Monday, February 23, 2009

Yeah.... just why DO we have lawns in California?

Especially when front yards themselves are usually for show, rarely used, and high maintenance. OrangeClouds at Calitics, a really good site for California politics:
Over at Natasha Chart asks if a recovery is even possible on a planet headed for environmental collapse? That's an answer I wish I knew. Natasha's been covering the water story regularly with a post about Colorado's fights between Big Oil and Big Water, a post about agribusiness and water use, and a post I highly recommend reading (even though it scares the shit out of me) called "We don't have to choose a dustbowl"

My own environmentalist hippie foodie answers to the water problem begin as follows:

  1. Why is it still legal to have lawns in California? Seriously. Somebody should outlaw watering your lawn. If we weren't in such a budget crisis I'd add that the city should provide native drought resistant plants to residents who want to make their yard beautiful and able to survive without water.
  2. California growers need to go organic ASAP. It's not a fix that will help them this year, and it will reduce their productivity in the next few years but in the long run, it will make all of their crops more drought resistant because the soil will store more water.
  3. We've gotta do something about animal agriculture. It uses a TON of water. If factory farms are something we have to have, then they shouldn't be located in California. Period.
  4. We need to expand fruit, nut, and vegetable (so-called "specialty crop") production in the other 49 states to plan for decreased production in California and to reduce energy needs for shipping food across the country. Right now there are actually laws preventing farmers who grow commodities to switching over to grow specialty crops instead. You can't even buy land from a farmer who used to grow commodities there and grow specialty crops on that land! The USDA is dabbling in changing that policy but only in a very small pilot program.

These things are expensive - either for the farmers or for the state that mandates it and compensates the farmers (or offers financial incentives to make it happen without mandating it). But we bailed out the banks even after they screwed up and got us into this mess. Why can't we bail out our farmers? After all, we need to eat.

I've noticed several houseowners in our tract ripping out their grass and planting native groundcover through a heavy mulch. I've even noticed a few houses in town that have very realistic-looking fake grass. You need to get right up on top of it to see it's plastic. But as water becomes more important, and the wars between farmer and suburbia, state and state, nation and nation become more pronounced and anxious, could we please address the feckless and heedless building of the Southern California sprawl right up into the mountains?

Click to get a larger view.

Where the hell are we going to get the water for these new homes? The gasoline to run food to the stores and to support the lengthy commutes these bedroom communities assume? Where will the garbage go? We are literally running out of space in the 'valley' and are flowing up and over the mountains into the deserts where the need for air conditioning becomes a life or death issue and the commutes for everything and everyone is hours longer. Meanwhile the death rot of neglect in the inner cities leaves empty warehouses and hard used apartment buildings and no services. Why can't we rebuild in these areas?

And lastly, when, not if, gasoline goes to 5, 8, 10 dollars a gallon, Southern California sprawl is going to die unless we get the HSR (high speed rail) in place.

Robert in Monterey at Calitics:

One of my lingering concerns about the Obama Administration has been that they might be tempted to claim victory with the $8 billion in HSR funding added to the stimulus and not follow up on that money, which as we know merely pays for some initial costs. But Secretary of Transportation Ray LaHood made clear last week that in fact, the $8 billion in HSR stimulus really is intended as a signal to America that Obama is truly serious about building HSR:

LaHood said that for Obama building high-speed rail networks is, "if not his No. 1 priority, certainly at the top of his list. What the president is saying with the $8 billion is this is the start to help begin high-speed rail projects." He added that the administration "is committed to finding the dollars to not only get them started but to finishing them in at least five parts of the country," although he declined to elaborate on where these projects might ultimately be built.

And don't worry about the right-wing freakout over the Vegas HSR project - California is in better position than any other HSR project in America to use that stimulus funding. We can begin construction in late 2010 or early 2011; no other project is anywhere close to that point.

Plant those gardens and turn your fricking hose off!


Anonymous said...

I've been trying to research when the SF->LA HSR is expected to be finished, but haven't found anything specific. But there's a lot on the project at

ellroon said...

Oo, thanks for the link, Mahakal!

ErinPDX said...

Great post, ellroon

ellroon said...

/doffs hat
/bow low

Can you tell I'm listening to the Hobbit again?