Wednesday, February 9, 2011

Rural California: Where bad economic and environmental practices meet

© 2011 Joshua Stark

The San Francisco Chronicle reports on the AP's Economic Stress Index, which shows that 15 out of the 20 worst counties are in California. 

Of course, there's no real news here, nor is there any change from what would be the case if this were a booming economic time and not a lingering recession.  These counties are chronically the worst in the country.

The sad part?  They are also the counties with the highest agriculture revenues in the world.

In the world.

These are the same counties whose boosters proclaim that they feed the world.  These same boosters cry in anger to the (political) gods whenever the Delta must have more water, screaming that it will destroy, is destroying, their way of life, their jobs and economy.

Never mind that ag. was the only growth industry in the State, even during those drought years.  Never mind that these counties suffer huge numbers of smothering poverty, drug addiction and violence.  Never mind that these counties tend to have much higher asthma rates among its children, and that in dozens of communities throughout their gold-producing fields, nobody is allowed to drink the groundwater, because it is contaminated from runoff.  Never mind that their own rivers are dammed and run dry.

These counties remind me of a drug addict.  Whenever their supply is threatened, they talk about how much they need it, how much better they do with it; even, sometimes, how after this time, they'll work to get off it, but they need this just one more time.  Of course, they talk through blackened teeth, while their children go hungry behind them.

I grew up and live in rural California.  I love it with all my heart.  That is why I talk like I do.

Rural California needs to see a shift away from its typically feudal/colonial structure.  It needs permanent jobs with local and regional focus, it needs industries that do not pollute its water and air and offer minimum-wage (or less) with no benefits. 


NorCal Cazadora said...

Having grown up in rural Cali, I know what you mean. To this day I wonder if the problems I have with my lungs are from the skies blackened by smudge pot smoke on freezing mornings (to protect the oranges from freeze damage). Friend of mine - non-smoker - was born and raised there and recently had lung cancer.

Drove through the valley last month on my way to Vegas, and while I have fond memories of my childhood there, I was appalled at the air quality. Stopped in Bakersfield for gas and food and was horrified at how bad the air smelled.

Josh said...

The Valley was my second home, for sure. I'm so sorry to hear about your friend.

Where you grew up, one in four kids has a lung ailment, one in five have asthma. Arvin, just South of Bakersfield, has the worst air quality in the Nation.