Sizzling Northwest Battles Heat & Drought & Faces Tough Agricultural Choices with 2/3 of US Fruits & Nuts Imperiled.

The Climate Catastrophe is advancing rapidly. Perhaps it will dawn on policymakers that as California dries up, cities truck in water, farms lie fallow, farmers compete with fisheries for scarce water….perhaps, just maybe it is time to act. And NM is next.

In addition to our focus on sizzling temps in the Northwest and the drought in California, we offer a couple of brief announcements about coming events and a video on a Restorative Economy. Read on!


Rotten: Something Indeed Is Rotten in the State of Our World

Rotten is a remarkable series that streams for free on Netflix. While today’s blog ia focused on heat, drought and the impact on our food systems, Rotten is a series focused on all forms of degradation of our food systems. Rotten’s lens is squarely focused on agribusiness and its practices, practices that threaten to leave our pantry bare in the coming decades. In just two episodes, Roxanne and I have learned a ton about the pernicious impact of the corporatizing of our food systems. Episodes from Season I focus on water, avocado, honey, sugar, dark chocolate, wine and edible marijuana. We can’t recommend this series enough. It is well-produced, engaging, informative and in the end is another indicator pointing to our desperate need for a new economic system. Click here to explore this very compelling series.


Zoominar Featuring Maine Leaders Opposing Avangrid and Advancing Forming State Public Power

Thursday, July 8, 6pm-7:30pm Conversation with Maine Energy Advocates. We get to hear it straight from Maine residents who are fighting Avangrid as if their lives, power and forests depended upon their winning the battle. Hearing from the “Mainers” will be more than enough to convince you that NM must be nuts to even be considering this merger. PNM has been bad enough, but to now accept a mega corporation from Spain that has a truly terrible track record of exploitation, avoiding regulation, failure to pay fines, and manipulation of legislatures in the US, UK, Spain and the Global South.

Click here to register.

And if you’d like to get a preview, watch this eye-opening interview with two of Maine’s leadership, both of whom will be on the Zoominar above.


Democracy Imperiled: Action Called

I’ve read a lot lately about the eroding support for Trump even within the GOP. While reassuring, the GOP has been infected with his germs; whether they believe him or not, they are using his rubbish about the election being stolen to construct barriers to voting that would make Jim Crow blush. Several weeks ago in this blog, I wondered if anyone was paying attention, if anyone was planning to act before it was too late. Represent US and Indivisible did some homework and found a number of protests germinating across the nation. They have organized a rally for July 11 that would be worth attending to find out more about what we can do, before we can do nothing but cry. Check it out by clicking here to get to our Actions & Events page. Info is directly below the description of our Zoominar on Avangrid’s proposed merger with PNM.


Green Amendment Day Is July 13

The Green Amendment is being considered in 13 state legislators and so July 13 has been declared Green Amendment Day, in honor of those states. Green Amendment for the Generations, the sponsor of the bill in those states, is hosting a panel discussion on July 13 to discuss the amendment and help you better understand its potential impact and what you can do to support it. Click here to get to the Actions & Events page where information can be found directly below the flyer on the July 11 Defend Democracy Action.


Things Are Heating Up: Will Any Policymakers Start Taking Seriously What Is Coming?

I have spent 45 years as a researcher. I value research, laud due diligence, and appreciate the need to get all the facts before launching in a new direction. But there are times when deliberation is a fault (see Hamlet), where enough is known to inform deliberate action and when being overly cautious can allow the conditions one sought to change, to accelerate to a point where no action matters. As we march inexorably toward that point, I keep wondering: “What shoe needs to drop before we all look aghast and say: “We are in deep shit.” Personally, I think we are passed that point. But when speaking with New Mexico politicians I keep hearing the same old song: “we are dependent on gas and oil and so….” Well, we are dependent on water, too. And the past week’s most welcome rain aside, we are rapidly running out of water here in NM. And if you want to see what is coming, the west coast is a good place to look.

After a short analysis of the situation in the Northwest and in California, told more through quotes and graphics, we offer info on an ever so germane conference being organized in NM by Quivira and slated for November followed by a 2-minute video on “the restorative economy.”

In the Northwest

Today, we rely on two NY Times pieces that together paint a pretty sobering picture, first of the “heat dome” currently cooking the Northwest and then a more long-term look at the sad state of affairs in California agriculture and the increasingly desperate state of affairs related to the Central Valley’s diminishing water options.

First, the historic heat wave, depicted in the map below. The darker red depicts areas experiencing the highest temperatures since 1979 in just the last three days. What the map does not disclose is just how high those temperatures have been in the Northwest, with Portland hitting 116 degrees, Seattle reaching 104, and communities in British Columbia reaching 114 degrees.

The darkest shade of red indicates highest temperature recorded since 1979. We are cooking.

The graphics that follow show how much of a dramatic departure these temperatures are. The first shows that in Seattle in 2019-2021 there have been seven days with temps 20 degrees above normal for that day of the year, with three more in 2015-16 and then one other in the past 30 years. A similar tale is told in Portland.

The next image is even more compelling as it shows the average daily temperature in Seattle for every day in the past 42 years. It is worth noting that, before this year, Seattle had had only one day above 100 degrees. More importantly, the last three days with temps well over 100, are coming in June. This is important because, as the graphic depicts, historically June is not the warmest month, that honor goes to July and August. The impact of hot weather in June is magnified by the fact that days are longer and the cooling nights shorter in June resulting in less evening cooling and hotter nights. Remember, these are communities that have not typically relied upon air conditioning, indeed most homes and public buildings do not even have air conditioning. But even if they did, the region has been experiencing widespread power outages and the sustained heat is causing heat-related deaths throughout the region.

While the headlines focus on the 116 degree heat in Portland and Seattle, the larger issue is that when things cool down this weekend, “cool” has been redefined and temperatures will continue at over 100 degrees for some time. While the 116 degree temperatures grab the headlines, the real danger is in the sustained heat over 100 as this is what slowly cooks the earth and dries out the forest, already dry from a dismal rainy season and diminished show pack.

With July and August summer rains come, they bring with them lightning and even more feared, “dry lightning” that can trigger forest fires without accompanying dampening rain. The summer does not look promising in the Northwest.

In California

California has experienced the devastating impact of “dry lightning” with several years of withering, deadly forest fires that have erased entire cities and devastated millions of acres of forest, just one of many manifestations of climate change triggered extreme weather. But today, we focus on the drought and its impact on California agriculture.

California has been suffering from a withering drought, smaller snowpack for multiple years and it is forcing water regulators, legislators, farmers and southern California cities who rely on the water flowing from the north, all to make very difficult decisions. Today we focus on the choices faced by California farmers and the drought’s impact on the Nation’s supply of nuts, fruits and vegetables. .

By 2040, the San Joaquin Valley is projected to lose at least 535,000 acres of agricultural production. That’s more than a tenth of the area farmed.

And if the drought perseveres and no new water can be found, nearly double that amount of land is projected to go idle, with potentially dire consequences for the nation’s food supply. California’s $50 billion agricultural sector supplies two-thirds of the country’s fruits and nuts and more than a third of America’s vegetables — the tomatoes, pistachios, grapes and strawberries that line grocery store shelves from coast to coast.

NY Times: “It Is Some of America’s Richest Farmland: But What Is It Without Water

The Times goes on to report on the choices being made by California rice farmers. California produces most of the highly valued sushi rice for the US with 30% of the rice grown in Northern California being exported to Asia. That 30% of the rice produced for exportation is shipped via freighter to Asia (a region with abundant rice fields), should be a cause for consideration of reinventing our food production, reducing or even eliminating transoceanic exportation and focusing on development of food production systems that meet local and regional needs first? Sadly, instead of this consideration, tens of thousands of acres of land used for growing rice are lying fallow, with farmers selling their water rights to farmers in the south, a practice becoming more prominent in drought years.

Letting a field lie fallow for one, or even several years, can be an option for rice and vegetable producers, but not so for producers of nuts and fruits, as their trees require annual replenishment or those trees will wither and die, unable to regenerate in the following year.

Sushi rice farmers are hardly alone in making calculations about what and when to grow. Shasta Dam supplies drinking water to scores of California communities.

“Because the rivers are so hot and dry this year, the federal government, which runs the Shasta Dam, where cold Sacramento River water is stored, has said the water needs to stay in the reservoir through the summer months for another source of food: fish that hatch in California’s rivers.”

NY Times: “It Is Some of America’s Richest Farmland: But What Is It Without Water

Shasta Dam forms California’s largest storage reservoir, Shasta Lake, which can hold about 4.5 million acre-feet. In years of normal precipitation, it stores and distributes about 20 percent of the state’s developed water — about 7 million acre-feet —through its massive system of reservoirs and canals. Water is transported 450 miles from Lake Shasta in Northern California to Bakersfield in the southern San Joaquin Valley. Along the way, the Central Valley Project has long-term agreements with more than 250 contractors in 29 of California’s 58 counties. And this year, all of them must try to secure water elsewhere.

My question: what happens when there is no longer an “elsewhere?”

As is our habit, humans prefer to use innovation than restraint and profit can drive innovation at the expense of future generations. So too, in California agribusiness. From The NY Times:

“With more demands on the surface water flowing through the river — to maintain river flows, for instance, or flush seawater out of the California Delta — farmers turned increasingly to the water under their land.’

The aquiver now provides 40 percent of the water for California agriculture in a normal year, and far more in dry years. In parts of the state, chiefly in the San Joaquin Valley, at the southern end of the Central Valley, more groundwater is taken out than nature can replenish.”

NY Times: “It Is Some of America’s Richest Farmland: But What Is It Without Water

The aquifer is not “elsewhere” it is not a resource that can replenish itself on a time frame that works for agribusiness. Recognizing that if that tap is left open, agribusiness will drink up all of the aquifer, the legislature passed the Sustainable Groundwater Management Act, which places restrictions on how much water they can pump. And so, another elsewhere is quickly becoming unavailable. And if you can’t pump as much water from under the ground, you simply can’t farm as much land in the San Joaquin Valley.

Recall, that we get 2/3 of our nuts and fruits from the San Joaquin Valley.

So, I return to my opening question: When do policy makers at the national, state and local levels connect the dots and realize that serious sacrifices must be made now to prevent catastrophe or even extinction. The withering heat in the Northwest and the ongoing drought in California will very likely result in another horrific fire season; it will result in water being trucked to many more communities than in the past; it will significantly reduce the production of our fruits, vegetables and nuts.

But this is but one manifestation of our over consumption, our failure to make sacrifices for today to protect future generations. The seas are acidifying, the ice is melting, and emissions are heating our atmosphere. We are running out of “elsewheres” my friends. We’ve marched, voted, and petitioned and politicians respond more to the needs of their corporate friends and donors with nary a care for future generations. What can we do? Your thoughts welcome.

Click here to read the full NY Times report. The Times focuses upon California, but in this Washington Post piece, It’s the Climate Stupid,” a picture of the impact of rising temperatures across the world is described….and it makes California and the Northwest look balmy.

The story told about California is quite obviously relevant to NM, hence Rethink’s inclusion of the Quivira conference coming in November. We will have more on this conference as details are available, but what is published to date is worth checking out.


Quivira Conference. Regenerate: Weaving Water, Land and People. Click here for more information. I am trying to get Quivira leadership for a radio show this week as they are hosting what looks like a most promising and, given the report on drought above, a most relevant conference for NM. While not being held until the first week of November, I thought sharing this now was a good idea, so people can get it in the calendars. Stay tuned, as more details are available, we will report on them.


Creating A Reparative Economy

In just over two minutes, this video provides a glimpse at what Rethink Our Democracy has been exploring: alternatives to capitalism. They come under many banners: restorative economy, doughnut economics, reparative economy, democratized economy, no-growth economy. But they all have one thing: placing people over profits and either entirely replacing capitalism or fundamentally changing how it functions. Check it out and if you want to be part of Rethink’s exploration of these issues, sign up for our next Huddle on July 6th by clicking here.

And conducting research on how to develop local food systems, as an alternative to importing our food from “elsewhere” is one of Rethink’s top policy priorities. If you are interested in helping with that research, please write us at RetakeResponse@gmail.com.

In solidarity and hope,

Paul & Roxanne



Categories: Climate Change, Agriculture, Land Use & Wildlife

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2 replies

  1. Is it only me? Or can others see the absurdity of growing soy and corn crops, not using valuable farmable land for a variety of vegetables, but for growing fake meat? I can accept that many people have decided to not eat meat but then why use so many resources to grow fake meat? It is not a dietary replacement for meat protein, it only tastes like meat (ish). Modern soy and corn holds little nutrition. We NEED that variety of vegetable types to receive the full spectrum of nutrition, minerals, bacteria, etc. It is bad enough we grow corn to drive cars and feed cows. This new insanity!

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