Inland Cooler | 21 New Cases | McGourty Conflict | Philo Produce | Pilfered Rifle | Haircut Drive | AV Schoolhouses | Offgassing SmartPigs | Coombs Store | Skyhawk Perspectives | JDSF Photos | Nobody Wondered | Coast Dawn | Ed Notes | Yesterday's Catch | Limping Down | Heavenly Boredom | Problem Overwhelm | Hard Rain | Masked Students | HumCo Where | Cannabis Meeting | Soccer Mania | Navarro Wharf | Sue Republican | Charitable Bribery | Scatback Maud | Solemnly Swear | Ignoring Petitions | Stop Vote | Cuba Blockade | Floral Coast | Deer Disease | 2008 Echo | California Climate
INLAND TEMPERATURES WILL REMAIN COOLER for the next two days. Coastal areas remain seasonal in regards to temperature. Drizzle, stratus and fog at the north coast this morning will possibly clear out as a weak inversion and onshore winds set in this afternoon. Sunday and early next week temperatures edge back to above normal. (NWS)
21 NEW COVID CASES reported in Mendocino County yesterday afternoon.
NOTICE OF INTENT to File Conflict of Interest Complaint with the California Fair Political Practices Commission for Supervisor Glenn McGourty (Emailed to recipients July 14, 2021)
To Supervisor Glenn McGourty, Mendocino County Counsel, Mendocino County Board of Supervisors
Summary: A conflict or appearance of a conflict of interest disqualifies Supervisor Glenn McGourty not only from Board of Supervisors decisions related to the wine industry, but from his participation in any local water related board, committee, agency or commission because he owns a vineyard that derives income from water for his grapes and he is on close terms with other water-dependent grape growers in Ukiah and Potter Valleys.
Part 1: The California Fair Political Practices Act
(From the Fair Political Practices Commission (FPPC) website)
“Under the Act, a public official has a disqualifying conflict of interest in a governmental decision if it is foreseeable that the decision will have a financial impact on his or her personal finances or other financial interests. In such cases, there is a risk of biased decision-making that could sacrifice the public’s interest in favor of the official’s private financial interests. To avoid actual bias or the appearance of possible improprieties, the public official is prohibited from participating in the decision.”
For further reference: “To determine the applicable materiality standard, or to obtain more detailed information on conflicts, an official may consult the FPPC’s guide to Recognizing Conflicts of Interest.”
Part 2: Background:
“What got me involved in politics is water.”
— Supervisor Glenn McGourty, in a May 28, 2021 podcast about water and wine grapes
* * *
“We had a series of questions about wine and wine grapes and such. [Not described, but apparently critical] and I will answer them because of course as a wine grape grower and more importantly a person who has spent a good portion of his career in frost [protection] and looking for options besides sprinklers I can tell you why we grow. Why -- why we grow wine anyway. Because this is a great place to grow it. We make really good wine out of Mendocino County! I've traveled the world. I've seen a lot of other places. We have really special conditions here that make wine exceptional. Our economy is built on it. It's historic. We have done it since the 1860s. We know how to do it. It's part of our fabric, our culture, our heritage. And we're good at it! And we can sell it usually in the marketplace. Probably more important is the issue of why would we -- what's the benefit to the community? For every ton of Chardonnay we sell we get somewhere around $1200 to a winery when we sell it. It's probably — and the price is more than that, but that's what we get paid. When that is made into wine, by the time it goes through the system of paying taxes, federal excise taxes, state excise tax, state sales tax, we generate from that $1200 of grapes almost $900 in taxes. So there is a pretty good return relative to what we, you know, spending on, you know, water. Then the water issue is another good thing. Even with the frost protection, grapes are pretty stingy with water. In a typical situation when I was invited, advising people in the Ukiah Valley you have enough water to grow grapes. You have half an acre foot for irrigating the grapes and you'd better have half an acre foot for frost protection. And that was 20 years ago when it was more regulated than it is now. We used to have around 10 frost nights, and now we have three or four. Let's suppose we have one acre foot to grow grapes. That's really high. My own usage is much lower because what I have its probably half that. Most of them are getting by with half an acre foot. But when you compare that with growing almonds in the Central Valley which is around five acre-feet or compare that with growing cotton in the Central Valley which is around three and a half to four acre-feet and goes up to around seven acre-feet. So the amount of water that we use to grow grapes to generate the jobs, tax base and taxes is a pretty good return. It's a good investment. With whatever water resources we have. And the agricultural land we have in Mendocino County it works out pretty well. Cannabis is also very controversial. Part of our biggest problem with cannabis right now is it was set up to be an illegal industry and we are trying to legalize it. So we probably have it in the wrong place. We have cannabis planted in a lot of places where we don't have enough water. In the upper watersheds. It would be better if it was planted down on flat agricultural land. And there's people who would like to grow it there. Part of our new ordinance would allow that. It would reduce some of the environmental impacts we are very very concerned about.”
Supervisor Glenn McGourty, Drought Ad Hoc Task Force Committee meeting, July 8, 2021
* * *
In this second, longer public statement at the end of the Drought Task Force meeting, apart from the biased, subjective, self-serving, unsubstantiated and debatable rhetoric about how wonderful the wine industry is and his apparent love of it and the importance of water to that industry, Supervisor McGourty conflates “we” with the County of Mendocino, himself, and the wine industry in general, and clearly links water availability at his 16-acre Spirit Canyon Ranch vineyard on the Russian River to his own ability to sell his grapes at a profit.
Further, based on his campaign contributions as shown on Mendocino County’s Elections website, Supervisor McGourty received financial campaign support from a number of wine industry sources, giving the impression that he could favor them in his public decisions regarding water allocations during the drought.
To the best of our knowledge Supervisor McGourty is not only on the County Board of Supervisors which deals with water and drought issues affecting his vineyard and the inland Mendocino County wine industry in general, but he is also on the Board’s Drought Task Force which will provide guidance to the Board on water and drought issues. In addition, he is Chairman of the Ukiah Valley Groundwater Sustainability Agency Board which has spent years doing essentially nothing about the serious water shortage in the Ukiah and Potter Valleys other than meet and talk — an apparent delaying tactic which he and his wine industry associates benefit from since it postpones the prospect of measuring or restricting water for his and their vineyard(s).
By way of further background, in December of 2016, The Mendocino Voice reported that Fifth District Supervisor Dan Hamburg recused himself from cannabis related discussions and decisions “Because Hamburg rents property to an adult child who is growing marijuana with a permit under the 9.31 program, Hamburg has been recusing himself from all deliberations on the cultivation ordinance.” Hamburg concluded at that time that his daughter’s cannabis cultivation permit created a conflict of interest with his role as Supervisor with authority over cannabis cultivation rules under the Fair Political Practices Act.
Part 3: Conclusion
Supervisor McGourty’s conflict of interest arises because, as an official with several offiical water-related assignements in Mendocino County, and particularly in the Ukiah Valley, Supervisor McGourty is in a position to affect, positively or negatively, his own ability to profit from his decisions regarding water and the drought and those of his associates and supporters in the wine industry.
Under the Fair Political Practices Act even the appearance of a conflict of interest is to be avoided. In addition, the conflict or appearance of conflict could create a liability for the County if a water user or agency in the Ukiah area sued the county if he felt that his interests were negatively affected by Supervisor McGourty’s decisions over the County’s water policies and decisions.
Part 4: Request
Therefore, I request that Supervisor McGourty:
1. Fully disclose the specific financial benefit he receives from whatever water he may or may not get from the Russian River going back at least five years.
2. Withdraw from any and all committees, boards, commissions or agencies which have authority over water allocations in Ukiah or Potter Valley.
3. Recuse himself from any Board of Supervisors’ discussions or decisions relating to inland water, the drought, or the Potter Valley Diversion.
If Supervisor McGourty complies substantially with the above request within ten calendar days of the receipt of this notice (the amount of time typically cited in Public Records Act Requests) I will not proceed with my FPPC complaint.
If, on the other hand, Supervisor McGourty chooses not to respond in a timely manner, or cannot adequately explain why there is no conflict or appearance of conflict, or denies these requests, then I will proceed with a formal FPPC complaint and let them process it as they see fit.
PO Box 672
Boonville, CA 95415
THIS WEEK AT BLUE MEADOW FARM
At last! Sungold, Early Girls and first Heirloom Tomatoes, Padrons, Jalapenos, First Sweet Peppers and Eggplant, Walla Walla Onions, Zucchini, Basil, Santa Rosa Plums, Sunflowers
Blue Meadow Farm
3301 Holmes Ranch Rd, Philo
Pam Laird <email@example.com>
RETURN THE PILFERED RIFLE
To the person who took the rifle off my grandson’s ATV in our barnyard while he was in the barn doing chores, please consider returning it. He worked very hard for the privilege of owning his own rifle and it means a lot to him. Please return the rifle to the barn or house.
ANDERSON VALLEY SCHOOLHOUSES
by Katy Tahja
“What Became of the Little Red Schoolhouse: Facts & Figures-Tales & Photos of Early Mendocino County” is 30 years old but it’s five volumes are a great resource for history trivia.
The same information was collected for every school that ever existed in the county. The name of the school, location, when it was built, description of buildings and grounds, history, trustees & teachers & pupils, attendance, why it closed and if it was repurposed were all facts collected. The little red schoolhouse that serves as Anderson Valley’s history museum may have the set produced by the Mendocino Coast Genealogical Society and the County Museum.
The volume listing Anderson Valley school lists 17 schools and could be dry reading of statistics, but the “Any Other Interesting Information…” has some juicy details and some are highlighted here. Be aware the facts gathered back then describing locations may have changed with road re-alignment.
Prior to today’s Anderson Valley Unified School District there were schools called Laurel, Helena, Counts, Signal, Shields, Indian Creek, Peachland, Con Creek, Comfort, Bell Valley, Highland, Ornbaun, Rancheria/Yorkville, Elkhorn, Whitehall and Gaskill.
In 1858 the first school in the valley was sited where the state highway yard is now in Boonville. Parents contributed $150 to pay a teacher for three months teaching in a one room log cabin. Fast forward more than a century later and a unique aviation program was offered at the Anderson Valley High School. Since an airstrip existed next to A.V. High School and interest existed in the community, a flight and ground school program began in the late 1960’s, starting with a Cessna 150 leased for $1.00 a year. A third of the school participated in flight classes as did local adults. Many students found careers in aviation. By the 1980’s interest waned and aeronautics classes were phased out.
Laurel School in Wendling/Navarro began in 1878 with 55 students aged 5 to 20, according to the late Bobby Glover. It lasted into the 1940’s. Helena School was near Nash Mill Road and ran from 1899 to 1902. Its furniture was given to Shields School. Counts School, just north of Reilly Heights, began in 1860. Early Mendocino County historian Nannie Flood Escola began her teaching career there in 1908 with 20 kids. Boys carried water in buckets from a neighboring ranch when the school well went dry.
Signal School was on Greenwood Ridge Road and named for a heliograph mirror device that was used in government surveying. It served primarily Italian-American students and existed 1887-1942. Feral Lawson Slotte’s book “School Bell Memories” shares stories of the school. Shields School was near Philo and began in 1902 and the building in photos looked similar to the Counts School. Maybe they shared the same building plans? Belfries for school bells were a common feature in country schools along with boys and girls outhouses on opposite sides of the school yard. When Counts closed it became a private residence.
Indian Creek School was near the current Philo post office when built in 1866. In 1895 it was vacated for a few weeks so the students could pick hops. A newspaper in 1895 noted it was “the most depilated school building in the county” and commended the community for voting to pass a bond of $535 to rebuild the school. Closed in 1956 the area became a PGE sub-station.
Peachland School was north of Boonville, several miles from the highway and open from 1888-1930. Teacher Blanche Brown rode her horse to school from her home on Indian Creek. One school got it’s own book-“Con Creek School: a Memory Trip’” by Elinor Clow. From 1887-1965 it was full of kids, then moved to its current site as AV Elementary. Comfort School was an emergency short-term school on Mountain View Road from 1934-1940.
Bell Valley School was on Highway 253. Begun in 1883 it had 13 students and little information is known about it. Highland School was on the highest point between Ukiah and Boonville a half mile south of the road. Ranching families built the school and used a “horseback janitor”: to pack in water in water bags between 1914 and 1919.
Ornbaun School on Fish Rock Road started in 1899 and joined the Yorkville School in 1937. The old school building became a sheep shed, Rancheria/Yorkville School began in the 1860’s with 30 white and one Indian child. When it closed in 1939 it was dismantled and it’s wood built a second room on the south side of the AV School.
Elkhorn School ran 1872 to 1909 near the headwaters of Garcia River and Rancheria Creek and almost nothing is known of it. Whitehall School was 22 miles from Ukiah and three miles from McDonald’s, midway between Hermitage and Yorkville, Begun in 1880 its kids ended up in Yorkville or Gaskill schools. Gaskill School is an abandoned survivor standing today next to Highway 128 two miles west of Mountain House Road. Open 1879 to 1948, at one time if you brought a note from home you could swim in the creek during lunch time. A new California state law in 1948 said all schools must have flush toilets. Gaskill didn’t and closed.
The AV Historical Society, appropriately housed in the little red schoolhouse across the street from Anderson Valley Elementary, might have more facts about any and all of these schools. Check it out when they are open on weekends.
UKIAH VALLEY FIRE AUTHORITY - PG&E PIPELINE TEST PROMPTS CALLS - Testing will reportedly continue through July 23
by Justine Frederiksen
It looked like a scene from a science fiction movie or a Burning Man sculpture: Huge flames shooting out of large metal structures clearly visible from Highway 101, prompting calls to the Ukiah Valley Fire Authority very early Tuesday morning.
UVFA Battalion Chief Justin Buckingham said firefighters responded to the 800 block of Kunzler Ranch Road around 3:30 a.m. July 13 for a report of “cubes on fire,” and found the flames were being generated by the testing Pacific Gas and Electric is performing on its gas pipeline from Healdsburg to Hopland.
“The excess gas is being burned off, but you can really only see it at night — during the day it just looks like heat waves,” said Buckingham, explaining that the UVFA was notified by PG&E earlier this month of the planned testing, though it came as a surprise to many people who witnessed the strange sight overnight. “It gets big and impressive at night; you could see the flames from the highway.”
Buckingham said PG&E was carefully monitoring the operations and had fire engines at the ready in case they were needed. He said the testing is expected to continue through July 19, and he was pleased with how the agency had notified his department of their plans.
More information on the testing was requested from PG&E spokeswoman Deanna Contreras, who said that the agency “conducts safety inspections on both the internal and external portions of its gas transmission lines that include many processes and high-tech tools such as Mini Robots, cameras, pressure testing and In-Line Inspections. These inspections are essential to the safe and reliable delivery of natural gas and are federally mandated.”
Contreras confirmed that PG&E was “inspecting 29 miles of a gas transmission line with an in-line inspection from Healdsburg up to Hopland,” and said the in-line inspections are completed with a robotic tool “known throughout the industry as a ‘smart pig,’ (which) is propelled within the pipeline by natural gas. They use a combination of GPS data, magnetic sensors, and other technology to examine the pipe and collect data, (looking) for any anomalies within the pipe that may need a direct assessment” such as corrosion or dents.
Conteras also explained that “PG&E brought in nine (five dual stack, four single stack) temporary enclosed combustion devices to our Masonite gas site north of Ukiah near Hollow Tree Creek Road to help propel the robotic ‘smart pig’ through the line. This helps create an increase in gas flow to help move the pigs through the line.”
She said testing of the devices began on Thursday, July 8, and “we started using them for the purposes of moving the smart pig through the line starting Sunday early morning, July 11. The combustion devices operate 24 hours a day, so if you are near the gas site at night, you might notice a glow coming from the top of the devices, which is the normal by-product of combustion.”
After engaging with local fire departments and the Mendocino County Sheriff’s Office, Contreras said PG&E agreed on the following safety protocols:
Vegetation has been removed to bare mineral soil for four acres around where the combustors are being utilized. Additional surrounding vegetation has been mowed to one inch in length.
A type 1 engine is onsite 24 hours per day (a Type 1 is a “ Fully Equipped Type 1 Municipal FIRE ENGINE”).
A PG&E Safety and Infrastructure Protection Team engine is onsite during burn operations.
Hydrants are available in several locations in and around the site.
No combustion will take place in Red Flag conditions or high winds.
Four water tenders are at the site.
She added that “barring unforeseen circumstances, we expect the testing to be completed by July 23, and the removal of the equipment shortly after.”
(Courtesy, the Ukiah Daily Journal)
JOIN HOST CHRIS SKYHAWK for Universal Perspectives on KZYX/Z on Thursday night at 7 pm PDT. His guests will be Polly Girvin of the Coyote Valley Pomo tribe. She will address tribal consultations with Caifornia officials in the Jackson Demonstration State Forest to protect tribal cultural resources. Also Anne Marie Stenberg of Redwood Nation Earth First will discuss the non-violent Civil Disobedience that has established a people’s moratorium on the logging in the Caspar 500 THP. Our 3rd guest will be Ukiah resident Salvatore Rico who will discuss his efforts at River Restoration in his home village in Mexico. This project now receives international support from the Rotarians and is going global.
PHOTOS OF JACKSON STATE FOREST LOGGING, July 14, 2021 (by David Gurney)
ON TUESDAY, the Supervisors unanimously approved relaxing permit terms for temporary water tanks less than 5,000 gallons during the drought. But not really. It turns out that there are no permit requirements for small tanks except on the Coast, and even there nobody enforces it except in the hyper-vigilant Village of Mendocino where the town’s Historical Review Board has some set-back and aesthetic requirements which are as yet unchanged.
ADDITIONALLY, as Chief Planner Julia Acker-Krog told the Board, “temporary” rules reductions will be re-imposed if or when the drought emergency ends; the permit applicant presently asking for the temporary waiver will be required to promise to either comply with the rules at that time or remove the tank.
OTHER THAN THAT break-through (non-)accomplishment, the Supervisors Drought Discussion on Tuesday was of little interest to thirsty Mendo County, providing no new information. The brief mention of using the Skunk Train to haul water from Willits to Fort Bragg was so preposterous that it barely deserves mention. Nobody asked Willits if they’re willing to part with any of their water. Nobody has asked the Skunk Train if the tracks will ever again see a train go from Willits to Fort Bragg or, if not, when they will. Nobody wondered about the weight of heavy water railcars going over the rickety old tracks, bridges and trestles. Nobody wondered if the Skunk even had any water railcars or where they’d come from. Nobody wondered about whether the old locomotives could even pull a heavy load of water up the steep switchbacks on the Willits side of the line… Otherwise, it’s a great idea!
WHAT'S UP WITH HOPLAND? Invited by a friend to lunch in Hopland where everything was closed except for one place across the street from the Thatcher where a sympathetic young woman said they only had three outside tables and they would be occupied for some time. “What the hell?,” friend said. “Let's go to the Brewery in Ukiah.” Which is closed Tuesdays and Wednesdays. Schats! Where we shoulda gone in the first place. A can't miss venue — great sandwiches, friendly fast service with a clear view of Mendo's interchangeable perps and attorneys entering their processing center in the County Courthouse. But why would Hopland be closed on a summer day in the middle of tourist season?
ASSUMING the supervisors are interested in planning for long haul drought, they might cease the fantasy of the Skunk train hauling water to Fort Bragg from water-short Willits and, among other strategies, re-negotiate Mendo's one-way water deal with Sonoma County, whereby SoCo gets almost all the water, which it sells for millions, an arrangement going on 70 years. The Skunk train, btw, as Supervisor Gjerde should know, can't even get through the first collapsed tunnel on the Fort Bragg end of the line, and the rest of the 30-mile route would need many millions to become viable for heavy freight like water, assuming Willits would be so agua-flush they'd have plenty to spare.
RIGHT ON SCHEDULE: In 1972, a team from the Massachusetts Institute of Technology (MIT) predicted that humanity's pursuit of economic growth without regard for environmental and society costs would lead to social collapse by the mid 21st century, a prediction a new study finds prescient. Gaya Herrington, Sustainability and Dynamic System Analysis Lead at KPMG, undertook the task of proving or disproving MIT's claims and used a world simulation model that analyzed how our world has progressed from 1972. Herrington looked at 10 key variables, such as population, industrial output and persistent pollution, and determined our business-as-usual mentality will spark an across-the-board decline in all areas of American life.
NOT ONLY will the Boonville schools resume in-person learning in the fall, the high school, via Superintendent Simson, confirms that the full sports monte also returns — football and futbol, volleyball and basketball, baseball, with plans to “reignite” junior high sports.
ON THE SUBJECT of schools, the awkwardly phrased and basically meaningless term “critical race theory” has the rightwing in an uproar, as if little white kids will be cringing at their desks as nose-ringed, purple-haired liberals screech at them that they are evil unto the tenth generation. How about “History Whole” instead of critical race theory? History Whole means a mix of the grisly facts with the obvious pluses, a population so rich its satiated people enjoy a standard of living that would be envied by the Caesars — hell, envied by their grandparents. The true facts, warts and all history is much more interesting than the tiresome, blandly propagand-ish mishmash the little savages get now.
CATCH OF THE DAY, July 14, 2021
NORMA DELACRUZ, Ukiah. DUI, suspended license for DUI, failure to appear.
MIRANDA ELLINGWOOD, Fort Bragg. Controlled substance, criminal threats, county parole violation.
SEAN FLINTON, Fort Bragg. Failure to appear, probation revocation. (Frequent flyer.)
SIDNEY FOLEY, Ukiah/Willits. Domestic battery, probation revocation.
GRIFFIN GAGE, Willits. Paraphernalia, failure to appear.
TYLER GIBNEY, Fort Bragg. Concealed dirk-dagger, contempt of court.
ANSLEY HANGER, Redwood Valley. DUI-alcohol&drugs, no license, probation revocation.
ANTHONY HOLBERG, Fields Landing/Willits. Stolen property, controlled substance for sale, leaded cane or similar, paraphernalia.
TROY JACK, Covelo. Disorderly conduct-drugs&alcohol intoxicaiton.
JESSIE LUCAS, Laytonville. Failure to appear.
LAROY MADDEN-STEPHENS, Willits. Court order violation with prior.
MAKAYLA MCGREW, Willits. Grand theft, trespassing.
ROLANDO RUIZ, Ukiah. Controlled substance, paraphernalia, failure to appear, probation revocation.
STEVEN STEVENSON, Laytonville. Controlled substance.
ARIANA WHITE, Willits. Probation revocation.
WE'RE GOING DOWN
by Paul Modic
See all the old-time hippies limping around town, getting old, and dying. Remember when we were lean, motivated, and vibrant, fresh-faced young people? What happened? When we were young we didn't think about growing old, working on our gardening projects out in the hills then letting loose on the dance floor with stoned smiles on our faces.
We were long-haired pot-growing hippies and it seemed like we had it all--did we realize it would end and we would become old, unattractive elders with grey hair and beards? We must have had an inkling in our fifties that things were winding down, then hit the reality check of really slowing down in our sixties, but now we're heading into our seventies and eighties and life looks bleak.
When I got to the Gulch at about twenty I was the kid, most of the my back-to-the-land neighbors were about 27-30 years of age, college-educated, and usually very busy or at least they said they were. I wondered why as I was a lazy stoned-out mono-cropping hippie but the answer was the homesteads they built: verdant little paradises with big healthy fruit trees and well-tended gardens. On my steep five acres I have one overgrown fig tree down the hill somewhere and also planted an apple tree back in '94 that produced the most delicious apples, maybe four or five a year for a couple years, but it was accidentally cut down or neglected to death years ago.
So that's why the neighbors were so busy, creating beautiful orchards and children, something else I neglected to do, and the children brought joy and sometimes heartbreak but I never heard a parent say they regretted having any. Even single women who had a child with a bad or absent man doted on that kid as the one good thing in their life they got out of a difficult relationship. I'm out of touch with many of my peers but I'm pretty sure the success stories outnumber the bad ones.
As we limp into the doctor's offices with broken bones and kidney stones and every other painful horror our bodies can bestow our amazing pleasure machines have turned against us. We're getting wheeled into hospitals then on to crematoriums, and cemeteries, and as infirmities consume us we look back and see it was an interesting life out in these coastal hills during the forty year boom: good pay, clean air and water, months of vacation time, freedom to be our own bosses and suck on the green nipple with a big smile on our faces and dollar signs in our eyes.
That life came tumbling down for many recently, although we did see it coming, and here's hoping the survivors will have some healthy years before the inevitable. Good luck with aging everyone and if your children are there for you in your times of need consider yourself lucky to have love and devotion on your side.
ON LINE COMMENT OF THE DAY
Governments are going to become inconsequential over time. Why? Because the problems of today are unsolvable. There are no solutions. Overpopulation, pollution, increasing disease creation rates, fresh water in availability, Peak oil starting to poke up in spite of fracking, fracking’s chemical pollution, hyper inflation causing wages and prices to skyrocket (we older folks remember the 70s, you younger generations do not have a clue) (just announced that SSA is going up 6.1% next year. Thank you.), immigration, which will just increase all the other problems. Not just here, everywhere, medical cost inflation, widening income gap, 15% corporate income tax around the world, Every direction you look there are whack a mole problems that government cannot stop.
A HARD RAIN'S A-GONNA FALL
Oh, where have you been, my blue-eyed son?
Oh, where have you been, my darling young one?
I’ve stumbled on the side of twelve misty mountains
I’ve walked and I’ve crawled on six crooked highways
I’ve stepped in the middle of seven sad forests
I’ve been out in front of a dozen dead oceans
I’ve been ten thousand miles in the mouth of a graveyard
And it’s a hard, and it’s a hard, it’s a hard, and it’s a hard
And it’s a hard rain’s a-gonna fall
Oh, what did you see, my blue-eyed son?
Oh, what did you see, my darling young one?
I saw a newborn baby with wild wolves all around it
I saw a highway of diamonds with nobody on it
I saw a black branch with blood that kept drippin’
I saw a room full of men with their hammers a-bleedin’
I saw a white ladder all covered with water
I saw ten thousand talkers whose tongues were all broken
I saw guns and sharp swords in the hands of young children
And it’s a hard, and it’s a hard, it’s a hard, it’s a hard
And it’s a hard rain’s a-gonna fall
And what did you hear, my blue-eyed son?
And what did you hear, my darling young one?
I heard the sound of a thunder, it roared out a warnin’
Heard the roar of a wave that could drown the whole world
Heard one hundred drummers whose hands were a-blazin’
Heard ten thousand whisperin’ and nobody listenin’
Heard one person starve, I heard many people laughin’
Heard the song of a poet who died in the gutter
Heard the sound of a clown who cried in the alley
And it’s a hard, and it’s a hard, it’s a hard, it’s a hard
And it’s a hard rain’s a-gonna fall
Oh, who did you meet, my blue-eyed son?
Who did you meet, my darling young one?
I met a young child beside a dead pony
I met a white man who walked a black dog
I met a young woman whose body was burning
I met a young girl, she gave me a rainbow
I met one man who was wounded in love
I met another man who was wounded with hatred
And it’s a hard, it’s a hard, it’s a hard, it’s a hard
It’s a hard rain’s a-gonna fall
Oh, what’ll you do now, my blue-eyed son?
Oh, what’ll you do now, my darling young one?
I’m a-goin’ back out ’fore the rain starts a-fallin’
I’ll walk to the depths of the deepest black forest
Where the people are many and their hands are all empty
Where the pellets of poison are flooding their waters
Where the home in the valley meets the damp dirty prison
Where the executioner’s face is always well hidden
Where hunger is ugly, where souls are forgotten
Where black is the color, where none is the number
And I’ll tell it and think it and speak it and breathe it
And reflect it from the mountain so all souls can see it
Then I’ll stand on the ocean until I start sinkin’
But I’ll know my song well before I start singin’
And it’s a hard, it’s a hard, it’s a hard, it’s a hard
It’s a hard rain’s a-gonna fall
— Bob Dylan
If the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention says vaccinated teachers and students don’t need to wear masks inside school buildings, I cannot see how California’s health services director, Dr. Mark Ghaly, can require fully vaccinated students to wear one (“State to require masks at schools,” Saturday).
His argument that some schools cannot comply with the 3-foot physical distancing requirement may have some merit, but those schools could be given a waiver to mask up. The one size fits all approach is not the answer.
His second argument — that nonvaccinated mask-wearing students will be stigmatized by those students who are fully vaccinated — is even weaker. I thought we were encouraged to teach diversity in our schools. Does everyone have to look the same?
Of course, schools that accommodate students under 12 is another matter, but I am still at a loss why the state doesn’t require all eligible students to be vaccinated.
HUMCO, BUT WHERE?
7/9/21 CANNABIS CULTIVATION FEES STAKEHOLDER MEETING - Presentation and Feedback Request
(State Water Board Presser)
Attached you will find the presentation slides from Friday’s (07/09/2021) Cannabis Cultivation Fee Stakeholder Meeting.
The Cannabis Cultivation Fee Stakeholder Meeting has now been posted on the Board Videos Page, found here: https://www.waterboards.ca.gov/board_info/video.html.
The Fee Branch is soliciting feedback on the fee options that were presented during the meeting. Please submit comments to the CannabisFees@waterboards.ca.gov email no later than July 21, 2021.
For additional resources, please visit our Stakeholder Page: https://www.waterboards.ca.gov/resources/fees/stakeholder/.
Cannabis Fee Branch
State Water Resources Control Board, Division of Administrative Services
Water Quality Fees Website: https://www.waterboards.ca.gov/resources/fees/water_quality/
Fees Stakeholder Website: https://www.waterboards.ca.gov/resources/fees/stakeholder/
JEFF BLANKFORT: Lingering on the locale of Britain, this story reminds me of the one time I went to Wembley Stadium, hoping to see the match between England and Scotland, as fierce rivals as one could imagine. On the underground from Baker St. to the stadium, fans were more tightly packed than sardines, literally, and most, like me, would find the game sold out when they arrived at the gates.
I took it in stride but quite a number did not. They went chasing after ticket scalpers who had run out of tickets--clearly to punish them for doing so--and then had to run for their lives. I didn't see any evidence of drugs--this was the 1970s--but there was plenty of booze.
When I returned to the underground station for the ride back to London I saw a Black man in a uniform, his head covered in blood, laying on his back. He was evidently an employee of the system, who had been slammed on the head by a rider with a bottle through a car window as an earlier subway car had departed the station and was being attended to by other employees
Once seated, I noted across from me two men, sweating and breathing heavily. Paper money seemed to be sticking out of every visible pocket. They were ticket scalpers. It was a comic book scene but for them it wasn't funny. The two both agreed that they were lucky to have gotten away alive.
A DAY IN THE LIFE OF SUE REPUBLICAN
Sue gets up at 6 a.m. and fills her coffeepot with water to prepare her morning coffee. The water is clean and good because some tree-hugging liberal fought for minimum water-quality standards.
With her first swallow of coffee, she takes her daily medication. Her medications are safe to take because some stupid commie liberal fought to insure their safety and that they work as advertised.
All but $10 of her medications are paid for by her employer's medical plan because some liberal union workers fought their employers for paid medical insurance - now Sue gets it too.
She prepares her morning breakfast, bacon and eggs. Sue's bacon is safe to eat because some girly-man liberal fought for laws to regulate the meat packing industry.
In the shower, Sue reaches for her shampoo. Her bottle is properly labeled with each ingredient and its amount in the total contents because some crybaby liberal fought for her right to know what she was putting on her body and how much it contained.
Sue dresses, walks outside and takes a deep breath. The air she breathes is clean because some environmentalist wacko liberal fought for laws to stop industries from polluting our air.
She walks to the subway station for her government-subsidized ride to work. It saves her considerable money in parking and transportation fees because some fancy-pants liberal fought for affordable public transportation, which gives everyone the opportunity to be a contributor.
Sue begins her work day. She has a good job with excellent pay, medical benefits, retirement, paid holidays and vacation because some lazy liberal union members fought and died for these working standards. Sue's employer pays these standards because Sue's employer doesn't want his employees to call the union.
If Sue is hurt on the job or becomes unemployed, she'll get a worker compensation or unemployment check because some stupid liberal didn't think she should lose her home because of her temporary misfortune.
It's noon and Sue needs to make a bank deposit so she can pay some bills. Sue's deposit is federally insured by the FSLIC because some godless liberal wanted to protect Sue's money from unscrupulous bankers who ruined the banking system before the Great Depression.
Sue has to pay her Fannie Mae-underwritten mortgage and her below-market federal student loan because some elitist liberal decided that Sue and the government would be better off if she was educated and earned more money over her lifetime.
Sue is home from work. She plans to visit her father this evening at his farm home in the country. She gets in her car for the drive. Her car is among the safest in the world because some America-hating liberal fought for car safety standards.
She arrives at her childhood home. Her generation was the third to live in the house financed by Farmers' Home Administration because bankers didn't want to make rural loans. The house didn't have electricity until some big-government liberal stuck his nose where it didn't belong and demanded rural electrification.
She is happy to see her father, who is now retired. Her father lives on Social Security and a union pension because some wine-drinking, cheese-eating liberal made sure he could take care of himself so Sue wouldn't have to.
Sue gets back in her car for the ride home, and turns on a radio talk show. The radio host keeps saying that liberals are bad and conservatives are good. He doesn't mention that Republicans have fought against every protection and benefit Sue enjoys throughout her day. Sue agrees: "We don't need those big-government liberals ruining our lives! After all, I'm self-made and believe everyone should take care of themselves, just like I have."
CHARITY AND POLITICS: California Elected Officials Would Have to Disclose Their Connections Under Proposed Rule
In the months before California lawmakers in June granted prison guards a $5,000 bonus and an 8% raise over the next two years, the guards’ union made a few charitable donations. The recipients included two nonprofits run by the very legislators who were preparing to vote on the pay hikes.
HOW RUNNING FAILS BLACK AMERICA
Beautifully written and absolutely worth your time to read… “This story won the 2021 Pulitzer Prize and National Magazine Award for Feature Writing. It appeared in Issue 5, 2020 of Runner’s World.”
“Twelve Minutes and a Life" by Mitchell S. Jackson
“Let me acknowledge that I am one of the rarest of Americans, one otherwise known as a Black Oregonian. As such, I feel compelled to share a truth about my home state: It’s white. I’m talking banned-Blacks-in-its-state-constitution white. At the time that Bowerman was inspiring Eugene residents to trot miles around their neighborhoods in sweatpants and running shoes, Eugene was a stark 97 percent white. One could argue that the overwhelming whiteness of jogging today may be, in part, a product of Eugene’s demographics.”
CHALLENGE GOVERNMENT’S AUTOCRATIC INCOMMUNICADOES
by Ralph Nader
The First Amendment to our Constitution declares that Congress cannot abridge the right of the people “…to petition the Government for a redress of grievances.” Unfortunately, this vital tool of our democracy is easily circumvented by Congress simply not responding whatsoever to “petitions” by the citizenry. This government undermining of our constitutional right is producing invincibly incommunicado government officials.
Countless times over the years, I have asked civic group leaders about the outcome of their “petition,” their deliberative letters, their serious requests regarding desired policy changes, public hearings, new initiatives, and reversal of courses of actions. Their replies have almost always been no answer, no response, didn’t hear from them, and not even an acknowledgment of receipt.
This government of the incommunicado, by the incommunicado, and for the incommunicado infects both Congress and Executive Branch agencies.
I am not referring to congressional “casework” matters or letters and calls from campaign donors, social buddies, nor the easy letters by politicians on the occasion of birthdays and graduations.
I am referring to letters about serious matters of government raised by the citizenry. George W. Bush, during the weeks leading up to his criminal, bloody invasion of Iraq in 2003, received over twelve urgent, organized requests to meet from Americans. These requests turned out to be prophetic in their warnings about the deadly consequences of this unconstitutional, illegal war. These informed entreaties came from large religious organizations, business, labor, peace, veterans, lawyers, and women’s groups, as well as former intelligence officials, some of whom had recently returned from Iraq or had direct experience with the region.
They wrote, telephoned, and emailed the White House. There was not even an acknowledgment. It was as if these citizens did not exist.
Over two years later the American Bar Association (ABA) – the largest membership organization of lawyers in the country – sent Bush and Cheney three “white papers” written by ABA task forces of lawyers who served under both Republican and Democratic Administrations. These task forces charged the White House with three significant violations of the Constitution (See: https://nader.org/2013/04/19/aba-white-papers/). The ABA did not receive an acknowledgment, never mind a response. There wasn’t even a White House referral for review by the Justice Department for a response.
Our experience in recent years has confirmed that being an arrogant, incommunicado government official is now entrenched government policy. Yet, such closed-door inaction is not considered news by the media, including the independent media.
Together with two leading constitutional law specialists, Bruce Fein and Louis Fisher, I have sent scores of requests for action regarding an array of criminal and civil violations – many impeachable offenses – by Trump to the Executive Branch agencies and departments as well as Democratic leaders in Congress. Only one response from Senator Tim Kaine (D-VA) was received, only because the letter was related to his prior support for invoking the 25th Amendment.
But our letters went way beyond Trump. Letters of import were sent, backed by phone calls and emails to Commissioners of the Federal Trade Commission (FTC), the Federal Communications Commission (FCC), and the Securities and Exchange Commission (SEC), the U.S. Department of Defense, the U.S. Secretary of the Treasury, chairs of Congressional Committees and Subcommittees, and many more. We received no response, nor any acknowledgment. Into a depthless void they were sent, by people whose jobs, salaries, and power come from the sovereignty and tax dollars of the people.
Some of these politicians might be considered political allies. Try getting Senators Elizabeth Warren (D-MA) and Bernie Sanders (I-VT) to return a call or respond to an invitation to be on our weekly radio show and podcast to discuss serious matters. Progressive chairs of the Senate and the House Committees on Financial Services became incommunicado after receiving two of our requests to hold long-overdue hearings on public banking and reinstating the postal savings bank. Both Senator Sherrod Brown and Congresswoman Maxine Waters chose to be incommunicado.
Among the worst is crypto Republican, the nominally Democratic Chair of the tax-writing U.S. House Ways and Means Committee, Richard Neal (D-MA). (https://neal.house.gov/).
After one hundred or more serious letters to George W. Bush and Barack Obama went unanswered, I compiled them into a book titled, Return to Sender: Unanswered Letters to the President, 2001-2015, Seven Stories Press 2015 (See, https://nader.org/books/return-to-sender/).
We don’t take our government officials being incommunicado personally. We take this civically and seriously. Even members of Congress routinely do not get replies to their letters directed at the Executive Branch departments. Congressional Committee subpoenas are ignored – subpoenas! – by both Republican and Democratic Presidents. Trump set the all-time record – defying over one hundred subpoenas without so much as an acknowledgment. Why, members of Congress have told us that their own letters to other members of Congress go unanswered!
Last year, former Representative Alan Grayson (D-FL) communicated to his good friends in the House, Rep. Steve Cohen (D-TN) and Rep. Brad Sherman (D-CA), regarding a proposal to shield government Covid-19 scientists from White House madness. He got no response at all.
The straight-arm culture is omnipresent because there is no penalty, no accountability, no legal action possible for inaction, and there is no media exposure. Journalists could care less, because they are more likely to get some response to their inquiries and, if not, they simply report the lack of a reply or comment in their stories. Civic groups do not want to publicly complain, because they would appear powerless and weak. Many simply stop communicating their new horizons and urgencies.
In the nineteen sixties and seventies – until the dark Reagan years – citizen group letters for demands, requests, or advice to government officials were made public. Often the press would report on such initiatives. Politicians felt some heat to hold hearings, demand Executive Branch action, or introduce legislation. Today the absence of media coverage gives our incommunicado government officials little incentive to address civic calls to action.
Today the silence is deafening. Just try calling your members of Congress, not as one of their donors or golf companions, but as a serious informed citizen behaving as described in Civics 101. Note the automated runaround, where you end up not connecting with any real person and leaving a message that goes unanswered.
This shut-out got worse under Covid-19, but long preceded that convenient explanation for not having real human beings answer telephone calls to Congressional offices. The switchboard number for Congress is 202-224-3121. Ask for your incommunicado lawmaker or their chief of staff by name. Be patient, the Congress has taken off most of the summer until after Labor Day while still collecting their pay and perks. All the backlogged undone work on Capitol Hill can be once again deferred and avoided to the detriment of “the People.”
Whatever happened to “We the People,” people? Among other nullifications of your Constitution by Congress is that aforementioned part of the First Amendment. If members of Congress aren’t listening or responding except to commercial lobbyists and some causes that happen by gut-wrenching tragedy to be in the news, Congress just becomes a stone-walling dictatorship for lawlessness, servicing the always welcomed lawless, self-enriching plutocracy.
(To read some of our letters, go to nader.org).
THE HIDDEN HAND OF THE US BLOCKADE Sparks Cuba Protests
The shortages are being used by proponents of regime change to accuse the Cuban government of failing its citizens. Even the Biden White House called on Cuba's authorities to "hear their people and serve their needs at this vital moment rather than enriching themselves." It is unclear who Biden thinks has been "enriching themselves" in Cuba, but any criticism of Cuba that does not include a thorough analysis of the internationally condemned U.S. blockade will miss the most important factor in why Cubans are currently undergoing such hardships.
NOW THE DEER ARE SICK
“Providing attractants for deer – food, salt licks or even water – is against the law for good reason,” said Dr. Brandon Munk, senior wildlife veterinarian with CDFW’s Wildlife Investigations Laboratory. “Because these artificial attractants can congregate animals and promote the spread of disease, it’s particularly imperative to leave wildlife alone during an outbreak. There is no cure or vaccine for this disease, so our best management strategies right now are to track it carefully, and to take preventative measures to limit the spread.”
Beginning in May, CDFW began receiving increased reports of mortality in deer, both free-ranging and at fawn rehabilitation facilities. With the assistance of wildlife rehabilitation facilities and the California Animal Health and Food Safety Laboratory, CDFW confirmed cervid adenovirus 1 (CdAdV-1) as the cause of hemorrhagic disease outbreaks this year in Kern, Napa and Nevada counties.
The disease is typically fatal to young deer, particularly fawns, and can be spread by animals in close contact with each other. The virus is not known to affect people, pets or domestic livestock.
CdAdV-1 was the cause of a 1993-1994 outbreak of hemorrhagic disease in black tailed deer and mule deer that spanned at least 18 California counties. Since then, CdAdV-1 has been identified as the cause of sporadic, often widespread, outbreaks of hemorrhagic disease in California and other western states. Deer fawns are at greatest risk, with high rates of mortality following infection. Yearlings and adult deer are more resistant but mortalities in these age groups occur as well. Outbreaks can be widespread and may have significant impact on affected deer populations.
Affected deer are often found dead without any obvious symptoms. They may be found near water. Sick animals may have excessive salivation (drooling or foaming at the mouth), diarrhea, regurgitation or seizures.
In addition to removing food and other attractants, Californians can help wildlife veterinarians track and study the disease by reporting sightings of sick or dead deer. Anyone who observes a deer exhibiting symptoms, or encountering a deer that has died from unknown causes, can submit the information to CDFW through the department’s online mortality reporting system.
IS ANOTHER FINANCIAL CRISIS COMING?
Do we hear echoes of 2008? Discussion with Adam Taggart, who asks: “Did the villains win?”
Interview with Wealthion, by Matt Taibbi
A CLIMATE VIEW FROM CALIFORNIA
by Rebecca Gordon
In San Francisco, we’re finally starting to put away our masks. With 74% of the city’s residents over 12 fully vaccinated, for the first time in more than a year we’re enjoying walking, shopping, and eating out, our faces naked. So I was startled when my partner reminded me that we need to buy masks again very soon — N95 masks, that is. The California wildfire season has already begun, earlier than ever, and we’ll need to protect our lungs during the months to come from the fine particulates carried in the wildfire smoke that’s been engulfing this city in recent years.
I was in Reno last September, so I missed the morning when San Franciscans awoke to apocalyptic orange skies, the air freighted with smoke from burning forests elsewhere in the state. The air then was bad enough even in the high mountain valley of Reno. At that point, we’d already experienced “very unhealthy” purple-zone air quality for days. Still, it was nothing like the photos that could have been from Mars then emerging from the Bay Area. I have a bad feeling that I may get my chance to experience the same phenomenon in 2021 — and, as the fires across California have started so much earlier, probably sooner than September.
The situation is pretty dire: this state — along with our neighbors to the north and southeast — is now living through an epic drought. After a dry winter and spring, the fuel-moisture content in our forests (the amount of water in vegetation, living and dead) is way below average. This April, the month when it is usually at its highest, San Jose State University scientists recorded levels a staggering 40% below average in the Santa Cruz Mountains, well below the lowest level ever before observed. In other words, we have never been this dry.
Under the Heat Dome
When it’s hot in most of California, its often cold and foggy in San Francisco. Today is no exception. Despite the raging news about heat records, it’s not likely to reach 65 degrees here. So it’s a little surreal to consider what friends and family are going through in the Pacific Northwest under the once-in-thousands-of-years heat dome that’s settled over the region. A heat dome is an area of high pressure surrounded by upper-atmosphere winds that essentially pin it in place. If you remember your high-school physics, you’ll recall that when a gas (for example, the air over the Pacific Northwest) is contained, the ratio between pressure and temperature remains constant. If the temperature goes up, the pressure goes up.
The converse is also true; as the pressure rises, so does the temperature. And that’s what’s been happening over Oregon, Washington, and British Columbia in normally chilly Canada. Mix in the fact that climate change has driven average temperatures in those areas up by three to four degrees since the industrial revolution, and you have a recipe for the disaster that struck the region recently.
And it has indeed been a disaster. The temperature in the tiny town of Lytton, British Columbia, for instance, hit 121 degrees on June 29th, breaking the Canadian heat record for the third time in as many days. (The previous record had stood since 1937.) That was Tuesday. On Wednesday night, the whole town was engulfed in the flames of multiple fires. The fires, in turn, generated huge pyrocumulus clouds that penetrated as high as the stratosphere (a rare event in itself), producing lightning strikes that ignited new fires in a vicious cycle that, in the end, simply destroyed the kilometer-long town.
Heat records have been broken all over the Pacific Northwest. Portland topped records for three days running, culminating with a 116-degree day on June 28th; Seattle hit a high of 108, which the Washington Post reported “was 34 degrees above the normal high of 74 and higher than the all-time heat record in Washington, D.C., among many other cities much farther to its south.”
With the heat comes a rise in “sudden and unexpected” deaths. Hundreds have died in Oregon and Washington and, according to the British Columbia coroner, at least 300 in her state — almost double the average number for that time period.
Class, Race, and Hot Air
It’s hardly a new observation that the people who have benefited least from the causes of climate change — the residents of less industrialized countries and poor people of all nations — are already suffering most from its results. Island nations like the Republic of Palau in the western Pacific are a prime example. Palau faces a number of climate-change challenges, according to the United Nations Development Program, including rising sea levels that threaten to inundate some of its lowest-lying islands, which are just 10 meters above sea level. In addition, encroaching seawater is salinating some of its agricultural land, creating seaside strips that can now grow only salt-tolerant root crops. Meanwhile, despite substantial annual rainfall, saltwater inundation threatens the drinking water supply. And worse yet, Palau is vulnerable to ocean storms that, on our heating planet, are growing ever more frequent and severe.
There are also subtle ways the rising temperatures that go with climate change have differential effects, even on people living in the same city. Take air conditioning. One of the reasons people in the Pacific Northwest suffered so horrendously under the heat dome is that few homes in that region are air conditioned. Until recently, people there had been able to weather the minimal number of very hot days each year without installing expensive cooling machinery.
Obviously, people with more discretionary income will have an easier time investing in air conditioning now that temperatures are rising. What’s less obvious, perhaps, is that its widespread use makes a city hotter — a burden that falls disproportionately on people who can’t afford to install it in the first place. Air conditioning works on a simple principle; it shifts heat from air inside an enclosed space to the outside world, which, in turn, makes that outside air hotter.
A 2014 study of this effect in Phoenix, Arizona, showed that air conditioning raised ambient temperatures by one to two degrees at night — an important finding, because one of the most dangerous aspects of the present heat waves is their lack of night-time cooling. As a result, each day’s heat builds on a higher base, while presenting a greater direct-health threat, since the bodies of those not in air conditioning can’t recover from the exhaustion of the day’s heat at night. In effect, air conditioning not only heats the atmosphere further but shifts the burden of unhealthy heat from those who can afford it to those who can’t.
Just as the coronavirus has disproportionately ravaged black and brown communities (as well as poor nations around the world), climate-change-driven heat waves, according to a recent University of North Carolina study reported by the BBC, mean that “black people living in most U.S. cities are subject to double the level of heat stress as their white counterparts.” This is the result not just of poverty, but of residential segregation, which leaves urban BIPOC (black, indigenous, and other people of color) communities in a city’s worst “heat islands” — the areas containing the most concrete, the most asphalt, and the least vegetation — and which therefore attract and retain the most heat.
“Using satellite temperature data combined with demographic information from the U.S. Census,” the researchers “found that the average person of color lives in an area with far higher summer daytime temperatures than non-Hispanic white people.” They also discovered that, in all but six of the 175 urban areas they studied in the continental U.S., “people of color endure much greater heat impacts in summer.” Furthermore, “for black people this was particularly stark. The researchers say they are exposed to an extra 3.12C [5.6F] of heating, on average, in urban neighborhoods, compared to an extra 1.47C [2.6F] for white people.”
That’s a big difference.
Food, Drink, and Fires — the View from California
Now, let me return to my own home state, California, where conditions remain all too dry and, apart from the coast right now, all too hot. Northern California gets most of its drinking water from the snowpack that builds each year in the Sierra Nevada mountains. In spring, those snows gradually melt, filling the rivers that fill our reservoirs. In May 2021, however, the Sierra snowpack was a devastating six percent of normal!
Stop a moment and take that in, while you try to imagine the future of much of the state — and the crucial crops it grows.
For my own hometown, San Francisco, things aren’t quite that dire. Water levels in Hetch Hetchy, our main reservoir, located in Yosemite National Park, are down from previous years, but not disastrously so. With voluntary water-use reduction, we’re likely to have enough to drink this year at least. Things are a lot less promising, however, in rural California where towns tend to rely on groundwater for domestic use.
Shrinking water supplies don’t just affect individual consumers here in this state, they affect everyone in the United States who eats, because 13.5% of all our agricultural products, including meat and dairy, as well as fruits and vegetables, come fromCalifornia. Growing food requires prodigious amounts of water. In fact, farmland irrigation accounts for roughly 80% of all water used by businesses and homes in the state.
So how are California’s agricultural water supplies doing this year? The answer, sadly, is not very well. State regulators have already cut distribution to about a quarter of California’s irrigated acreage (about two million acres) by a drastic 95%. That’s right. A full quarter of the state’s farmlands have access to just 5% of what they would ordinarily receive from rivers and aqueducts. As a result, some farmers are turning to groundwater, a more easily exhausted source, which also replenishes itself far more slowly than rivers and streams. Some are even choosing to sell their water to other farmers, rather than use it to grow crops at all, because that makes more economic sense for them. As smaller farms are likely to be the first to fold, the water crisis will only enhance the dominance of major corporations in food production.
Meanwhile, we’ll probably be breaking out our N95 masks soon. Wildfire season has already begun — earlier than ever. On July 1st, the then-still-uncontained Salt firebriefly closed a section of Interstate 5 near Redding in northern California. (I-5 is the main north-south interstate along the West coast.) And that’s only one of the more than 4,500 fire incidents already recorded in the state this year.
Last year, almost 10,000 fires burned more than four million acres here, and everything points to a similar or worse season in 2021. Unlike Donald Trump, who famously blamed California’s fires on a failure to properly rake our forests, President Biden is taking the threat seriously. On June 30th, he convened western state leaders to discuss the problem, acknowledging that “we have to act and act fast. We’re late in the game here.” The president promised a number of measures: guaranteeing sufficient, and sufficiently trained, firefighters; raising their minimum pay to $15 per hour; and making grants to California counties under the Federal Emergency Management Agency’s BRIC (Building Resilient Infrastructure and Communities) program.
Such measures will help a little in the short term, but none of it will make a damn bit of difference in the longer run if the Biden administration and a politically divisive Congress don’t begin to truly treat climate change as the immediate and desperately long-term emergency it is.
Justice and Generations
In his famous A Theory of Justice, the great liberal philosopher of the twentieth century John Rawls proposed a procedural method for designing reasonable and fair principles and policies in a given society. His idea: that the people determining such basic policies should act as if they had stepped behind a “veil of ignorance” and had lost specific knowledge of their own place in society. They’d be ignorant of their own class status, ethnicity, or even how lucky they’d been when nature was handing out gifts like intelligence, health, and physical strength.
Once behind such a veil of personal ignorance, Rawls argued, people might make rules that would be as fair as possible, because they wouldn’t know whether they themselves were rich or poor, black or white, old or young — or even which generation they belonged to. This last category was almost an afterthought, included, he wrote, “in part because questions of social justice arise between generations as well as within them.”
His point about justice between generations not only still seems valid to me, but in light of present-day circumstances radically understated. I don’t think Rawls ever envisioned a trans-generational injustice as great as the climate-change one we’re allowing to happen, not to say actively inducing, at this very moment.
Human beings have a hard time recognizing looming but invisible dangers. In 1990, I spent a few months in South Africa providing some technical assistance to an anti-apartheid newspaper. When local health workers found out that I had worked (as a bookkeeper) for an agency in the U.S. trying to prevent the transmission of AIDS, they desperately wanted to talk to me. How, they hoped to learn, could they get people living in their townships to act now to prevent a highly transmissible illness that would only produce symptoms years after infection? How, in the face of the all-too-present emergencies of everyday apartheid life, could they get people to focus on a vague but potentially horrendous danger barreling down from the future? I had few good answers and, almost 30 years later, South Africa has the largest HIV-positive population in the world.
Of course, there are human beings who’ve known about the climate crisis for decades — and not just the scientists who wrote about it as early as the 1950s or the ones who gave an American president an all-too-accurate report on it in 1965. The fossil-fuel companies have, of course, known all along — and have focused their scientific efforts not on finding alternative energy sources, but on creating doubt about the reality of human-caused climate change (just as, once upon a time, tobacco companies sowed doubt about the relationship between smoking and cancer). As early as 1979, the Guardian reports, an internal Exxon study concluded that the use of fossil fuels would certainly “cause dramatic environmental effects” in the decades ahead. “The potential problem is great and urgent,” the study concluded.
A problem that was “great and urgent” in 1979 is now a full-blown existential crisis for human survival.
Some friends and I were recently talking about how ominous the future must look to the younger people we know. “They are really the first generation to confront an end to humanity in their own, or perhaps their children’s lifetimes,” I said.
“But we had The Bomb,” a friend reminded me. “We grew up in the shadow of nuclear war.” And she was right of course. We children of the 1950s and 1960s grew up knowing that someone could “press the button” at any time, but there was a difference. Horrifying as is the present retooling of our nuclear arsenal (going on right now, under President Biden), nuclear war nonetheless remains a question of “if.” Climate change is a matter of “when” and that when, as anyone living in the Northwest of the United States and Canada should know after these last weeks, is all too obviously now.
It’s impossible to overstate the urgency of the moment. And yet, as a species, we’re acting like the children of indulgent parents who provide multiple “last chances” to behave. Now, nature has run out of patience and we’re running out of chances. So much must be done globally, especially to control the giant fossil-fuel companies. We can only hope that real action will emerge from November’s international climate conference. And here in the U.S., unless congressional Democrats succeed in ramming through major action to stop climate change before the 2022 midterms, we’ll have lost one more last, best chance for survival.
(This column was distributed by TomDispatch. Courtesy, CounterPunch.org.)