Saturday 31st of July 2021

saving nemo...


















 In recent months a crisis situation in the USA food supply has been growing and is about to assume alarming dimensions that could become catastrophic. Atop the existing corona pandemic lockdowns and unemployment, a looming agriculture crisis as well could tip inflation measures to cause a financial crisis as interest rates rise.


The ingredients are many, but central is a severe drought in key growing states of the Dakotas and Southwest, including agriculture-intensive California. So far Washington has done disturbingly little to address the crisis and California Water Board officials have been making the crisis far worse by draining the state water reservoirs…into the ocean.


So far the worst hit farm state is North Dakota which grows most of the nation’s Red Spring Wheat. In the Upper Midwest, the Northern Plains states and the Prairie provinces of Canada winter brought far too little snow following a 2020 exceedingly dry summer. The result is drought from Manitoba Canada to the Northern USA Plains States. This hits farmers in the region just four years after a flash drought in 2017 arrived without early warning and devastated the US Northern Great Plains region comprising Montana, North Dakota, South Dakota, and the adjacent Canadian Prairies. 

As of May 27, according to Adnan Akyuz, State Climatologist, ninety-three percent of the North Dakota state is in at least a Severe Drought category, and 77% of the state is in an Extreme Drought category. Farm organizations predict unless the rainfall changes dramatically in the coming weeks, the harvest of wheat widely used for pasta and flour will be a disaster. The extreme dry conditions extend north of the Dakota border into Manitoba, Canada, another major grain and farming region, especially for wheat and corn. There, the lack of rainfall and warmer-than-normal temperatures threaten harvests, though it is still early for those crops. North Dakota and the plains region depend on snow and rainfall for its agriculture water. 



Southwest States in Severe Drought

While not as severe, farm states Iowa and Illinois are suffering “abnormally dry” conditions in 64% for Iowa and 27% for Illinois. About 55% of Minnesota is abnormally dry as of end May. Drought is measured in a scale from D1 “abnormally dry,” D3 “severe drought” to D4, “exceptional drought.” 

The severe dry conditions are not limited, unfortunately, to North Dakota or other Midwest farm states. A second region of very severe drought extends from western Texas across New Mexico, Colorado, Arizona, Nevada and deep into California. In Texas 20% of the state is in “severe drought,” and 12% “extreme drought.” Nearly 6% of the state is experiencing “exceptional drought,” the worst. New Mexico is undergoing 96% “severe drought,” and of that, 47% “exceptional drought.”



California Agriculture is Vital

The situation in California is by far the most serious in its potential impact on the supply of agriculture products to the nation. There, irrigation and a sophisticated water storage system provide water for irrigation and urban use to the state for their periodic dry seasons. Here a far larger catastrophe is in the making. A cyclical drought season is combining with literally criminal state environmental politics, to devastate agriculture in the nation’s most important farm producing state. It is part of a radical Green Agenda being advocated by Gov. Gavin Newsom and fellow Democrats to dismantle traditional agriculture, as insane as it may sound. 

Few outside California realize that the state most known for Silicon Valley and beautiful beaches is such a vital source of agriculture production. California’s agricultural sector is the most important in the United States, leading the nation’s production in over 77 different products including dairy and a number of fruit and vegetable “specialty” crops. The state is the only producer of crops such as almonds, artichokes, persimmons, raisins, and walnuts. California grows a third of the country’s vegetables and two thirds of the country’s fruits and nuts. It leads all other states in farm income with77,500 farms and ranches. It also is second in production of livestock behind Texas, and its dairy industry is California’s leading commodity in cash receipts. In total, 43 million acres of the state’s 100 million acres are devoted to agriculture. In short what happens here is vital to the nation’s food supply.



California Crisis Manmade: Where has the water gone?

The water crisis in California is far the most serious in terms of consequences for the food supply, in a period when the US faces major supply chain disruptions owing to absurd corona lockdowns combined with highly suspicious hacks of key infrastructure. On May 31, the infrastructure of the world’s largest meat processor, JBS SA, was hacked, forcing the shutdown of all its US beef plants that supply almost a quarter of American beef.

The Green lobby is asserting, while presenting no factual evidence, that Global Warming, i.e. increased CO2 manmade emission, is causing the drought. The NOAA examined the case and found no evidence. But the media repeats the narrative to advance the Green New Deal agenda with frightening statements such as claiming the drought is, “comparable to the worst mega-droughts since 800 CE.” 

After 2011, California underwent a severe seven year drought. The drought ended in 2019 as major rains filled the California reservoir system to capacity. According to state water experts the reservoirs held enough water to easily endure at least a five-year drought. Yet two years later, the administration of Governor Newsom is declaring a new drought and threatening emergency measures. What his Administration is not saying is that the State Water Board and relevant state water authorities have been deliberately letting water flow into the Pacific Ocean. Why? They say to save two endangered fish species that are all but extinct—one, a rare type of Salmon, the second a Delta Smelt, a tiny minnow-size fish of some 2” size which has all but disappeared. 

In June 2019 Shasta Dam, holding the state’s largest reservoir as a keystone of the huge Central Valley Project, was full to 98% of capacity. Just two years later in May 2021 Shasta Lake reservoir held a mere 42% of capacity, almost 60% down. Similarly, in June 2019 Oroville Dam reservoir, the second largest, held water at 98% of capacity and by May 2021 was down to just 37%. Other smaller reservoirs saw similar drops. Where has all the water gone? 

Allegedly to “save” these fish varieties, during just 14 days in May, according to Kristi Diener, a California water expert and farmer, “90% of (Bay Area) Delta inflow went to sea. It’s equal to a year’s supply of water for 1 million people.” Diener has been warning repeatedly in recent years that water is unnecessarily being let out to sea as the state faces a normal dry year. She asks, “Should we be having water shortages in the start of our second dry year? No. Our reservoirs were designed to provide a steady five year supply for all users, and were filled to the top in June 2019.”

In 2008, at the demand of environmental groups such as the NRDC, a California judge ordered that the Central Valley Water project send 50% of water reservoirs to the Pacific Ocean to “save” an endangered salmon variety, even though the NGO admitted that no more than 1,000 salmon would likely be saved by the extreme measure. In the years 1998-2005 an estimated average of 49% of California managed water supply went to what is termed the “environment,” including feeding into streams and rivers, to feed estuaries and the Bay Area Delta. Only 28% went directly to maintain agriculture water supplies.

This past January Felicia Marcus, the chair of the California State Water Resources Control Board, who oversaw the controversial water policies since 2018, left at the end of her term to become an attorney for the Natural Resources Defense Council (NRDC) one of the most powerful green NGO’s, with a reported $400 million in resources to wage legal battles to defend “endangered species” such as the California salmon and the Delta Smelt. 

Appointed by green Gov. Jerry Brown as chair of the State Water Board in 2018, Marcus is directly responsible for the draining of the reservoirs into the ocean after they filled in 2019, using the claim of protecting endangered species. In March 2021 with Marcus as attorney, the NRDC requested that the State Water Resources Control Board Marcus headed until recently, take “immediate action” to address perceived threats to listed salmon in the Sacramento River watershed from Central Valley Project (“CVP”) operations. This as the state is facing a new drought emergency?

In 2020 Gov. Gavin Newsom, a protégé of Jerry Brown, signed Senate Bill 1, the California Environmental, Public Health and Workers Defense Act, which would send billions of gallons of water out to the Pacific Ocean, ostensibly to save more fish. It was a cover for manufacturing the present water crisis and specifically attacking farming, as incredible as it may seem.



Target Agriculture

The true agenda of the Newsom and previous Brown administrations is to radically undermine the highly productive California agriculture sector. Gov. Newsom has now introduced an impressive-sounding $5.1 billion Drought Relief bill. Despite its title, nothing will go to improve the state reservoir water availability for cities and farms. Of the total, $500 million will be spent on incentives for farmers to “re-purpose” their land, that is to stop farming. Suggestions include wildlife habitat, recreation, or solar panels! Another $230 million will be used for “wildlife corridors and fish passage projects to improve the ability of wildlife to migrate safely.” “Fish passage projects” is a clever phrase for dam removal, destroying the nation’s most effective network of reservoirs.

Then the Newson bill allocates $300 million for the Sustainable Groundwater Management Act implementation, a 2014 law from Jerry Brown amid the previous severe drought to prevent farmers in effect from securing water from drilling wells. The effect will be to drive more farmers off the land. And another $200 million will go to “habitat restoration,” supporting tidal wetland, floodplains, and multi-benefit flood-risk reduction projects—a drought package with funding for floods? This is about recreating flood plains so when they demolish the dams, the water has someplace to go. The vast bulk of the $500 billion is slated to reimburse water customers from the previous 2011-2019 drought from higher water bills, a move no doubt in hopes voters will look positively on Newsom as he faces likely voter recall in November.

The systematic dismantling of one of the world’s most productive agriculture regions, using the seductive mantra of “environmental protection,” fits into the larger agenda of the Davos Great Reset and its plans to radically transform world agriculture into what the UN Agenda 2030 calls “sustainable” agriculture—no more meat protein. The green argument is that cows are a major source of methane gas emissions via burps. How that affects global climate no one has seriously proven. Instead we should eat laboratory-made fake meat like the genetically-manipulated Impossible Burger of Bill Gates and Google, or even worms. Yes. In January the EU European Food Safety Agency (EFSA), approved mealworms, or larvae of the darkling beetle, as the first “novel food” cleared for sale across the EU


F. William Engdahl is strategic risk consultant and lecturer, he holds a degree in politics from Princeton University and is a best-selling author on oil and geopolitics, exclusively for the online magazine “New Eastern Outlook”.


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california nightmare...


Fire, drought and real estate prices are ending the Californian dream


California has long been America's promised land, tempting frontiersmen to take huge risks for hundreds of years, lured by the promise of gold, oil and lush farmland.

But as climate change leaves towns dry and increases the risk of catastrophic fires, and big cities like San Francisco and Los Angeles become unaffordable, is the "California Dream" coming to an end?

Since the gold rush began in the 1850s, the state has been defined by massive population growth as people from all over the world sought fortune out west.

The population boomed again after World War II as the defence and aerospace industries set up shop.

Then came the tech bonanza of the 1980s and 1990s which put Silicon Valley on the map.

But for the first time in its history, California's population declined last year.

Californians give up on the dream 

America's most populous state lost 182,000 people in 2020.

It might not sound like much in a state of 39 million people, but it's the equivalent of all the residents of Santa Barbara and all the residents of Santa Monica packing up and heading elsewhere.


More people are now leaving California than those moving in. 

Over the past decade, California's population growth of 6.1 per cent was the slowest in a century and below the national average of 7.4 per cent.

Demographers attribute the decline to several factors, including stricter immigration policies, a declining birth rate and increased deaths as a result of the coronavirus pandemic. It resulted in the state losing a congressional seat for the first time in its 170-year history.

In comparison, Texas, which has fast become a new home for entrepreneurs, young families and Silicon Valley types because of the affordable lifestyle it offers, gained two seats.

Locals will tell you people are leaving the lucky state because of high taxes, its political leaders, and the increasing likelihood of catastrophic weather conditions like bushfires and heatwaves.

And some Californians simply can no longer afford to live here.

San Francisco, Los Angeles and San Diego have become expensive, with house prices growing in line with Silicon Valley's rise. 

The median house price in San Francisco is $1.8 million. That's even more expensive than Sydney, where the median house price is $1.3 million.

Critics argue that has pushed out and priced out many middle-class Americans, created an ever-widening wedge between the state's poor and the uber-rich.

It has also exacerbated the state's homelessness crisis, with an estimated 161,000 people sleeping rough. That's the highest of any state in the US.


But California's difficulties are not just limited to cities and surrounding suburbs. 

Reaping the spoils of the state's rich agricultural soils has become nearly impossible for many Californians whose families have worked the land for generations.

Locals fear 2021 might be a crisis

Francesca Marchini, 32, is the fourth generation of her Italian family to farm in California's Central Valley, the heart of the state's agriculture industry and home to some of the richest soil on the planet.

But even she's not sure if the Californian Dream, which her ancestors travelled from Italy in search of in the 1920s, will be around for her own children.


I'm encouraging them to be diverse because I don't know about farming for my children now or my brother's children," she said.

As a little girl growing up in the San Joaquin valley, Ms Marchini's dream was to stay on the land and raise a family in the middle of an almond farm.

She now does that with her husband, four-year-old son Jeffrey, and two-year-old daughter Maggie. But she worries about the future as the state's water supplies continue to dwindle.

"It is our passion and our heart to keep farming," she said.

"We just want to grow the best product around, but water is the key to growing these products, to ship them domestically and around the world.

"It's an unknown future for us, that's for sure."


The effects of the last severe drought, which lasted around four years until the end of 2015, are still being felt.

Underground aquifers, heavily relied upon by farmers when there's little winter rain or snowpack on the Sierra Nevada mountains, have been severely depleted in recent years.

Many areas, sapped dry by the last drought, haven't replenished, leading farmers to drill new wells, which just go deeper into the water table.

As a result, towns have literally started to sink.

"I definitely think we're going to have to live under this new normal of less water," Ms Marchini said.

"We're not yet in a crisis but 2021 might be a crisis."

Drought forcing tough decisions

About two hours' drive south in the Valley, the signs of drought are even more apparent.

While it's not unusual for the state's landscape to turn dry and parched as the northern hemisphere's summer approaches, it's abnormal in the middle of May.


On John Guthrie's ranch, which has belonged to his family for 150 years, there's about a third of the feed grass on the ground than normal when heading into the dry months.

One of his vital dams at this time of year is usually overflowing and feeding through other tributaries on his property.

In mid-May, it's already bone dry.

"It's warmer than it usually is, it's warmer sooner and it lasts longer, we have these catastrophic wildfires … so something is definitely different," he said.


"The part that I'm worried about is the next 10 years, the next 20 years with my family, I fear we're in a downward trend."

It has forced Mr Guthrie to sell more cattle than he'd like, move his current stock to greener pastures and buy in hay at huge expense.

If it wasn't for the family name, he'd consider packing up.

Families with long California ties consider a move

Nestled in the foothills of the spectacular Sierra Nevada mountains, Tom Mulholland's family has grown citrus fruit in the San Joaquin Valley for 60 years.

He was the largest supplier of mandarins to Australia during the off-season and worked with Woolworths to develop the 'Delight' variety.


His ancestry in the region runs deep. His grandfather was the chief engineer who designed the controversial aqueduct system that delivered water to Los Angeles in the 1900s, paving the way for the city's meteoric rise.

But even his deep roots weren't enough to keep him in the game in a big way.

About a year-and-a-half ago, he made the tough decision to sell out.

"If there's no water, there's no plants. [We need] soil, water and sun," he said.

"We've got the sun, thank you. We've still got the dirt here, but without the water, we're not going to make it here."


Mr Mulholland believes climate change is to blame.

"Denial of that is being written up, but I think science is going to prove that there is in fact warming on this earth," he said.

While he acknowledges the effect the tech industry has brought on less fortunate Californians, he sees it as the next frontier, which could in fact bring about more sustainable farming practices.

"What can we accomplish from here? Elon Musk was able to build rockets and cars from here in California," he said.

"Look at all the significant discoveries coming out of Silicon Valley, those are all new ways of looking at this."

'I didn't know what to do, water is essential'

Decades of overdrawing aquifers to feed the state's booming agriculture industry is having a flow-on effect, particularly for low-income communities in the Central Valley.


One day, Carolina Garcia turned the taps on and nothing came out. 

For two weeks, her family went without running water, after the well they relied upon for more than a decade went dry.

"I was sad, I was desperate. I didn't know what to do," Mr Garcia said.

"Water is essential, it was hard to see our kids suffering." 

Unable to afford to pay the tens of thousands of dollars for a new well, Ms Garcia went looking for help.


The family of 10 will now live off two temporary water tanks donated by a local non-profit until the city's piping reaches their home.

The organisation, Self Help Enterprises, has helped 300 other families like Carolina's across the Valley.

Since April, demand has jumped 40 per cent.

Without the donation, they would have been forced to pack up and leave the state.

"We would have probably had to move somewhere else," she said.

But ultimately, Ms Garcia is a California girl. 

"I know I'm probably going to be judged by a lot of people but I don't care, I'm just happy [to stay]." 



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california first...


LOS ANGELES — California has long been a land of firsts, and this year is no exception.

For the first time, the water level in Lake Oroville is expected to fall so low the state’s hydropower plant could shut down, just as electricity demands peak. For the first time, the census numbers showed California will lose a congressional seat. For the first time since it joined the union in 1850, the state historically synonymous with unbridled expansion actually shrank.

These are not the kinds of firsts California is accustomed to. They have sapped the collective sense of zealous optimism that long characterized the state’s seductive appeal. Despite the population loss, there is not enough housing, not enough water, not enough university slots and not enough good jobs.

California is facing limits, and the wrenching process of learning to live within them will test its leaders and redefine the state. The staggering reality of 2020 has demanded a reckoning: to ignore the urgency will condemn Californians to decades of pain, a burden that will fall most heavily on those least equipped to cope.

Too many reckonings have already been shrugged away. The median house price increased 24 percent the past year, while housing production lagged far behind. Internal migration is reshaping the state, as remote work and quarantines sent people out of cities in search of space in rural communities and suburbs. Amid a drought that already dwarfs the last one, politicians have been skittish about imposing restrictions.

Some of the most consequential limits are driven by natural forces not unique to California but particularly severe here: Climate change has fueled both the lack of water and the destructive power of wildfires. Record temperatures coupled with drought are wreaking havoc with agriculture. One fire last year killed about one-tenth of the state’s mature giant sequoias, some thousands of years old. Hundreds more wells are expected to run dry this year, adding to the more than a million people who already lack clean drinking water.

Decades of human decisions intensified the natural limits — failures to develop more public transportation, to regulate or even measure the amount of water drawn out of the earth, to limit development in fragile ecosystems. Every week brings stark choices like this one: hold back water from the Shasta Dam and force farmers to leave even more land unplanted, or release the water early into the Sacramento River and risk killing endangered chinook salmon, which cannot survive spawning season in the warmer water. (The decision last month: release the water.)

The man-made and natural crises are inextricably intertwined. The dire lack of sufficient, affordable housing, a chief culprit in the state’s high poverty rates and a prime factor driving people to move out, stems from decades of zoning and land-use decisions. They can be amended, and some municipalities have acted; a handful even banned single-family zoning. But sweeping statewide change continues to be largely stymied, and even modest proposals, like a state bill that would bar local governments from mandating parking spaces for developments within a half mile of a transit hub, face stubborn resistance.

The need for millions of housing units collides with natural limits. Resistance to increased urban and suburban density has meant more and more construction in the fire-prone areas known as the “wildland urban interface,” now home to about a quarter of the population. Efforts to limit rebuilding in most high-risk areas have been defeated by the construction industry and local officials. In Los Angeles, officials decided housing needs trumped fire danger and approved a subdivision for more than 50,000 units near the fire-prone northern edge of the county (though a judge recently slowed the project down).

With new fires erupting nearly every day, an analysis by The Sacramento Bee found that almost all of the record-breaking four million acres that burned last year were in high-risk areas, most of which had burned before — and been rebuilt. Rather than offer incentives to relocate to safer ground, the state has done the reverse — encouraged rebuilding with financial help to retrofit, create defensible space and develop evacuation plans.

“Wildfire resilience must become a more consistent part of land use and development decisions; however, it must be done while meeting our housing needs,” Gov. Gavin Newsom wrote in vetoing a bill last year that would have imposed new requirements on local governments and limitations on building in areas defined as “very high fire risk.”

The limits have not crept up without warning. “We are misusing our environment and ourselves to the point where amenities are rapidly disappearing, social order gives way to turmoil, and life itself is threatened,” a group of environmentalists argued 50 years ago in “The California Tomorrow Plan,” detailing all too familiar problems: lack of housing, erosion of natural resources, lack of economic stability for struggling workers, lack of public transportation, bad air and unregulated growth.

The authors called for governments to be restructured to coordinate planning; economic growth predicated on a guaranteed income base; and strategies that stabilized population, protected natural resources and guided and controlled growth through public policies. The writer Wallace Stegner, summarizing the plan, wrote: “Physical resources are managed largely to stimulate economic growth; problems are dealt with disconnectedly and only as they become pressing; wasteful and polluting consumption continues; and the old patterns of growth, spreading outward from the uninhabitable city, continue to break up country into suburbs.”

Over the next decades, some progress occurred. The coast was protected. Air quality improved. California was the first state to institute sustainability requirements for buildings. In more recent years, it also adopted landmark energy independence and climate change policies — and ambitious goals that are slipping out of reach. But for the most part, the response to problems has been to engineer a workaround rather than tackle the underlying issue or change behavior.

Rather than reduce the number of miles driven by car owners, the solutions have been to mitigate the damage — build more roads to alleviate congestion (although studies show it does the opposite) or mandate emission controls rather than provide adequate mass transit. Even modest proposals like car pool and bus lanes have been met with contempt: When Gov. Jerry Brown’s transportation chief proposed car pool lanes in 1976, she was effectively run out of office.

Though the slight population decline in 2020 was partly attributable to the pandemic, California has been losing residents to other states for years. Until last year, immigrants, who make up a larger share of the population than in any other state, more than compensated for that out-migration. The birthrate in California has also dropped faster than the national average decline. Most of the people leaving are lower- and middle-income and with less education; those with college degrees and higher incomes can more easily afford to move in.

The state is awash in billions of dollars in surpluses, and yet there is a sense of paralysis. A federal judge, outraged by the number of homeless on the streets of Los Angeles, ordered the city to find homes for them, but after months of hearings, no one has been able to figure out where they can go. For years, millions of people have lacked clean drinking water. The most practical solution: hand out bottled water.

With leadership, crises can be opportunities. The multiyear drought that began in 2012, for example, became the impetus for an order by Governor Brown to reduce consumption by 25 percent, which led to lasting changes (fewer lawns, less water-intensive plants, pricing incentives that reduce water usage). The drought also spurred a law to regulate water pumped out of the ground and move toward restoring damaged water basins.

California, which relies on wells for nearly 40 percent of its water in good years and far more during droughts, was the last Western state to adopt such regulations. The deliberative planning process now underway in local regions is expected to force growers to leave as much as 20 percent of prime agricultural land fallow. The law stands out as a potential model, forcing hard choices, but also innovative ideas for repurposing farmland.

What happens in California matters, and not just here. Because it is the fifth largest economy in the world, and by virtue of its size and character, the state has historically influenced policies across the country, from how cars are manufactured to how property taxes are assessed.

Elected officials are notorious for their propensity to avoid difficult decisions or plans beyond the next election. The former New York governor Mario Cuomo liked to tell a parable to illustrate the propensity of politicians to not grapple with the long-term consequences of their actions: A condemned man was told by the king that he could live if he promised that within a year, he could teach the king’s horse to fly. A fellow prisoner asked why the man accepted such a hopeless deal. In a year, the man said, the king may die. In a year, I may die. Or in a year, who knows — the horse may learn to fly.

In California, the year is almost up.


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According to the law of "Plus ça change, plus c'est la même chose", California won't go into complete destruction unless there is an earthquake — the big one. Some boffin(s) will find a way to make the horse fly, even if it's made of concrete with a powerful engine or a hot air balloon in the shape of a horse. As well as time goes by, some people might find ways to grow some better organic carrots. And please consider that with a bit of slowing down on burning fossil fuel California's troubles are doing the planet a favo(u)r...