HomeArticles of Sarah HartwellDomestic Cats and Cougars-The Catastrophic California Drought

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Domestic Cats and Cougars-The Catastrophic California Drought — 3 Comments

  1. California has a Mediterranean climate. Grandma Moses rolling green hills – green and colorful only in spring with its orange and purple wildflowers. Groves of eucalyptus that sway in the wind. Sea caverns. Redwoods. A soul.

    If the Olympic peninsula is Betty MacDonald’s (The Egg and I [underlined]) and Seattle is Chief Sealth’s, California belongs to Robert Louis Stevenson. Mark Twain. Robinson Jeffers. Steinbeck. Jack London. A lifetime ago, if you’d driven up to the gate of Mr. London’s hideaway in the Valley of the Moon, north of San Francisco, you might have been lucky enough to see his widow standing at the gate, plucking figs – a gracious, very friendly old lady who’d have given you her apronful of figs.

    Californians are gregarious. With their Scandinavian heritage, Seattleites are fifty degrees cooler than anyone of Californian-Italian-Armenian descent. If there’s a link between color and personality, how many northwestern houses have Vincent Van Gogh exteriors in shades of pink and yellow and turquoise stucco? How many are gingerbread mansions with turrets and verandahs adorned with wooden lace? Where can you find flowering bougainvillea in Washington? Though the Spaniards and Russians visited the northwest, only California has Russian forts overlooking the ocean (Alaska has Russian orthodox churches) and rich memories of Spain with its 18th century missions – an aura of history as heady as gardenias: the romance of centuries past.*

    Where else could you find a Gold Rush graveyard so old the road to it had decayed, and you could best reach it climbing desolate, windblown hills where sheep grazed? Where is the yellow grass on the hill where you’d lie on a hot summer’s day and listen to a meadowlark and the creaking of some long-abandoned windmill? It’s gone – supplanted by seaside estates. The 19th century fishing villages have given way to galleries, artisan restaurants, bakeries, wine cellars, luxury hotels.

    Is California drying up? Radio broadcasts are calling its drought the worst in its recorded history. Eastern Washington, with its marrowbone-warming California sun and hottest summer in six decades has been in flames for weeks, along with California. The Imperial Valley, the breadbasket for most of the western United States, is running low on water and its soil accumulating salt from commercial fertilizers. Against this backdrop, farmers are drilling deeper wells so they can sell what water they have to parched states farther inland, gaining millions of dollars from these sales.

    Central California’s sheep-grazing hills and redwoods along the ocean used to be home to cougars, foxes, deer and bobcats. Its wooded canyons had streams trickling out of the ground and emptying into ponds full of salamanders. It has the Russian River. Does it still have its springs?

    Wildlife will die or leave the region if the drought persists. To compound the potential disaster, seismologists predict there’s nothing to prevent the next earthquake from damaging the state’s infrastructure to such an extent its millions of people lose their water, electricity and fiber-optic communications. Which, they believe, can result in a mass exodus with no prospect of reparation for years.

    So far, western Washington has ample rain. Its towns a few miles in from the coast average eight feet of rainfall in winter, and twelve or more feet in its rainforest. Will Imperial Valley farmers move north, or Washington farmers double-quadruple their present harvests if the Valley fails? In western Washington, only vegetables and fruits needing months of heat fail to thrive: almond orchards may languish up here. Yet Washington has immense tracts of land – though much is a part of the lumber industry.

    If the dryness continues, where can California’s wildlife go? Arizona, to name only one state, is exploding in flames. Though southern California and Israel made the desert bloom with seawater, desalination plants are expensive to build and operate, and worsen global warming. Instead, hydrologists recommend ‘grey water’ recycling, plumbing fixtures that conserve water, and the phasing out of swimming pools and lawns.

    They say nothing of cattle, the water they consume, nor the heavily irrigated grassland needed to feed them.

    * Actually, some of these missions have mass graves packed with Native Americans enslaved by the friars.

    • California has a Mediterranean climate. Grandma Moses rolling green hills – green and colorful only in spring with its orange and purple wildflowers. Groves of eucalyptus that sway in the wind. Sea caverns. Redwoods. A soul.

      Loved that opening! God, I wish I lived in California (without the drought!)

    • Great comment Sylvia. Very evocative of Calif and its problems. People tend to think that things go on for ever the way they always have because nature changes slowly even when humans force it to change but one day the change may be so significant that it disrupts the lives of millions and it’ll be too late to go back to the beautiful days when there were less people and more nature. I sense we are heading for catastrophe both in war and in the destruction of our beautiful planet..

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