come to terms with Mother Nature, with our arid environment.”