“And LO!” sayeth the conservative. “For the Earth was created for Man, and shall be used by any means to the benefit of Man. For the Earth is the ward of Man, and the Lord shall not permitteth us to destroy the Earth He created for us.”
Believe it or not, though, a lot of life on Earth got along just fine without us for a billion years or so. Or maybe it didn’t. Take California’s salmon population, for instance; while our ancestors were still scurrying into their burrows to ‘escape velociraptors’, California’s salmon were already pretty well established in the area. And in that area, they’ve lived quite contentedly for some time. Until, that is, a bunch of firemonkeys decided to cook the planet and take the stuff they live in.
Right now, California is experiencing one of the most severe droughts on record, listed as “exceptional” according to the U.S. Drought Monitor. Already the drought (which has nothing to do with climate change, whatsoever) has cost California about $2.2 billion this year, and a loss of about 17,000 farm jobs statewide.
California is a place where human beings were never meant to live — if not for the water that flows into the Valley from elsewhere, the entire place would turn back into the desert it once was. Water control has always been critical in California.
(The mouth of the Klamath River, where it meets the ocean. )
On Saturday, the U.S. Bureau of Land Reclamation began releasing some 25,000 acre-feet of water into Klamath River, home of the native Klamath salmon. Back in 2002, during very similar drought conditions, the water level of the river dropped so low that tens of thousands of the salmon native only to that river were left high, dry and dead on its banks. This year, water levels are similarly low, and the BLR decided to take action to avoid another die-off of the still-recovering species. The BLR plans to leave the dam gates open through September, releasing the minimum 8 billion gallons of water that they’ve determined the river and fish need to survive. The bureau has stated that this emergency release is the only one planned for right now, though local Native American tribespeople have been pressing them to release even more water to keep the land alive.
Local farmers, on the other hand, are absolutely outraged. And they should be; many of those “farms” are actually vinyards, and California’s wine country is a major source of income for the area. It’s also a major source of funding for the local GOP, which counts winemakers among its top donors. According to them, the BLR is just dumping a bunch of water into the ocean to save some fish.
And to be fair, 8 billion gallons over the course of a month is a lot of water. Sort of. At least, it is until you consider that California uses about 40 billion gallons a day. So, the amount of water the BLR is releasing from Trinity Lake in a month is less than a quarter of what Cali normally uses in a day. And it’s still far less than should be released.
Irrigation suppliers are fighting back against the water release, having filed a temporary injuction to demand to halt of water release for salmon and reallocation of that same water for the vinyards of wine country. However, U.S. District judge Lawrence O’Neill denied the request, and threw the injunction out of court.
But, hey…screw that river and its stupid salmon!
After all, real-life history tells us that we can always turn water into wine, and feed the multitudes with a single fish. Then again, history also tells us that, generally speaking, where there are no fish, there are no multitudes to feed.