When it comes to genuine human caused environmental and climatic catastrophes, one need only look to California for one of the world’s premier examples.
First, to summarize the geological history of the region known as California, it is very much one of feast or famine when it comes to aridity or adequate precipitation. The current drought can be seen as historical only if you are ignorant of the long term record. California can go bone dry for decades at a time.
Over the course of the last century, beginning during the dustbowl of the 1930’s, Americans moved west to the “land of plenty” seeking work in the agricultural area’s famed for the most fertile soil on the continent. Our dependence on California as the North American bread basket largely began, and accelerated. During the 1960’s and into the 1970’s (carrying on into other decades as well), small family farms gave up growing fruits and vegetables all over the United States and Canada, as canning factories closed, and the make up of our food production system radically changed. More and more, farmer’s were told, the wholesale market can save money and make greater profits, buying from California, the deep south, and, increasingly in present times, Mexico, Central, and South America.
We piled a great many agricultural eggs into the Californian basket, and its productive capacity seemed limitless. A deliberate ignorance of the variable climate of California was made possible because it has enjoyed (with a few notable breaks) wonderful growing conditions for decades, in a long lasting vein of good fortune for the State. When the weather failed the farmer, the farmer could turn to the river’s and aquifers to make up the gap, and produce kept being produced, profit margins we’re preserved, and scarcely could any other region of the United States compete with the quality and price of Californian produce, and the growth of the sector.
Californian farm’s became bigger, and increasingly dependent on ground water sources as agricultural espansion continued, and the process of urbanization (and the related population boom) accelerated. The demand for ground water swelled so that even in wet years depletion of water resources has progressed unabated.
And now, the party is over.
Production has so far outstripped the productive capacity of the state that even if rain were to fall, and fall, and fall, groundwater resevoirs will never be truly replenished, in spite of which current land and water usage patterns continueon, without change. California is sinking, and as it sinks, it’s ability to naturally store water shrinks. Hopes for a return to the land of milk and honey that it once was, when all this began, become an ever distant pipe dream.
Climate Change didn’t make the crisis in California. Absolute negligence of the nature of it’s climate, the overuse of its productive capacity, ever expanding urbanization, fracking, industrial and agricultural needs, have all combined to render California into the massive crisis it is soon to become. The drought itself is a poor, hapless scapegoat, like the poor starving fox who gets shot for eating back yard hens in a suburban setting that was once it’s habitat. It is the fault of our land use and resource management patterns, and nothing else. The weather is not to blame.
California’s natural environment, as it existed before we altered it, was well equipped for the natural variability of the climate. Much like the areas most hard hit during the dustbowl, it’s natural climate, evolved for handling best the circumstances of a highly variable natural climate, was tilled, developed, mechanized and destroyed. It is a region of extreme’s, in spite of it’s lack of visual extremes (hurricanes, tornadoes, storms, wind, temperature extremes, etc.). It is a region that is wet or dry, and averages (often mislabeled as “normals”) are incredibly misleading, and of little to no value in gauging how extreme California can be, in it’s own way.
If a region receives ample rain for 10 years, and none for the next 10, the calculated average shows a happy medium of conditions that never once existed in reality. The idea of “normal” is an aberration.
Thus, California sinks, shrivels, and dries up, and humanity, in classic human form, exists in a state of denial, blaming the patsy of global warming rather than the real culprit: A total lack of human respect for natural systems, and the circumstances of an ever changing climate in which the only real, concrete rule is change.