Wednesday, January 28, 2009

Media Coverage of the Drought.

Bloomberg published a story this week on the drought in California. Writers Jeran Wittenstein and Ryan Flynn did a good job of marshaling a bunch of facts about the extent of the drought and it's economic impact, especially on Agriculture. They even found a way to personalize the impact with details about the way it has affected the operations of Kevin Kester's cattle operation.

It looks as if Wittenstein and Flynn were sent out to write a story on the impact of the drought on California Agriculture and they did do that. However, they failed to report on what may be the more important aspects of this story:
  • that the conditions we now call a drought may, in a warming climate, be the new normal;
  • that the proposals from California's Water Bureaucracy might benefit some farmers, but will devastate others, forcing them out of business as bay waters intrude into the Sacramento - San Joaquin Delta and the land becomes increasingly saline;
  • that reducing the supply of fresh water through the delta in service of agriculture will have a devastating effect on the Pacific fisheries.

Click Read more! to see my letter to Wittenstein and Flynn.

For all of the detail that you marshaled in this story, it still misses several major financial implications.

Yes, the drought is going to have a significant impact on California Agriculture. California provides a significant percentage of our nations fresh produce and these impacts will be felt everywhere.

Why, then, did you treat this as a cyclical phenomenon, a multi-year drought from which things could return to normal? The implications of global warming are that this year's rainfall may, in fact, be the new normal or might in the relatively near future, be considered a "wet" year. The impact on our nation's food supply, and it's cost, would be staggering.

In your article, you cite the Dept. of Water Resources and that organization is doing nothing to address the long range problems other than to suggest we need more of the same 19th Century solutions: more dams, more canals. Neither are going to work. Why build more dams when the current rainfall does not even fill the ones we have?

In a similar fashion, should you not do a story on the fact that supplying more water for Central Valley Agriculture will inevitably cause damage to our Pacific Coast Fisheries and that increased salinity will take a lot of agricultural land out of production.

You only told half the story.

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