This is what California's water problem looks like. And here's one way to address it.
There's a silver lining here, I promise.
UPDATE 4/2/15: California Gov. Jerry Brown has enacted the first ever statewide water restrictions.
"California only has 1 year of water left" is a statement we all started paying attention to recently.
(The truth is more complicated. But still, it's a crisis.)
Now, before you start building your “safe rooms" and compounds hidden far from civilization, check this out.
This is not a doom-and-gloom post — by the end I'll have laid out a couple of solutions for you. However, we need to put a few cards on the table first. Think of this like ripping off a Band-Aid. It'll hurt at first, but we're going to get through it.
Why should the other 49 states care about California's water? Food.
When you think of California you may think of self-absorbed actors, major tech companies, and lots of beaches. However, you should probably start thinking about your food. The sunny state on the left coast is responsible for more than 400 yummy foods that keep you alive. The state produces half of U.S.-grown fruits, veggies, and nuts. Y'all, think about that for a second ... that's a shit-ton of food. California is an agribusiness state.
Without water, we've got a lot less food.
NASA just released new maps of how the drought is affecting the state, and it's not good. This is just another sign of the earth's changing climate. And the entire world (sans a very small group) agrees that humans are a major factor in climate change.
If you're a meat-eater like me, listen up. When you bite into a delicious burger, it took 1,847 gallons of water to make just one pound of beef. Do you like almonds? Well, it takes about 1.1 gallons of water to grow a single almond. You get it.
Selling food is super duper profitable.
First of all, farmers rock. I love them. When I was a kid, my family grew our own food, and many of our friends were farmers of some sort. I think farmers deserve profit because they are super important. However, we are not talking about the mom-and-pop farmers you might see at a local farmers market. We are talking about companies that own a ton of land and tweak environmental laws for their own benefit. Those companies rule places like California and...
Brazil is heavy on agribusiness just like California. And it produces lots of food, including veggies and beef. The states of São Paulo, Rio de Janeiro, and Minas Gerais might run out of water soon. Brazil is home to roughly 12% of the world's fresh water. Because of growing cities, drought, and rising temperatures (people are using more energy, which requires more water), Brazil's water reserves have been decimated. So we can learn a little from them, right?
Agribusiness is wasteful.
Agribusiness, like most everything, requires water. I mentioned that it takes a heaping 1,847 gallons of water to make a pound of beef, but beef is just the tri-tip of the iceberg (see what I did there?). It takes about 395 gallons of water to make one pound of eggs and about 28 gallons of water to create one glass of beer. The list goes on. Plus, 30%-50% of food is wasted in production before it gets to your belly. Ooof. We grow enough food to feed the world, but we feed it to the animals we end up eating.
OK, you know how earlier I mentioned we'd revisit the silver lining to this?
Agribusiness is a "necessary" problem because we've gotta eat. But we are doing it wrong, yo. Right now agribusiness = climate change = super bad droughts = worse climate change = no water = no food.
But good news: The amount of Americans who don't think climate change is caused by humans is decreasing. And there is a way our generation can start the path and march toward building a sustainable solution.
What can be done?
Some of those Americans who don't think climate change is caused by humans are the people we vote for (yikes!), and that's a whole heap of messed up.
But! You have control of this. Seriously. You, me, and everyone else who votes. Elections are super important, and you have more tools at your fingertips to see how your representative is voting. I use Greenhouse. Here's how it works: When I'm reading a story about a politician, I can hover my pointer over their name, and everyone who contributes to that politician pops up. This is what it looks like:
Check out this amazing animation below — it'll show you how Brazil is asking its residents to deal with one of the largest problems we've seen, very similar to ours. Plus, it'll make you feel empowered.