Wednesday, September 23, 2009

Civil Disobedience Now.

There are two issues that I have been writing about for several years. One is the situation with California Water and the California Delta. The other is Climate Change. Both have become politicized beyond all capacity to deal with them on a rational basis. I'm increasingly convinced that large scale, non-violent civil disobedience will be required to give our politicians the will to actually do what needs to be done. This will take two posts. This is the first, regarding the California Water Crisis. I assure you that these issues are linked.

The latest media alert from Restore the Delta called attention to Mike Fitzgerald's current column in the Stockton Record. I have always respected Fitzgerald, both for his knowledge of Central Valley Water issues and his willingness to tell the truth in print. This time, he takes on Sean Hannity and the manufactured myth that the water crisis is really about a "little minnow".
Where to begin? Hannity's show was set in a cotton farm outside Huron. The farm is fallow for lack of water. The Grapes of Wrath, Part II: The Joads of Huron.

Only those ignorant of the oceanic amounts of water needed to farm cotton are oblivious to the irony. If water's scarce, cotton shouldn't even be farmed.

"Turn the water back on!" Hannity intoned over and over, sounding like Moses crying "Let my people go!"

In fact, the water has been "turned on" since June 30. Last Sunday - to cite a typical day - the state and federal pumps exported 13,626 acre-feet of water from the Delta.

The pumps sucked hard enough to make Old River, Middle River and the San Joaquin River at Stockton flow backwards.
(emphasis mine)
That is only a taste of what Fitzgerald dished out. You should read the whole thing.

For my take on this, click Read more.

I don't live in the Delta, or the Central Valley. But my local water district, the Santa Clara Valley Water District, sources much of it's water from there. They are not different from most of the state in that regard.

This issue has been so completely politicized that most Republicans think they can not get elected from that region unless they recite the mantra of "Food Grows Where Water Flows" and promise to build more dams. Unfortunately, the only people who might profit from thost dams are engineers and construction companies who would build them.. but I digress... that is really part of the Climate Change story.

This is an issue that is tailor made for Greens. However, except for a very few, it does not get the attention it deserves. There is a long list of issues that always seem to take precedence. All of them are important but, when the water fails, as it surely will, we will see how much it costs to import water from Colorado.. even if we call it Coors.

Those who are manipulating the public opinion have learned to play the populist game and even to make it into a racial issue. Comedian Paul Rodriquez appeared on Hannity's program with his line about representing the Latino Water Coalition. For the real story about this Coalition, its funding from big land owners and its irrigation district engineer leadership, you need to read the Chronicles of the Hydraulic Brotherhood by Lloyd G. Carter. Carter is a leading Green from Fresno and has a long history of writing about water for UPI and the Fresno Bee.
Despite the lack of tangible results from the March for Water, the Latino Water Coalition is now planning to take its show to Washington, D.C. to lobby members of Congress and the Obama Administration to suspend the Endangered Species Act and order more pumping from the beleaguered Delta Estuary. Meanwhile, the Delta ecosystem continues to collapse and the commercial and recreational salmon fishing season has been canceled for the second year in a row. No word on whether thousands of salmon industry families thrown out of work also plan to march on Washington, D.C. to demand that more water be kept in the Delta. Maybe the West Side growers can explain why their water needs are more important that the salmon fishing families.
Now, you know how Hannity picked this up.

We have the nexus of Green Leadership on this issue, but I sense no support other than good will. As mentioned, Lloyd G. Carter is a Green. Contra Costa Green Joseph Feller is trying to make is an organizing issue for the Delta Greens. Martin Zehr has helped. The Los Angeles Greens have taken some action, endorsing the sustainability principles of the California Water Impact Network. (Carter was previous on their board.) It is high time that we moved beyond endorsements and such.

This is a list of things that we, as Greens, need to be doing:
  • It is time that we put energy into re-establishing the Green Party as an effective organization in San Joaquin County. It has been said that such organizing efforts are a waste of time and energy. But, if we don't make the effort, the big agribusiness interests and the big developers will control it. There is little difference between Republicans and Democrats on this. It is as if the entire Congressional or Legislative delegations spoke with Hannity's voice.
  • It is time that we all start following the Lloyd G. Carter's blog, following his stories to the source and then laying out a Green solution.
  • We need to put full support into all efforts for bio-regional ownership of all resource issues. In the Democratic Plans for a new Delta Commission to plan California's water, the only area that was left out of the proposed commission was the Delta itself. Like they should trust their future to everyone else. If nothing else, this should tell you that the back room deals have been done. This support needs to include the financial.
  • We need to make a concerted effort to let all of our legislators know that voting for back room deals like Darrell Steinberg proposed is asking to be voted out of office. We know that even so-called progressive Democrats will sell out their constituents for a big donation.
  • We need to start showing up at meetings, wearing our Green shirts.
  • We need to actively locate and recruit Greens to run for Water District boards. There are some on the boards who might be small "g" green but we need full political presence there.
I ask all of you to sign up for Restore the Delta newsletters, either from their web site or through facebook. (I only see 30 fans there. Make it 300 or shower in salt water.)


Martin Zehr said...


You are losing me on this. What we really need is civil obedience based on shared sacrifice. Let's avoid stoking the flames of rebellion on this. People in the region and in the Delta have to deal with this. Everyone else needs to facilitate the mechanisms that can do this. If people want to help, tell San Francisco and Los Angeles to chip in on a solution with some water. Tell Silicon Valley to tighten its belt.


Ross Levin said...

I'm not informed enough on this issue to agree or disagree (I live in PA), but this is a thoughtful and thought-provoking post, as usual. Keep up the good work, and good luck to you - you're lucky to be in one of the best areas in the country to be a Green.

Wes said...

Martin, I am working on Silicon Valley. In my local paper, I have called for the replacement of the entire board of the Santa Clara Valley Water District for the sole reason that they have not done anything for the region other than grab all the water they can get and all the salary that they can finagle.

Wes said...

Ross, Thanks. We have a hard time here. There are a lot of Greens, but there are a lot more non-Greens. It is tough all over.

However, did you read the following column on climate change?