Why is agriculture the most important topic we should all be discussing right now?
And not just those of us living in California who—you may have heard–have one year of water supply left. I’m talking about all of our food choices and taking a good hard look at what we eat, how much we eat and where our food comes from.
I’m talking about looking at the influence that Big Ag has politically and urging our government policy makers to start making better decisions.
Because the drought in California is for real and it’s going to have big implications, not only for our drinking water, the ability to take long showers or wash our cars, but more importantly for our food supply, our economy and our national security. (Because sh*t gets real when whole groups of people don’t have access to clean water, food or jobs).
California is the top food producing state in America—which is ridiculous to begin with, considering that the Central Valley (also known as the Bread Basket of America) is essentially a desert.
But people need food to eat. And they need jobs to live, support their families, send their kids to school, go on vacations and do all of things that make the world go ’round.
The agricultural industry is of key importance to our nation—the sheer magnitude of the toll it takes on the environment and the potentially devastating risks to our entire society (nay, our global society) of an industry collapse are correspondingly high.
During the worst drought in our state’s history, it is astounding to learn that 80% of our water use goes to agriculture. The numbers speak for themselves. Here is what it takes to grow food in California:
one gallon of water to produce a single almond
220 gallons of water to produce a large avocado
500 gallons of water to produce a stick of butter
5,000 gallons of water to produce one pound of beef
If everyone in America went vegetarian, it would likely solve California’s water problem. For this year.
It would also cripple our economy for years to come. If the agriculture industry continues to drill into our groundwater reserves to compensate for the utter lack of rainwater and snowfall we’ve had this season (or the past four seasons, for that matter), it will complicate a whole host of other problems. Namely, communities and cities rely on that water source for their population’s own survival needs like drinking water, showers, toilets, cooking and cleaning.
So, this is not to say that we should throw our hands up in the air, taking hour-long showers, washing our cars like the OCD maniacs that we are, start watering our lawns and filling up our private swimming pools.
The problem needs to be addressed from both sides.
So yes, we absolutely should be more mindful of our own water consumption.
What’s more, maybe our mindfulness will rub off on someone else and then someone else and then someone else, until “finally” someone who is in a position of power, to make changes on the policy side of things, gets the message that water use is important.
And then there’s the industry itself.
How much longer can we keep pointing fingers and placing blame before some resources are put into alternative technologies?
For California to continue to play a leading role in producing our nation’s food supply and stabilizing our economy, the only viable, affordable and sustainable solution to stop depleting our groundwater resources is to invest. Heavily and now—in drip irrigation technology, the best on the market have been developed in Israel (also dealing with producing food in desert conditions).
As for the complete and utter lack of rainfall and snowfall, this gets us into a whole other lengthy discussion on rainforest deforestation which is responsible for regulating the planet’s weather systems and accounts for more carbon emissions into the atmosphere than all airplanes, trains and automobiles combined.
Curious what is the primary driver of deforestation? You guessed it—agriculture.
This crisis belongs to all of us and we can all do our part.
Author: Rebecca F. Rogers
Editor: Ashleigh Hitchcock
Image: courtesy of author