TWENTY-five million beleaguered Southern Californians may be relieved knowing that while the fire season is in full swing, the region will soon cool down and stop burning – at least for a little while.
The wildfires that ignited recently across foothills and mountains that were so dry they exploded like arsenals packed with gunpowder will end with the rains. But as development chews deeper into the shrinking margins of wild areas, the human impact of fast-moving infernos promises to grow only more costly – to say nothing of the price paid by the state’s stunning biodiversity.
And while the water shortage that has turned some of the state’s most prized cropland into dusty, dead fields may ease somewhat with the onset of the fall, the state’s long-dwindling water supplies will continue to disappear with the Sierra snowpack that feeds it.
Yet as California continues to face a series of existential threats to the quality of life, a coherent policy or plan has yet to be heard from the state’s overly partisan and dysfunctional leadership.
But what homeowners, renters and business owners are hearing from state, county and local agencies this fall is that they have got to cut back on their water consumption – now – or else.
Sacramento wants Californians to cut back on everything it seems – except more people.
The leadership well in Sacramento (never too deep of late) has run so bone-dry, in fact, that both parties are still espousing renewed "growth" as the singular formula for reinvigorating California’s moribund economy. They apparently believe that growth in turn will restore everything else that’s broken in the state.
This explains why our state’s braintrust in Sacramento was hell-bent earlier this month on sneaking through a waiver of environmental impact reports for a 75,000-seat football stadium that billionaire real estate mogul Ed Roski wants to build in the City of Industry – amid one of the most congested stretches of freeways and roads in Southern California.
In a letter to his colleagues, state Senate President Pro-Tem Darrell Steinberg hailed the 18,000 jobs the project may create without so much as raising a single question as to the long-term impact another massive entertainment venue would have on a region that’s already in perpetual gridlock.
Like most of his cohorts, Steinberg can’t envision a future for California that’s based on concepts like a sustainable population, one that balances quality-of-life issues with economic stability. Instead, Steinberg and others look at California as a cancer cell; something that essentially has to keep metastasizing until it dies.
While even conservative projections of population growth place upward of 60 million people in California by midcentury, there has been virtually no public debate in Sacramento over whether the state even has the capacity to sustain such a human presence at our consumption rates and what such a future population would mean for those living here.
Until the state’s leadership is either forced to seriously address the fundamental issue of California’s growing population – and a population summit would be a good start – or until they are replaced by leaders who will take up the most critical long-term issue that confronts our state, then Californians can only expect their quality of life to vanish along with the water every passing season.
Mark Cromer is a senior writing fellow for Californians for Population Stabilization (CAPS).