Die, you dirty human!
In 2007, federal Judge Oliver Wanger decided that protecting a small bait fish known as the delta smelt was worth more than California's Central Valley farms. The fish, argued environmentalists, is dying because the farmers divert to much water from the San Joaquin rivers. Science had spoken, the debate was over. Judge Wanger ruled in the Green's favor and ordered irrigation to be shut off in the Valley.
Central Valley used to be the best farm land in the country, producing a quarter of the US food supply. Deprived from 90% of its water by court order, many farms quickly reverted to the state of nature -- an arid dust bowl. 500,000 acres were deprived of irrigation water in the midst of a severe drought. Thousands of jobs were lost (a mere 2000 according to the environmentalists, as much as 40,000 according to agricultural economist Richard Howitt at University of California in Davis.) Direct and indirect economic damage estimates are ranging from tens of millions of dollars to more than a billion per year. Unemployment shot up. Poverty increased and food lines became a common sight.
Central Valley food line. Credits: Community Food Bank, Fresno, CA
Ironically, the big agro-business that Greens despise so much was the biggest winner in this affair. Many family farms, unable to survive, closed down and were sold to large agricultural corporations. Also, the noticeable rise in the price of fresh vegetables, fruits and nuts has made some distributors very happy.
Tough, but at least, the cute lil' fishies are saved, right?
Not really. According to a new study from the Delta Stewardship Council, the man-made drought had no effect on the smelt, which keeps declining for unknown reasons. New predators are suspected.
Judge Wanger apparently understood he was played. Last December, he issued a strongly-worded decision striking down irrigation restrictions and criticizing how his ruling has been used to destroy a whole region:
The public cannot afford sloppy science and uni-directional prescriptions that ignore California's water needs.
As a result, some water allocations are going up. Certain farmer will receive 40% of their normal water, others will have 100% Additionally, the drought is easing and precipitation levels are up. An excellent news if you are a large company that recently bought parched farm land in this area. If you are one of the farmer who sold off at a loss, not so much.
The alliance of powergrabbers and charlatans
So here, we have the conjunction of two dangerous trends: Charlatans pretending that they have the ultimate truth, and regulations allowing them to pimp their voodoo science and turn it into a political and economical destruction weapon.
Wanger publicly regretted that environmental regulations did not let him factor in human cost and ruined lives when he ruled. He thus had no choice but to inflict great harm on to the Valley.
Regulations that turn a category of people into disposable, worthless subhumans shouldn't be passed in a country built on an ideal of freedom and equality. But those did. And herein lies the scandal.