There are a lot of “funny” cartoons out there about the California drought. But there’s nothing funny about it. Anyone who has lived very long on the Great Plains has experienced drought. Certainly it was one of my earliest experiences in Oklahoma as we choked in some of the last dust storms of the Dust Bowl era.
The Dust Bowl was a man-made disaster and to a great extent, so is the current situation in California. Yes, climate change is part of the problem and adequate rain and snow in the right places would end the drought. Temporarily.
However, the real underlying problem is overuse of finite resources — too much development and sprawl in areas with too little water. The handwriting has been on the wall for a long time — and ignored for just as long. As early as the 1960s, the mighty Colorado River, the river that carved the Grand Canyon, stopped reaching the ocean. Imagine, a river that has existed for millions of years and carved a canyon through solid rock now usually slows to a trickle and disappears somewhere in the sands of our southwestern deserts.
Why? Because developers in America’s desert Southwest keep taking more and more water from it and other sources to supply ever-expanding suburbs with lush lawns, verdant golf courses, and shimmering blue swimming pools while Big Agriculture voraciously plants and waters more and more acres of crops in what is normally, naturally a bone-dry desert.
Several days ago the New York Times ran a story about the drought, “California Growth Tests History of Endless Growth,” that includes dramatic photos like the one below. I urge you to read it, or at least take a long, thoughtful look at the accompanying photographs. There was one oversight, I thought: At least one of the photos should have shown acres of glistening green crops showered by giant sprinklers and bordered by lifeless desert sand.