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.
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.