It’s no secret to anyone at this point– California is in a drought. A moisture-sucking, damp-lacking wetness devoid heat stroke, within which even a several day rain amounts to little more than a drizzle.
Many in Los Angeles, or even those outside, have viewed it’s decrepit “river” dribbling a mere trickle of water down a vast stone column. Looking like a giant, sorry drainage ditch with concrete bowling bumpers at both beds. Visions of Point Break in a hot sweat. Keanu firing off a few rounds into the sky with a scream. This river, in all it’s un-river-ness–a gimp-ed man bleeding and screaming to high heaven in its shallow, muddy puddle water– is the shining visual representation of how bad the situation in California is getting.
Over the last four years, the drought has thickened, drawing all lifelines in. NASA reports that storage has been on a decline since even 2002, their Jay Famiglietti announcing a few weeks ago that the state had only one year left of supply. And politicos from around the map are now throwing their balloons in the fight as well.
Former Leary disciple, and one-time wannabe Lenny Bruce, but current shock jock conservative host of The Savage Nation Michael Savage earlier this week made a rare interesting point. That the drought in California might be in large part due to the cultivation of Marijuana around the state. Let us consider: in 2006, there were a reported 17.5 million outdoor marijuana plants in California. This number has surely increased since then. We’ll say, very conservatively, eighteen. Requiring about six gallons of water a day, an outdoor plant’s grow season lasts for around 150 days. So that’s six times eighteen million, times 150.
On the year, that’s over 16 billion gallons of water, conservatively estimated and without even taking indoor plants into account. Mr. Savage says there you have it. But in truth, there you most likely do not have it.
For starters, droughts have been happening for billions of years. Without the influence of human life or agriculture whatsoever. So let us first look here. A drought is caused when high pressure air systems over land push moisture-rich low pressure systems away, usually because of cool water surface temperatures close by. The pressure in the air keeps it dry, and the low pressure air over the water cannot permeate the high pressure, keeping the temperature cool below and hot around, but most importantly, dry over land.
With this in mind, it should come as no surprise that the desert climate of southern California and much else of the state is susceptible to heavy droughting. It’s a desert. It has been for centuries. What is surprising, or at least unsettling, is the persistence and extremity of the high pressure ridge we’re currently experiencing, and have been on and off for the past three or so years.
“Two-thirds of the precipitation deficit in California were due to factors we wouldn’t judge to have long predictability at all,” says research meteorologist Martin Hoerling of the National Oceanic and Atmospheric Administration. “They resulted from the randomness of the atmosphere.” But what then does that final third have to thank for draining water from the state like a resource-hungry Noah Cross? Well, basically us.
Because human influence and climate change fill that last slot. And if we’re all being adults here–and seeing that this is a weed periodical, legally, we’re supposed to be– let’s just agree that most of the direct effects we feel from climate change are of our own doing. If not all.
So that final third is us. Where nature and the “randomness” of the atmosphere leave off, greenhouse gases, pollution and drilling take over. Since the early 20th century, California has been drawing water from underground basins so as to offset its shortage. But seeing as groundwater reserves don’t self replenish, sinking and drying have severely increased. Couple that with vast and steady increases in temperature for the past few decades and the picture begins to paint itself. But with oil pastels only. Because we’re running low on water-based.
Climate Central released a recent piece on this phenomenon of air pressure and temperature. Many droughts in California’s history have lasted longer than the one currently underway, but never before has the temperature been so high throughout the state. And with these severely higher temps causing a much greater pressure over land, moisture-rich air (which was already a rare occurrence) has nowhere to go. Now add the culture. Not only marijuana, but tomatoes (the nation’s most), broccolli (the nation’s most), strawberries (the nation’s most). Don’t even get me started on almonds.
With so much agriculture and crops in need of water, it’s more a collected effort of lifestyle that’s precipitating this lack of precipitation than any one cash crop or single act. As a whole, California, and as such, the modern world at large, needs to radically self-inspect and change from within
No, marijuana cultivation is not the cause of California’s drought. Neither is climate change. It’s ignorance. And an unwillingness to change along with time and our climate. So here’s to putting our potheads together for a wetter tomorrow. Or else we may never live to see the Kevin Costner/Dennis Hopper cinematic masterpiece of the ‘90s become a reality.