Perhaps you’ve seen the pictures of Californians standing on cracked dirt where lakes used to be.
They send an unmistakable message that the state’s drought is now a crisis, one that requires residents (but not farmers, yet) to dramatically reduce their water use.
Kansas Citians aren’t facing that today. The nation’s longest river snakes through our community, making local water service a matter of distribution more than supply.
Yet the California pictures are scary. They suggest we’ll eventually run out of our own options for addressing climate change because the climate will make the choices for us.
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There’s still strong disagreement over the causes of a hotter, drier planet. Few experts, though, doubt that living species are going to face severe environmental challenges over the next 50 to 100 years because of changing weather patterns.
Climate change is a “done deal,” author Jonathan Franzen argues in The New Yorker magazine. He thinks we should now focus on local environmental concerns instead of a broad agenda to cool Earth.
It’s an interesting point. I can switch to LED bulbs in my house, but that’s unlikely to magically provide water for California, even if everyone buys them. And if climate change really is a done deal, there’s little reason now to sacrifice convenience and cash to marginally reduce one’s carbon footprint.
Politicians, sensing this, have argued for fewer environmental regulations, not more.
Yet surrender seems senseless too. The planet’s health improves when its resources are better managed. After all, few of us would seek a return to the days when rivers burned and skies were brown. So we muddle along, making the environment a little bit better but not nearly good enough.
At some point, though, the muddle won’t suffice. Today we argue about options. Wind energy or nuclear? Mass transit or highways? Coastal homes or the highlands?
California is telling us those options will eventually run out.
Cities there must cut consumption by 25 percent this year, an amazing order. Fruit growers may soon be out of business — not because their markets have collapsed or the government says so, but because there just isn’t enough water.
Kansas Citians haven’t confronted the California reality yet. But you might want to clip those California drought stories and save them for the grandchildren. They may need some advice on what to do when, not if, our water supplies dwindle.