California is going through a terrible drought and 2013 was the driest on record in the state. So who is suffering, financially and otherwise, from its effects?
Hint: it is not the coastal elite. The water still flows to the upscale neighborhoods of La Jolla, Malibu, and Marin County. Their lawns are watered, their BMW’s washed and polished, their swimming pools full.
No, it’s the farmers in the Central Valley and the agricultural workers who are idled as 500,000 acres of the best farmland on the planet lies fallow. Where is their water going? To save the environment. It’s better, according to the coastal elite, that Juan and José should wonder how they are going to feed their families, since there are no strawberries to pick, than that the delta smelt should be inconvenienced in a drought.
And, of course, the heart and soul of the environmental movement in California is the coastal elite, insulated from its consequences by their six- and seven-figure incomes. As Victor Davis Hanson points out in a devastating “j’accuse,” there seems to be few limits to the amount of suffering the California aristocracy is willing to impose on the peasants so that they can pat themselves on the back for their environmental stewardship.
As Hanson explains, while California’s population grew from 23 million in 1976 to 40 million today, the water projects needed to supply that 79 percent increase, such as the state California Water Project and the federal Central Valley Project, were cancelled in the name of the environment:
At some fateful moment in the 1970s, the other California on the coast, drunk with the globalized wealth that poured into Napa Valley, the Silicon Valley, the great coastal university nexuses at Stanford, Berkeley, UCLA, and Caltech, the entertainment industry, the defense industry, and the financial industry decided that they had transcended the old warnings of more Californians needing far more water to survive more droughts. When you are rich, you can afford for the first time in your life to favor a newt with spots on his toes over someone else that lacks your money, clout, and sensitivities.
They are equally indifferent to the effects that rising fuel and electricity costs have on people of limited incomes. If the price of a year’s worth of gasoline were to rise from $3,000 to $6,000 (i.e. from $4 to $8 a gallon), it wouldn’t affect the lifestyle of someone earning $1 million one bit, a mere 3/10ths of one percent. For someone living on $50,000, it’s a devastating six percent hit.
But, as Marie Antoinette never actually said, they can always eat cake.