Is our current political system too balkanized and toxic to address agriculture's challenges?
If words were water, California wouldn’t have a problem right now.
The fact of the matter is California is in deep trouble, and more people are quickly learning. Let’s hope it’s not too late.
In a Twitter exchange I had with someone recently, they lamented that it’s too bad it takes something as negative as a severe drought to draw attention like this to agriculture. While I agree, I think that’s just human nature. When things are going swimmingly, we tend to soar along in life without a care in the world.
We saw that with some water users in California. While water users along the west side of the San Joaquin Valley were increasingly watching their annual surface allocations decline, growers in other regions of the state were almost smug in their attitude that “this could never happen here.”
Well, it did and they’re shell-shocked!
Maybe that’s a good thing.
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It took British taxes on the early American colonies and an order from the British Crown to register their firearms to start the American Revolution; Hitler’s march across Europe wasn’t addressed early on by the United States until we were sucker-punched at Pearl Harbor. Human nature suggests we’re pretty predictable that way: don’t address the warning signs that the bridge is out until you get to the chasm and can’t stop in time.
The reactionary media are simply doing what they do best when it comes to writing about the drought (guilty as charged). It’s foremost on people’s minds and a pressing political issue that some would still like to dodge, so lots of ink is going to be slung (literally and now figuratively in our electronic media age) over the issue.
Let’s use it to our advantage. Let’s capitalize on the moment (or as Chicago Mayor Rahm Emanuel is attributed as saying: “let’s not let a good crisis go to waste”).
While there’s a certain amount of “I told you so” that may be appropriate if it can happen as a result of an epiphany and not a baseball bat, building coalitions that move legislative and regulatory mountains is what agriculture needs, not the balkanized system that got us here in the first place.
Just as a thought, what if as a college-level project, some students moved forward with a non-partisan, grass-roots project that does not have the toxic identity of certain groups and began to build a coalition that looks at their own future and that of their children when it comes to water, agriculture, jobs, recreation and a better California?
What if this coalition were to include and actually be driven by the young twenty-something’s from agriculture, the environmental community and those looking to become the next Steve Jobs or Bill Gates? What if they could begin to focus on what is best for a culture to succeed without the typical connections to one faction or another? Could we indeed promote a culture that is agriculturally self-sufficient; able to develop its own clean energy supplies; capable of addressing water and air pollution issues in a way that accounts for economic growth and can develop workable plans to restore rivers to the benefit of nature and humans?