The horizon is not so far as we can see, but as far as we can imagine

The First Great Environmental Crisis Will Be

Water. As I’ve said for many years.

The world is facing an imminent water crisis, with demand expected to outstrip the supply of fresh water by 40 percent by the end of this decade, experts have said on the eve of a crucial UN water summit.

I’ll use the US as an example, though this going to effect almost all countries, some much worse than others, and it will cause a number of wars. Candidates include all nations along the Nile River, and all nations around the Himalayan plateau, among many others. The US may threaten war with Canada to get Canada’s water resources and may invade if Canada is recalcitrant. The Great Lakes will be a great problem.

But let’s take a look at the (more or less) current situation. These are the 2015 numbers for fresh water withdrawals (numbers are done every 5 years, but I, at least, can’t find the 2020 numbers. There won’t be a dramatic change, however.)

The first thing we notice is that electricity generation and agriculture, for crops, no animals, are the big users. Public supply is a distant third with industrial an even more distant fourth.

How is this historically? The news is mostly good, except in irrigation:

But the irrigation news is bad. It’s only a 2% increase, but…

Not every sector posted declines, though. Fresh groundwater withdrawals increased by 8 percent compared to 2010. And irrigation increased by 2 percent.

Again, the California drought effect is to blame. Irrigation accounts for 70 percent of fresh groundwater withdrawals. Rivers and reservoirs were so depleted during the drought that California farmers pumped and pumped from aquifers. Fresh groundwater withdrawals in California for irrigation increased by 60 percent, while surface water withdrawals for irrigation in the state decreased by 64 percent.

Withdrawing from groundwater means that there’s not enough rain. The long California drought, finally broken this year, but very likely to return, leads to taking more water from aquifers than can be recharged and damages aquifers so that their maximum capacity is permanently reduced.

Let’s flip back to energy generation. Thermoelectric means coal and gas and oil turbines, mostly. There is a general move away, but not quickly enough.

That’s the new generation added, here’s the retired.

Notice that the natural gas added (9.31) is almost equal to the natural gas and coal removed (9.51). Natural gas uses less water than coal, but still plenty.

The pace of reduction of use of water needs to increase significantly. Solar, while it doesn’t use water for generation does use a lot of water in construction, so wind is preferable from this point of view, with the standard issue of difficulty in supplying baseline energy, since the wind is rarely completely reliable.

There are solutions in many places. California is a huge water problem in the US, but desalinization could provide much of the solution since California is on the coast. I’ll do a full article on that later, but despite high costs, large scale desalinization is possible especially if it done using tidal power and not thermoelectric.

And tidal power is one of the most promising new powers. Wind and solar are unsuited for steady baseline generation, but in places close to the ocean, the waves are constant. For example:

As a newer technology this is still expensive, but moving to scale would reduce costs significantly. It’s 24 hour, though there’s variation in energy generation due to tidal cycles, it’s obviously renewable and it doesn’t use up water during generation, while it doesn’t have nuclear’s downides.

The great problem with desalinization is simply getting it from the shore inland. Depending on geography that may be doable, or not, but great waterworks programs were done in the 18th and 19th century, and much is possible.

Still, as with everything else, we needed to moving on solutions 20 years, or more, ago, and that means solutions aren’tgoing to be ready at the necessary scale in time.

One thing to take from all this, however, is that your person water use isn’t all that important. This doesn’t mean some ridiculous usages shouldn’t end: lawns should be illegal anywhere that doesn’t have enough yearlong rainfall to support them without watering, for example, but taking a shower isn’t going to kill the budget. And as for agriculture, while we can increase water thru desalinization, California growing mass crops of almonds, notoriously water-thirsty, is and always has been ridiculous. Switching to crops that need less water is a no-brainer, though it may require price supports and agricultural market restructuring.

But let’s take it as a given that there’s going to be a worldwide freshwater crisis. Even with use reductions and desalinization, rivers that are fed by glaciers and snowpacks are going to experience a decline and some will stop existing entirely. This will effect all the countries around the Himalayas, all the glacier fed rivers of North and South America, water outflow from the Corderillas, etc, etc…

At first, in most cases, there will be an increase in water, because of faster glacier melt and old snowpacks which have been essentially permanent melting. Then there will be a long term decrease, which will not be reversed without some form of global cooling, which will probably require geo-engineering.

On the bright side, increased warming will, globally, likely increase rainfall, but that doesn’t mean it will increase rainfall where you are or where crops are, and the general prospect for growing crops under global warming scenarios is dismal, except in certain farther north and south areas. Overall, however, the gains will be vastly outstripped by the losses and if we see, for example, problems with any of the great monsoons, the effects will be catrastrophic.

This will be exacerbated by the fact that aquifers worldwide have been massively depleted and the depletion continues. This is as true in India and China as it is in the US. Entire regions which rely on groundwater will collapse.

A water crisis thus feeds directly into a food cris.

As an individual there are solutions. Rainwater collection, condensers, creating your own storage spaces (common in the 20th century but illegal in most municipalities today) and so on. These will be made more difficult because of widespread pollution. It’s no longer safe, for the first time in human history, to just drink rain-water, for example and figuring out how to make the water you collect safe will be a major issue.

But you should consider doing some research on this (and I will likely revisit it with more details). You can survive 30 to 40 days or even more without food. Without water you die quick.

And, politically speaking, any country or region where the water is privately owned needs to move to public ownership.

If you think food riots are bad, water-riots will be worse and quite justifiably so.

The future is getting very close to being today.

The results of the work I do, like this article, are free, but food isn’t, so if you value my work, please DONATE or SUBSCRIBE.


Analyzing The Trans Panic


God As Idea, By Eric Anderson


  1. StewartM

    Ian, are these graphs for the entire world, the West, or just the US?

    Most of the crops grown in the US at least are not eaten by humans, but by animals, so I suspect much of that cropland % is linked to meat consumption even if the water isn’t directly used by livestock.

    The worldwide ration appears to be less, because much of the world doesn’t have the luxury of hamburgers or steak every meal.

    There is a counterargument which holds some merit, as worldwide livestock often eat food humans can’t, but I don’t think that is true for US agriculture, at least, and maybe much of the developed world. We seem to fed our livestock corn, barley, soy and other grains.

  2. different clue


    There is a small but growing movement for grass/pasture/range strictly-only fed livestock. I get my beef now at the farmers market from a family-owned strictly grass/pasture operation called Vestergaard Farms.

    During the multi-species pasture growing season, the animals are outside grazing in the pastures. Enough pasture land is devoted to the production of haylage for the winter that the animals eat the farm’s own haylage through the winter.
    ( Haylage –>

    Perennial non-woody plants ( mixed species pasture) on land allows for better soil development of that land resulting in better rainfall/snowmelt insoak-uptake of all descending skywater. Any that the soil can’t retain after absorbing it will trickle-drain slowly down to the groundwater level, replenishing groundwater. So this is a water-friendly method of growing food on the land , so far as I can tell.

    The meat is reasonably expensive and worth the price on several levels.

    I have noticed something interesting about the beef-fat I render out of the soup bones and broth bones . . . . whereas beef fat ( tallow ) is supposed to be fairly firm-hard at room temperature. The melting point of beef fat is supposed to be ” 42 degrees” in artificial plastic Centigrade degrees. (I have no idea what that is in natural organic Fahrenheit degrees.) But I notice that the beef fat which I have rendered out of the Vestergaard Farms beef bones and bone-pieces is very soft at the temperature I keep my little dwelling unit at, which is 64 degrees in natural organic Fahrenheit degrees. ( I have no idea what that is in artifical plastic Centigrade degrees).

    And once I built up enough rendered Vestergaard Farms beef fat to have a reasonable quantity, I notice that a purely liquid fraction is separating out. At 64 natural organic Fahrenheit degrees, this fraction is strictly liquid. In other words, it is an oil. Since it comes from Vestergaard’s beef, I think it is fair to call it beef oil.

    Beef oil. Think of that.

  3. Willy

    The Oglala aquifer, obviously. But in Illinois, probably not so much. My point isn’t disregarding the experts, but being skeptical of the experts. I’ve experienced government experts being bought by big corporate so they’ll mandate solutions which encumber the many but enrich a few, usually in said big corporate. If the potential exists that somebody powerful is going to be making serious bank off water shortages, then I’d start my skeptical watchdogging right there. And I’m not gonna be fooled by influencers telling me that our long-suffering trannies will be the first to dehydrate. But yeah, it sure looks like farmers in Nebraska are gonna have to pay the piper for solutions. Uh… I mean corporate farms in Nebraska. I await news reports of dowsers suddenly and quite mysteriously, dying off en masse.

    For my part, I quit eating all red meat long ago.

  4. Astrid

    You need probably 5 orders of magnitude more water to grow your food than is needed for hydration. Desalination and trucking in water can easily solve hydration but not food growing. Not sure why they’re mixed in together in the discussion.

    But climate change is going to affect the food supply before mass water depletion. One late frost and all those almond are gone. One mini ARKflood and those almond trees are gone. A couple mild winters allowing a build up of beetle population and bye bye Western pine forests. Then throw in some diseases and all of a sudden, no eggs in England and no pork in China. Oranges no longer viable for much of Florida and Brazil. No bananas for anybody.

    BTW, almond are not particularly thirsty, they use about as much water as lawns and other fruit trees and veggies. They’re simply ridiculous when made into almond milk, which has a far bigger carbon/irrigation water footprint and tastes worse than soy milk or oat milk.

    West Coast will be the primary produce growing area for the foreseeable future. The Mediterranean climate and ability to control water results in far superior and consistent yields than anything East of the Rockies. My home grown strawberries, selected for taste and picked perfectly ripe, is not as fragrant and sweet as run of the mill Cali strawberries selected to last 2 weeks in grocery displays.

    Having said that, I just planted 5 apple trees and 5 Asian pear trees during my lunch break today. Drilling my stumps to implant mushroom spawns tomorrow. Then blueberries, peaches, plums, persimmons, pawpaws, chestnuts, figs, and so on. Hopefully it’s just a bit of fun, but maybe they’ll one day feed my whole neighborhood.

  5. There is a Canadian company that uses only wave energy for seawater desalinating and inland pumping. Other techniques such as ram pumps to move saltwater to onshore reservoirs that could then feed tilapia farms and oyster beds are in development. Much of our current agriculture is done wastefully, and that has to change.

  6. mago

    Almonds and artichokes along with pistachios are water gobbling environmental disasters, but turkeys gotta fill their gullets.

    Since teen years I’ve been a water warrior and conservation advocate. Many a resistant ear has heard my rants over the decades.

    Having walked the talk in rural Mediterranean Spain and in the desert southwest, I’ve established some creds.

    Now I live in a mountainside cabin with no running water or plumbing. (Yeah, there’s a sink, but the drain is frozen at the moment.)

    I’m circumspect in how I use the daily two gallons hauled uphill from the well spigot that taps into an underground river that was located by a dowser. The water is used for cooking, cleaning and bathing my body with a wash cloth. So there’s that.

    I’ve paid attention to desertification and the politicalization and corporatization of water for a few decades.

    I even read Cadillac Desert back in the last century.

    All I want to say here is: you ain’t seen nothing yet . . .

  7. anon y'mouse

    CA is a nonsense place to have mass agriculture, fertile volcanic soils notwithstanding.

    it is even more a nonsense place to do cattle farming. an ex of mine whose indirect ancestor was a gringo interloping pioneer gold rush settler and eventual federal representative and presidential candidate, wrote a book and included observations about the environmental devastation he had seen just from cattle ranchers over his lifetime in N. Cali.

    and that’s given that the interior used to be a seasonal lake. it’s an arid place, barring the northwest rainforests and spot other locations in mountains (and even those are arid, if you look carefully—the very first “non migration” native culture in the New World is in a place named for the above-mentioned gold rush pioneer, and they were NOT farming). gee, there must be a reason for all of that showing a deep wisdom and not simply unsophisticated technological development.

    the natives there didn’t take to farming, not because they were stupid (everywhere else in the country took to corn growing gradually, even up north) but because it wasn’t necessary and it was likely “more trouble than it was worth”. foodstuffs were sufficient with gathered and trapped animals and sea products. growing up in the Bay, we used to have local crab and other stuff but I don’t know how that is faring now. it long ago became unaffordable for the average human and considering the contamination, i don’t know if i would trust what is caught there.

    if you are doing mass ag and trucking everything everywhere, the most rational place would be the old Black Belt of the Southeastern US. two growing seasons and a ton of rain, stretched out all year long (fall to early winter is actually the dry season there). worse thing is the absolutely wiltering wet heat interspersed with hailstorms in the summertime.

    but if Global Warming “is on”, then that place will be unlivable by humans soon.

    perhaps roombahs can farm there.

  8. Ché Pasa

    You ain’t seen nothing yet…

    Correct so.

    Out here in the wilderness of Central New Mexico, water is the constant issue. As is population. Maximum carrying capacity. Etc.

    No Native pueblos were established where we are because there’s no surface water to speak of even during the rare wet years. Ironic because during late Glacial times this was a large shallow lake that had no outlet but eventually drained away anyway (underground), salinated, evaporated, and turned to dust. The settlers didn’t really arrive until the turn of the 20th century when artesian wells tapped the aquifer causing a brief period of irrigated agriculture that was cut short by drought and dust storms. Drought is the natural condition here. There are still some few irrigated farms in the area and much pasture land for cattle — I wish there were bison as there once were, but it’s not up to me.

    There is a belief that Global Warming means global drought and that people will stay put as water becomes scarce and disappears leading to much suffering and what’s thought to be an extinction level cull of human-kind. Is it true?

    There is hope around here that the drought cycle we’re used to will be broken somehow and a period if not of abundance, at least of survivability, possibly without electricity and other modern conveniences, will occur as the grip of climate change tightens. We’ve had the warmest winter I can remember here with very little snow, but quite a lot of rain. It’s welcome. Will it last? Who can say? Chaos seems to be the guiding weather principle — at least for now.

    I look at what appears to be madness in parts of the West and Southwest in particular, and I don’t see a way for the major urban centers — LA, Phoenix, Las Vegas, etc. — to survive what’s coming. Yet they keep adding population. WTAF? Especially in the Phoenix area. It’s nuts. But there you go. Under the kind of stresses people are facing world wide, not just in the desert, they do crazy things.

    We’ll see a completely new fresh water regime before too long, and there is no doubt our betters seek to profit from it.

  9. Astrid



    I’m sure you know that many Americans wash and dry their bath towels daily? My in-laws would rather spend money that they don’t have a lot of on hotels, than stay more than 1 night with us per visit, because I got really confused about my MiL asking for fresh towels years ago.

    I went to college in Cali. A significant proportion took more than one shower per day. The lawns were watered every night until water ran into the streets. It was very very pretty.

  10. anon y'mouse

    oh, and let’s stop lying about “green power”, which will has not yet kept pace with even annual growth in demand, and continued population growth and continued “electrification” of everything. it’s going to be nuclear.

    the only question is what kind of nuclear in a privatized corporate short term profit world, especially when the long term government options weren’t all that better?

    Fukushima, or Hanford? or countless other totally toxic places that have been left to rot from their involvement in some link in the chain?

    too bad we’re not French. well, at least the French as they used to be.

  11. different clue

    @ anon y’mouse ,

    I will venture the guess that the historical ancestor you mention is John Fremont.

  12. different clue

    @ Ché Pasa ,

    I hope we can save Las Vegas in particular, at least the entertainment parts of it.

    Las Vegas is America’s Temple City of the Fun Gods.

  13. Astrid

    anon y’mouse,

    Actually, California soil is only so so, except for portions of the Central Valley and Imperial Valley that used to be dry lake beds. As far as I know, there’s very little crop culture around volcanic area such as the Cascades (Lassen, Shasta, Mammoth) and most of CA mountains are granite.

    It’s all about the weather. Mountain ranges in North America run north to south, that means there’s very little blocking the north south air movements. This is why we get huge temperature shifts, especially in the winter, from 0F to 70F in a few hours and back. This is terrible for growing produce and especially stone fruits, which tend to flower early and can sustain complete crop loss if air temperature after they bloom drop below the mid 20s.

    Another key determinant to fruit quality is getting water. Too little is usually bad but too much can make the fruit bland and low brix. Typically commerical producers aim for sufficient watering to support maximum production of minimally acceptable fruit. Some home orchardists who care more about quality can throttle to 60-70% of that watering for 1/4 the production of the tastiest fruit. East Coast orchardists can’t control if rain comes just before ripening and makes the crop watery. West Coast orchardists who have dry summers can control precisely how much water to dial in the crop they want.

    Finally, just having 6 months of sunny days, especially hot days with relatively cool nights, is very conducive to sweet fruits with basically no fungal disease issues and relatively low insect pressure. You can’t grow an organic plum or cherry on the East Coast, you might be able to do so out West. It’s just better. I grow my own fruit and veggies and supplement with a CSA and shipping at farmer’s markets. But Trader Joe’s basic CA nectarines are so much better than East Coast fruits.

    The only other way to get quality similar to what you get from the arid West is to grow under glass. This is happening more and more. You can also import from other Mediterranean climate such as Chile/Peru, South Africa, Australia, or Israel/Morocco, though they are typically not nearly as good because the fruit is picked earlier and the variety is more biased for surviving long transits. Of course all these places have possibly even worse water issues than California. Most of the fruits and veggies do grow well in Oregon and Washington State, but CA’s southern position permit an extended harvest, especially for crops with short harvest windows such as sweet cherries, apricots, and certain peach/nectarine varieties.

    So in my opinion, CA will continue to be there leading fresh produce producer for some sometime to come. They might cut back on some crops including almond and rice, but we’re still some time from zero day. What’s more likely to kill off CA agriculture will be more extreme climate and forest fires that are wrecking harvests in Napa and Sonoma.

  14. Ché Pasa


    I’ve always had a good time in Las Vegas. Can’t be beat! 😉 But those roulette tables are fixed, I tells ya…

  15. StewartM


    I’m sure you know that many Americans wash and dry their bath towels daily?

    I know plenty of Americans and non-Americans too. It’s a clean fetish, and sometimes a germ fear fetish. Wear something for a few hours, doing nothing particularly exerting or sweaty, and then toss it into the clothes hamper.

    But, as someone said, using a towel on yourself to doing so *when you’re as clean as you’ll ever be”. Likewise, unless I am doing something sweaty, I have no problem cycling through a short list of clothing through the week. I’m sure my weekly laundry load is maybe a quarter of most.

  16. mago

    Somewhere around 2017 or so the mighty and powerful—Archer Daniel Midlands, PepsiCo and Nestle’s—convened in Río de Janeiro and drew up a convent to control the world’s water supply.
    They didn’t even try to hide it, but made it public, confident in their hubristic way that no one would take notice. They were correct, almost no one did.
    The avalanche is poised to fall.

    And, oh yeah, though I’m sparse in water use, I wear clean clothes and underwear. (Have access to a washer and dryer.) just to clarify from my earlier comment.

  17. different clue

    Laundry . . . laundry . . . . I don’t have a washer or dryer. I would rather keep my garden tools where a washer and dryer would normally live. So I go to the laundromat.

    Since I want to go as few times as feasible, I build up a whole lotta buncha laundry and then take it to the machines. I have learned that if I do all my shirts and some pants and a towel on one trip, and then do all the underwear and socks and the pants and the towel again on another trip, and keep switching off; that I have reduced my laundromat visits to about once every 1.5 months.

    I use the Milnor brand triple load machines. My whole tripload can be stuffed into one machine. Each machine consumes 40 gallons of water per use. So I am using 40 gallons of water about every 6 weeks for laundry, whatever that works out to.

    Wearing clothes for more than a day? I compromise. I change clothes each work day but keep wearing clothes for a while on my off days.

  18. Willy

    I just planted 5 apple trees and 5 Asian pear trees during my lunch break today.

    Wow you’re good. I’ve planted many trees in my time and if I could get just one into the ground, properly, during one of my lunch breaks I’d consider it a good effort. But then I’m thinking of the trees you see at big box stores and nurseries as tall as I with a 10+ gallon root ball. The 6″ saplings take more years than I have patience to fruit.

    Anyways, I saw my neighbor age 87, doing his own compost spreading. He gets ten yards every other year and claims minimal watering needs. Don’t know if that’s worth it but I’ve known stranger. I do my dishes once a week and clothes once a month. Yes, it can be done without any stink with the right strategy, provided you don’t live in a studio apartment.

  19. Astrid

    The old advice to dig and amend huge tree holes has been revised. Doing so can stunt plant growth to the hole and can also cause moisture issues.

    In any case, I am lucky that I inherited really good top soil because a previous owner was an enthusiastic gardener who built up the soil and I’ve added cubic yards of compost and tanbark to my yard every year, so it only takes a minute or two to dig a hole big enough to plant good quality 3-4′ trees (which gets pruned down to 18″ to promote low branching and a low open center shape).

    These trees are from a guy in Kansas who sells excellent quality trees at a very good for 2023 price. He also has unique varieties not commercially available anywhere else. Got them last week and been waiting for a stretch of above freezing minimum temperature to get them planted. I also got some rootstock and scion to try my hand at bench grafting. Did 9 whip and tongue grafts on Monday and will let them grow on for a season before planting. Doing your own graft is the cheapest to grow your own orchard – rootstocks can be as low as $1 each (though $4 each is the norm from a reputable nursery) and you can pick the right one for your situation. Scions are cheap and freely traded amongst enthusiasts. Inflation in nursery stock has gotten crazy. Trees that cost $25-35 in 2018 now cost $50-60 each, and shipping costs are climbing too.

    The current advice is just to make sure the roots are evenly spread out and not planted too deeply. I sometimes prune back roots if they are too long as it’s better to let them regrow roots than risk getting tangled and stunting the plant. Get a plant guard against rabbits and stake them.

    There other advice is actually to plant the smallest plant that is likely to survive the planting site. The smaller plants tend to suffer less planting shock and rooting issues. There’s empirical evidence that small quart size plants often catch up to 5 gallon plants within a few years and end up being bigger healthier plants. They take a bit more care and protection in the first two years, but it’s worthwhile because they ended up being better plants. Plus the plants are much cheaper and it’s easier to access unusual varieties via mail order.

  20. Astrid

    Of course, the big 5 and 10 gallon plants do serve a useful purpose for homeowners who want instant landscape and a plant that does nothing for years and years, if ever. I personally hate the effects of suburban landscape of lollypop trees and shrubs but that’s normal for most people. My parents have several such trees and every time I complain, my mother tells me she loves them for not getting any bigger whereas the smaller plants I gift them are now too big for their space.

  21. Ché Pasa

    Oh and for the record, water in this area is provided either by private wells or municipalities. There are no private, for-profit water companies that I know of. There was a bid if you want to call it that by Nestle a few years ago to pump the aquifer under this land dry in exchange for X-number of dollars, some as graft, and it was soundly defeated by our illustrious public officials. They live here like the rest of us, and they know what happens to their stores and towns and villages and herds and farms without water, and no amount of money can make it right.

    But as the climate and weather changes, that attitude will be under review. People don’t stay put if they can move to somewhere “better.” People with roots in this area mostly don’t want to move, but some of the big farmers are trying to pull out, got their places up for sale, and if they can close deals for enough money, they’re out of here — after generations farming and ranching the land. Reasons are simple: water management is tougher and tougher, the Rapture is coming, and Believers who can are moving to Idaho and Montana to Meet Their Saviour. Sweet!

    Don’t discount the role of Believers in all this…

  22. anon y'mouse

    volcanic soil distribution is proximity based. in locales that have nearly none, soil is not suitable for crops really at all. historic deposits are all throughout the ring of fire. just because the soil isn’t pitch black like Hawaii does not mean it doesn’t have minerals spread from historic volcanic ash over aeons.

    similar reasons (including weather) as to why the areas distributed around Vesuvius are heavy fruit and veg producing. and why Greenland is (relatively speaking) barren.

    the “mediterranean” weather is great, but it’s highly highly variable and water is obviously incredibly variable there. the place wasn’t growing tons of fruit trees in the First Nations period, and i don’t think that’s because the natives were stupid. that we can “get by” with doing it doesn’t mean it will be lasting forever, and doesn’t necessarily mean it is wise, considering that is almost totally for export.

    because these growing things are not rotting into the ground, returning their water and nutrients to the environment, it is a continual pulling out of water and nutrients to send them so that people can absorb them into their bodies. it is a necessary tradeoff (maybe), but not one we should fool ourselves is totally “sustainable” forever and may not make the most sense to be doing at the rate we are trying to do it at. if the only thing we were shipping around the world was fine food and drink, maybe it would be justifiable but that’s not what we’re doing. i’m against what Kunstler calls the “3,000 mile salad bar”. we perhaps should not have accustomed huge portions of the world’s populations to exotic food grown out of season faraway. it imposes costs on the environment and creates a dependency.

    i can see this somewhat in a microcosm near me—i have a relative that insists on feeding the wildlife on her rural property because she likes to look at it. she has changed the animal behavior there (to the animals’ detriment and at times, death), and induced population growth which is not naturally sustained. if she stopped feeding these animals, they would have to rely upon whatever was available. if she stops feeding them, there will be a die-off. she drives food in from the town, when the environment was made to sustain these animals and they never needed her food but became dependent. that is exactly the situation we have induced with the 3,000 mile salad bar, and highly perishable foods shipped worldwide to populations that have exceeded their local limits. we are not any better than animals, just more clever at doing all of this stuff.

    and cattle ranching in CA just seems like folly.

    disclaimer: i am not a farmer. didn’t see a cow until i was 12. just took enviro science classes that discussed some of this, and read on my own and drew possibly incorrect conclusions that are, by now, dimly remembered. i am sure farmers LOVE CA for the money they can make. some of my own ancestors grew their own fruit down in Southern CA for additional money and home consumption, but i never knew those folks and that was long ago before mass development took hold there and paved that over for developers to make even more money. but there’s also 50 million people living there also trying to have a high tech, highly consumptive lifestyle simultaneous to pulling the nutrients out so someone on the other side of the planet can eat a plum that they may have been able to grow near them, even at a lesser quality level than wonderful CA fruit (and what about the environmental cost? shouldn’t the people grow fruit where they can and eat it near from where they live simply for those factors alone?). btw–official pop is 39mil, and everyone who has ever lived in CA knows that is a huge undercount for obvious reasons (imported slaves do not want to be counted, nor do their employers want them to be counted).

    let’s not lie about it—there are costs and tradeoffs. the illusion of “free” due to geological and geographical treasure in CA has hidden underlying tensions that reflect in a single state the kinds of stuff that is going on worldwide—who has what, where it derives from, who benefits, and how much it costs, including how much it is costing the earth. CA had a lot of “treasure” due to these natural gifts and yeah, it isn’t all gone but it is constantly under pressure due to multitude of factors. and yet the illusion of “free” continues because it truly is a pleasant place to live. the sunlight is a HUGE factor which one does not even realize until they move off and experience people getting a seasonal high when the sun first arrives in spring elsewhere (“sun drunk” is what we were calling it in Portland).

    do i think anyone is going to implement my “advice” anytime soon? fat chance, especially when there’s money to be made. but maybe we should put a stop to the expectation that everywhere can import (or export) tons of out of season, out of region food and that this costs nothing except money.

    also note: wonderful CA fruit may appear to be readily available in CA, but it isn’t when you live in the ghetto. that’s crappy imported stuff while they sent all the good stuff up the hill to the Trader Joes, Berkeley Bowls and Whole Paychecks. so being poor, you don’t even get too much the benefit of what is grown there unless you wait til some guy is selling stuff out of the back of a truck down near the stadium, or only frequent ethnic markets (which are truly great there. i miss them).

  23. anon y'mouse

    people, people—-the towels need changing because many americans, especially california (natives or transplant strivers) shower multiple times in a day and you can’t keep using the same wet towel. it will be perpetually damp, smell musty and start to make you smell if you continue rubbing yourself with it.

    the answer to that problem is to have multiple towels, and trade them off for your 2-3, and sometimes even 4 showers a day.

    and no, i don’t know if you can convince a Californian not to shower that much. especially since there’s swimming, activities, and gym culture and an extreme fixation on appearance there. everyone at all times must be hustling, but you can’t show that you’re actually DOING anything while you’re hustling. natural sweat or body oils are “euw” and artifical scents are “healthy”. especially that scented dryer sheet/fabric softener/additional scent beads added to laundry thing (clean things don’t smell like much of anything, so this is another weird fixation americans have).

    whereas, in the south where i briefly stayed, it didn’t matter if you showered because you were damp from sweat the minute you came out, and forevermore. Californians obsessed with not appearing sweaty would never survive there. and yet the people still look clean and neati in the South, although the towels naturally end up musty smelling even if allowed to dry due to ambient humidity alone.

    my solution: have an airing cupboard, “california icebox” (old building dwellers will understand), or a solar cabinet (in the south) to keep stuff clean via sunlight and relatively dry. at the cost of more rapid wear and tear on the items, likely, but there it goes.

    sorry for dragging the convo too far afield. although you will save water if you have 3 towels and only wash them once every 3 weeks (or less! just wash it if it is smelly or dirty), even taking 3 showers a day.

  24. Astrid

    Just get a Turkish towel or a thin waffleweave towel. They will dry within the hour and quick better than normal towels. A high quality Tirkish towel will last just about forever.

  25. Willy

    For amending, the native soil and conditions should be considered.

    My previous house was situated on soil so sandy and rocky that puddles or runoff only happened once in 8 years during a record rainfall. Possibly the remains of a runoff valley full of glacial till. Very stable weigh baring soil but planting amendments were a good idea if you didn’t want to be watering all the time. Plus it was an 11 degree slope.

    I moved 5 miles east to a flat property and the new soil was 1’-3’ of rocky loam sitting atop hardpan. My in law once showed me how to use his rototiller and dug a shallow ditch, which filled with water that remained for months during the rainy season. No planting amendments required, just dealing with all the rocks, roots, and using raised beds wherever conditions called for them.

    I did once encounter a yard where some previous owner had loaded it up with 2’ deep sandy topsoil. Try building a deck on that. The footings are more like snowshoes. She could just pop plants into the ground and they grew fast. She only started having to water the last few years as her marine climate turns Mediterranean.

  26. different clue

    What is the name and address of the guy in Kansas who sells excellent quality trees?

  27. Ché Pasa

    Walnut trees. Stay away from them unless you want to have a walnut grove. They have some substance that is toxic to just about everything that you might want to grow in the same general vicinity.

    Our soil is essentially dust on hardpan. You’d think it wouldn’t grow much of anything, especially since we don’t (usually) get rain to speak of. But we have trees that were planted more than 100 years ago. Even though we’re at a 6,000+ elevation, I’ve grown abundant corn, beans and squash with very little soil amendment. I make (some of) my own compost from decayed vegetation and vegetable matter that I can collect on the property and cure in 32 gallon barrels with air holes, materials cut relatively fine with a mulcher and kept moist. We use barrels to limit the use of water. Takes about a year.

    Neighbors swear by amending their dust and hardpan with bentonite cat litter — fresh, not used. They rototil it in. I haven’t tried it.

    Farmers nearby use fish emulsion as their only fertilizer. Their corn is spectacular. They’ve grown vegetables, but I don’t think they’ve perfected it. They have berry plants, so far without berries. They have huge hoop houses that they can grow practically anything in. Our smallish greenhouse serves the purpose of starting seeds and sheltering anything that might get flattened by the wind or hail.

    Our water is extremely alkaline. It’s actually good for most of what we try to grow. But we have to conserve it. I’d hoped to get rain barrels in by last year but no such luck. Not this year either. Maybe next year? We’ll see!

  28. Astrid


    39th Parallel Nursery. No other associations than being a very satisfied first time customer. His stock is currently almost sold out but he’s offering good discounts on what’s left. The trees are a little smaller than what you might encounter in a big box store but very healthy and properly labelled.

  29. different clue


    Thank you for this. I will look it up to see if there is a catalog to ask for.

    @Ché Pasa,

    Here is a little list of plants said to be resistant or immune to juglone, the chemical which washes off walnut leaves onto the plants below.

    They don’t mention ” automn olive”, but I have read elsewhere that autumn olive is also juglone tolerant-to-immune. And there are some Japanese selections from autumn olive with improved fruit which are sold as semi-domestic fruit trees of desire.
    And since autumn olive harbors nitrogen-fixing bacteria on its roots, it might be good for the N-needs of walnut and other plants growing right around.

    I see daylily is among the can-grow plants. Some strains of daylily produce safe-to-eat flower buds and flowers, also starch-rich tubers. Hostas are can-grow plants. I read somewhere that the Chinese originally developed Hosta as a dual-use plant, looks nice but also edible new immature shoots. Some varieties might still have good-to-eat shoots. Several hibiscus-family plants are called can-grow. What if other hibiscus-family members share that same juglone tolerance? Hibiscus family members like okra? Dogwood is juglone-tolerant. Oh? Well . . . what about other species of genus Cornus? Like the edible fruited cornel?
    ( Some of the other ” can-grow” plants listed also have edible-plant relatives.)

  30. Astrid


    I suspect that he’s internet only. It’s just a one-man hobby business and postage has gotten prohibitively expensive for small businesses. He does a flat rate shipping and managed to pack 13 trees, 9 rootstocks, and a bag of scion into one very well packed box. I was really impressed.

    But for your interests, you may want to look up Perfect Circle as that’s more moist northern climate adapted and has a larger selection of permaculture friendly trees. Also fruitwood nursery if you’re willing to graft and root your own plants.


    Berry plants are really hard with alkaline soil and water. You pretty much just have to plant in bark/peat moss and add acidifiers every year to counteract the water, or the plants are starved of nutrients.

    Are you in zone 6 or zone 7/8? I ran across these people who seem pretty pragmatic and sensible about their efforts to grow in the desert, but they are in zone 9 so obviously some of their selections won’t work but it might give you some inspiration.

    Juglone toxicity is variable. My yard used to have a giant black walnut in the center, but somehow I had juglone sensitive pear and hackberry growing just 25 feet away. The recommendation is to plant something highly sensitive like tomato nearby and monitor how it does. If the tomato grows well, then juglone is not a problem, otherwise plant something indicated as not sensitive there. Other people complain that they can’t grow any apples or pears within 100 feet of their black walnut so who knows.

    I wouldn’t use bentonite though I don’t have experience. It’s just a kind of clumping clay. Do you have fast draining sandy soil and they’re trying to convert it to loam? Or is it just thrifty people trying to recycle their kitty litter and probably boosting the plants with cat pee (hope they’re indoor cats and not getting infected with cat mind control agents).

  31. Ché Pasa

    We had a black walnut tree in our backyard in California. It was planted by the first owners of the house c. 1940. Nothing would grow back there but English ivy and one giant camellia. Everything else I tried died promptly. But I wasn’t very knowledgeable about the toxicity of walnut trees, so I just kept trying and failing with different plants.

    The squirrels loved throwing the green walnuts onto the roof of our house and then collecting them on the ground. The tree was an abundant producer but we never got more than four or five walnuts for ourselves thanks to the squirrels, raccoons, and other varmints.

    Those who swear by bentonite out here in the wilderness are trying to break up their hardpan and keep it from reforming. Apparently the bentonite clay in the form of unused kitty litter does not re-form into solid clay but remains as broken up particles which also prevents the hardpan from solidifying again. It doesn’t become light and fluffy but you can grow things in it because it remains aerated. They say it works great, but our property’s hardpan starts about 2 feet below the surface dust and doesn’t cause much problem for most food crops. One neighbor says she’s got a bunch of used bentonite kitty litter (many cats!) and she’s “curing” it by putting it out in what amounts to a kitty litter compost heap and hopes she can use it in her garden after a year or so. I don’t know whether it will work. I would never put used kitty litter on anything you plan to grow and eat.

    Cat mind control agents. Yes, it’s true. They will control you. And you’ll love being their servants.

  32. multitude of poors

    Regarding both California and compost, I’m reminded of this nefarious scandal when, now Governor, Gavin Getty Newsom was the Green Mayor™ of San Francisco: 08/05/20 by John Stauber Gavin Newsom Hopes to Leave His Sludge in San Francisco

    Last month, I wrote Chez Sludge, the first inside report on the sewage sludge scandal unfolding in San Francisco, based on internal documents obtained by the Food Rights Network and now online in the Toxic Sludge wiki on the Center for Media and Democracy’s SourceWatch website [1].

    San Francisco, under its “green mayor” Gavin Newsom, has since 2007 perpetrated a greenwashing scam upon city gardeners. The city, known for its environmentally sound practices and commitment to a precautionary principle approach to dealing with environmental hazards, has deceptively and fraudulently been giving away free “organic biosolids compost,” that is actually nothing but toxic sewage sludge from San Francisco and eight other counties, “composted” by the giant waste handler Synagro (owned by the Carlyle Group).

    This issue hit the news in San Francisco first last September and gained national media attention in December, 2009. On March 4, 2010 a protest in Mayor Newsom’s office that also received national attention, led by the Organic Consumers Association, forced the Mayor to put the program on temporary hold, at least during the political season. He is currently the front runner for the office of California Lieutenant Governor and come December Mayor Newsom is likely on his way to Sacramento. And, apparently, he wants to leave his sludge, if not his heart, in San Francisco.

    In the face of the controversy, and the dioxins and other dangerous contaminants found in their sludge, the San Francisco Public Utilities Commission spent $25,000 to conduct some very limited and inadequate testing of their free “organic Biosolids compost.” Like most sludge industry tests, this one examined a minuscule sample of the mountain of sludge, and only searched for a small fraction of the thousands of persistent chemicals and substances, and none of the biological contaminants, in sewage sludge.

    It was designed as a PR stunt and worked well in that regard when the results were fed to the San Francisco Examiner and San Francisco Chronicle. Both papers filed stories on July 28th, and both papers reported that the SFPUC staff would be bringing this controversy before the five citizens who make up the SFPUC Board of Commissioners, appointed by the Mayor, and who have never, despite the year-old public controversy, taken a close public examination of the sludge-to-gardens issue in any of their frequent meetings. But with two PUC commissioner meetings scheduled for August — the 10th and the 24th — that would soon change, the articles implied.

    ([1] While the article still remains at the sourcewatch page, Newsom’s name may have been later edited out, as now, it just notes San Francisco Mayor.)

    In other words be careful where you get your compost, if not making your own. Sigh, at one apartment I lived in, I set up a compost bin swimming with earthworms.

    Currently in Silicon Valley (and presumably all over the state) tenant compost buckets and larger apartment and condo complex buckets have been delivered. The instructions being to put the food scraps into clear PLASTIC BAGS (or paper bags) which plastic will supposedly be separated (see 12/09/21 By James Rainey California goes to war with food waste. Composting is its next climate crusade ). I bleakly await the scandal whereby the plastic wasn’t separated, rendering the enormous mounds of compost toxic, and further endangering ground water.

    In the complex I live in, the bins are loaded with predominantly plastic bags with food scraps, along with regular garbage I presume to be contributed by the same Amazon loving aholes who load the paper recycle bin to overflowing with their un broken down countless horrid Amazon boxes and sometimes bags of reaking garbage; while local brick and mortars increasingly have to close their businesess down. Pre coronavirus, a ton of nurseries in Silicon Valley which I used to frequent years ago now, went under, ditto many small repair shops. Silicon Valley is souless. It breaks my heart that I have tons of gardening books and articles that I will have to part with (along with tons of other books) when I very likely will be forced into homelessness in my late sixties, as I clearly can’t afford to live much longer, nor help my wee circle of loved ones survive.

    Not to worry though about those homeless increasingly dying and ‘littering’ the streets, I presume that Newsom and Other Legislators have made a backdoors deal regarding homeless bodies in an otherwise very pricey ($5,000 to $7,000) burial option, with the signing of Assembly BIll 351: 09/18/22 By Melody Gutierrez California’s dead will have a new burial option: Human composting . Which also reminds me of California Senator Dianne Feinstein’s pushing Green Funerals over a decade ago, while Blue™ California Metro areas along with her San Francisco domicile’s homeless, increasingly exploded with those who could no longer afford a roof over their heads.

    gotta run…

  33. multitude of poors

    Sorry, I really blew that first link in my comment above, the date, and the url. I should have written:

    08/05/10 by John Stauber Gavin Newsom Hopes to Leave His Sludge in San Francisco

    gotta run…

  34. Astrid

    I’ve seen comments to the effect that the main problem with black walnut is simply that it outcompetes nearby plants by sucking all the moisture out of the soil, which would certainly be a problem in the arid West. I have daffodils and daylilies flowering while under the black walnut tree canopy.


    I don’t want to make light of your situation, but are there any family and friends who can facilitate a move out of CA? Neoliberalism certainly has its talons sunk into central PA where I currently live, but the cost of living is significantly lower and people are not as money/status driven here. It may be challenging to get by without a car but certainly possible if you live within Harrisburg, Pittsburgh, and Philly. I imagine there are pockets of somewhat better living situation within the US and lots of opportunities abroad if you’re open to it.

    We used to live in East Bay pre 2008 and loved it, but didn’t buy a house then and can’t afford to return. Nor would we want to anymore. Being able to drive a couple hours and see the most beautiful landscapes in the world was great, but everything has gotten to be so much about money and working for the right companies, and also virtue signaling of both the liberal and libertarian kind. We still have that here but it’s much more muted.

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