All posts by jonathan

The Drought in California

CARTOON

A Californian tourist mistakes the San Joaquin Valley and a farmer for Death Valley because of the strikingly dry climate.

A frightening and frequent image that has been broadcasted across all forms of media since 2011 is the fast-spreading wildfires that have torn through California. The blazes that are displacing California residents are caused by the state’s severe drought. Over 99 percent of the state is abnormally dry, 71 percent is experiencing severe drought, and 46 percent is in exceptional drought (AccuWeather.com). The extreme climate that California is going through is putting a stress on the fresh water supply, creating ideal conditions for menacing wildfires and creating difficulties for agriculture.

Researchers believe that the drought is caused by a large mass of warm water that has moved near the California Coast. “La Niña,” the counterpart part of “El Niño,” is believed to have started the drought cycle (Koons). A high-pressure system touching the California Coast. The system causes storms to be redirected to other regions, limiting the amount of rainfall reaching California. California also relies on snow melting off mountains throughout the year. The high-pressure system cause a two to seven-degree Fahrenheit increase in the atmosphere, causing most precipitation to come down as water instead of snow. Due to the water management techniques in California, heavy snowfall is more beneficial than heavy rainfall (Koons).

One solution proposed by residents and officials was to limit water consumption by 25 percent. Eventually California Governor, Jerry Brown instituted mandatory water restrictions in June of 2015. Rivers and lakes had become so low that the tightest fishing regulations in the history of the state were implemented because species of fish were becoming endangered.

Over 100 million trees died from the drought in between 2011 and 2017. Although some of the area was devastated, northern California began to emerge from the drought in 2016. By the end of the year, over 30 percent of the state was not considered to be experiencing drought, and 40 percent remained in extreme or exceptional levels of drought. 2017 finally began to see heavy rainfall. Northern water reserves began to fill and outlook began to look better after 6 years of struggle (Koons).

A consistent weather pattern has allowed a majority of the state to emerge from drought. Rain storms have been persistently hitting all parts of the state, and snow fall is well above the yearly average. By the end of February over 60 percent of the state was considered to not be in a drought. It was not until April 7, 2017 that Governor Brown that the drought had finally ended.

Aside from environmental concerns, the economic implications of the drought have been devastating for California. Agriculture accounts for nearly 30 billion dollars of Gross Domestic Product for the state. Ever since the beginning of the drought, the state has lost billions of dollars due to the implications that came from a water shortage. Even after some of the state had begun to recover from the drought in 2016, California farmers still lost over 600 million dollars. Nearly 80,000 acres of farmland was fallowed after the 500,000 that was lost in 2015. The drought also cost nearly 2,000 farming jobs for the state. Agriculture uses over 80 percent of water in California, so the drought demanded there be changes in use. The most crucial farming areas that have struggled during the drought are found in the San Joaquin Valley (Koons).

The cartoon, The Fried West (Horsey), depicts a tourist in California believing she is visiting Death Valley. She is referring to the desert valley found in Eastern California. It is one of the hottest destinations in the world during the summer, comparable to Africa and the Middle East. The region is famous for its desolate and dry appearance. The farmer responds to the woman by informing her he is a farmer in the San Joaquin Valley. As previously mentioned, the valley is historically known for its bountiful production of agricultural products. Although it is hyperbolizing, the cartoon suggests that the drought in California is so brutal that a once fruitful region has become as bare and dry as one of the most famous deserts in the in the world. The cartoonist aims to inform the public about how bleak outlook has become, and the drought is not only devastating to the environment but also to individuals attempting to earn a livable income.

Horsey’s cartoon above and the previous Knott cartoon entitled The Salvation of Your Soil, regarding the impact over-cultivation had on farmers in the past, are similar by how they represent the struggle of the American farmer. Events such as the collapse of the cotton industry in the 1920s or the drought in California display the reasons the federal and state governments subsidize farming.  Farming is such an integral part of the economy, however there is a constant battle to be profitable. The separation of time between the cartoon is an indicator that the battle for farmers to produce a suitable amount of crop and earn a livable income is constant and never-ending struggle.

Citations:

Koons, Stephanie. “California’s Drought Is Over, but Water Conservation Remains a ‘way of Life’.” Local

 Weather from AccuWeather.com – Superior Accuracy™. N.p., 28 Apr. 2017. Web. 03 May 2017.

Horsey. “The Fried West.” True Democracy Party, 16 Sept. 2014, truedemocracyparty.net/2014/09/california-mega-drought. Accessed 16 June  2017.

The Salvation of Your Soil

The Missionary in Cottonland

President FDR warns farmers of planting too much and ruining the arable land.

John F. Knott was born in Austria in in 1878 and emigrated in Iowa with his mother at the age of five. Hired as a cartoonist, Knott began working for the Dallas Morning News in 1905. Knott is famous for his character “Old Man Texas,” a proponent for transparency, capitalism, low taxes, and property rights. His cartoons became popular during World War I and historians believe his cartoons boosted the sales of Liberty Bonds. His cartoons have been reprinted in various magazines and newspapers since their original publication.

The cartoon that is displayed above is a depiction of the “Old Man Texas” character as a rural farmer in Texas. The setting is very rural and is clearly on the fencing line of a Texas farm or ranch. The character is hunched over reading a letter being held by a government man in a suit who is standing on the other side of a barbed wire fence. The cartoon is called “The Missionary in Cottonland,” referring to the man in the suit’s persuasive nature. The letter he is holding states, “The salvation of your soil and income depends on moderation in cotton planting – Join the co-operative soil conservation movement.” The letter is referring to the conservation movement started by President Roosevelt. The government man is urging the farmer to slow down his production of cotton (The Conservation Legacy of Theodore Roosevelt).

At the time the cartoon was drawn the Texas cotton industry was booming. Agriculture and cotton farming had expanded from Central Texas to the Gulf Coast, and had steadily moved north. A small drought had begun in North Texas and there was fear of over-planting. Cotton is the most-drought resistant crop, so farmers felt inclined to switch from crops such as corn. Roosevelt feared that an increase in the acreage of cotton would increase supply too far, ultimately causing a significant drop in price. The cotton industry in the United State was already struggling because of the mass production in countries such as Brazil, Egypt, India, Sudan, Argentina, and Russia (Britton, Elliot).

Knott is suggesting that Texas farmers follow Roosevelt’s suggestions and switch to crops such a feed. On the side of the cartoon he writes a short column, and at the end wrote, “These foreigners got the jump on our farmers during the last few years and last season they supplied 14,222,200 bales of the world’s cotton consumption of 25,428,000. The United States supplied only 11,205,000 bales. Farmers should take a hint from these figures” (Roosevelt Warns Farmers). The direct language from Knott makes it clear that he strongly encourages that the spread of cotton acreage come to a stop. He uses two main arguments in his writing to support his claim. The first is that the environment and soil must be conserved or there will be no opportunity for future agriculture. The second is that the United States cotton industry is being trumped by foreign competition, and it would be beneficial for farmers to make the switch to other products and forms of agriculture.

Although both Roosevelt and Knott’s advice for farmers was clear, individuals could not turn away from short-term profit. By the 1920s three quarters of individuals working in agriculture were on cotton farms (Britton, Elliot). The United States cotton industry hit a crisis in the early 1920s. The entire industry saw a collapse due to overproduction and a widespread pest that destroyed certain strains of cotton. The introduction of man-made fibers also hurt the industry. By 1944, the first crop of cotton to be completely planted and harvested by machinery had been produced, marking the end of cotton farming boom (Britton, Elliot).

Knott’s cartoon represents the struggles agriculture has with the markets they belong to, and the constant battle with government institutions. As traditional farming has declined over the past century, this battle has become even more prevalent. Environmental concerns have also become an issue as the climate change narrative becomes more relevant. There is a connection between agriculture at the beginning of the 20th century and current times because of the continuing struggle for the industry. The solution to one problem is followed by an additional hurdle that must be passed. The industry is often glorified, and met with description such as “the backbone of our nation,” however there has recently been a lack of glory and benefit. The contemporary cartoon in my next blog post, entitled The Drought in California, regarding the recent devastating droughts in California and how they have effected modern farmers, will display how the struggles for the American farmer are just as real as they were when cotton used to be “king.”

Citations:

Britton, Karen Gerhardt and Elliott, Fred c. and Miller, e. a. “Cotton Culture.” Britton, Karen Gerhardt and Elliott, Fred c. and Miller, e. a. n.p., 11 June 2010. web. 03 May 2017.

“The Conservation Legacy of Theodore Roosevelt.” U.S. Department of the Interior. N.p., 27 Oct. 2016. Web. 3 May 2017.

Knott, John. “The Missionary in Cottonland.” The Dallas Morning News, 21 March 1936.

“Roosevelt Warns Farmers.” The Dallas Morning News, 21 March 1936.