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Forget It Jake; It's Chinatown
By Ernest Stewart

"Can you believe it? We're in the middle of a drought, and the water commissioner drowns. Only in L.A.!" ~~~ "Morty" the Mortician ~ Chinatown

Like Las Vegas, Los Angeles was a sleepy little town with a tiny population because they didn't have the water to support any more folks. You may recall Jack Nicholson's magnum opus "Chinatown;" while being a work of fiction, nevertheless, it gives a rough outline of LA's water problems and their political solutions. Consider that about a third of California is desert, three deserts in fact, i.e., the Mojave Desert, the Colorado Desert, and the Great Basin desert; and yet; according to the 2010 census; there are some 23 million people living in the middle of a desert where 100 years ago there were approximately 2,000 people lived! Now global warming comes along, and the rains stop; and, farmers keeping production up to feed America tap into the underground water -- sucking it dry by the trillions of gallons. Does anyone see any problems on the horizon?

California is the leading agricultural state in the U.S. It's here that a sizable majority of American fruits, vegetables, and nuts are produced -- including 99 percent of walnuts, 97 percent of kiwis, 97 percent of plums, 95 percent of celery, 95 percent of garlic, 89 percent of cauliflower, 71 percent of spinach, 69 percent of carrots -- and the list goes on and on and on.

Researchers from UCLA say this current drought is among the worst in 1,200 years; trillions of gallons of groundwater have become depleted yearly with no signs of stopping. They say this shouldn't surprise us, given the state has a long history of droughts caused by warming events, some of which lasted for thousands of years. Their analysis suggests given the current warming trend (this time mainly triggered by greenhouse gasses), this may signal permanent aridity.

UCLA professor Glen MacDonald chose to harvest sediment cores from the bottom of the Kirman Lake in the Sierra Nevada mountains due to its climate sensitivity and long geological history. If you visit the lake today, you'll find a small, 16-feet deep freshwater basin filled with trout. Throughout the millennia, though, Kirman Lake has repeatedly been subjected to periods of complete dry-out and replenishment. All of this got recorded in the white sediments that accumulated at the bottom of the lake.

By analyzing the 2-inch-wide, 10-foot-deep cylinder of sediments extracted from the bottom of the lake, the UCLA researchers gleaned into the lake's geological and climatic history, which offered solid hints about California's history at a whole up to 12,000 years ago.

The final analysis, which took years to make, paints the most accurate picture of California's climate history to date. The findings were correlated with other similar studies, but also with histories of the Pacific Ocean's temperature taken from marine sediment cores and other sources. This will prove important.

Between 6,000 and 1,000 B.C.E., during the middle of a period called the Holocene, core samples suggest that California went through a dry period that lasted 5,000 years. During this time, Earth's orbit varied slightly, but enough to cause more solar energy to hit the Northern Hemisphere during the summer months. Sediment records show the Pacific ocean was in a La Nina-like state which drastically reduced precipitations and made California warm and dry.

A similar, albeit much briefer, period was seen between 950 and 1250 C.E, which paleoclimatologists commonly refer to as the medieval climate anomaly. Decreased volcanic activity and an upsurge in solar activity characterized by more sunspots increased radiative forcing and ultimately led to considerable warming in California, as in most parts of the world. For instance, Greenland - now covered in ice - was green and welcoming to Viking settlers who formed permanent communities there, before they were forced to leave by a sudden cooling a few centuries later. Again, this period was characterized by La Nina reigning over the Pacific Ocean.

MacDonald says, "We suspected we would see the millennia of aridity during the mid-Holocene at Kirman Lake, but we were surprised to see a very clear record of the medieval climate anomaly as well. It was very cool to see the lake was sensitive on the scale of not just thousands of years, but also something that lasted just a few centuries.

"Around 2,200 B.C.E., after a period of intense Holocene dryness, we found Kirman Lake became very moist. Simultaneously, the Pacific Ocean switched to more El Nino-like conditions which increased precipitations in California.

"This change at 2,200 B.C. was a global phenomenon. It's associated with the collapse of the Old Kingdom in Egypt. It's linked to the decline of the Akkadian Empire in Mesopotamia and similar Bronze Age societal disruptions in India and China. It was amazing to find evidence of it in our own backyard."

This historical timeline, as interesting as it is, was caused by other factors not the overproduction of greenhouse gases that we currently face and unlike the others the longer we continue to pollute the air the longer it will last and the worse things will become.

"Radiative forcing in the past appears to have had catastrophic effects in extending droughts," said MacDonald. When you have arid periods that persist for 60 years, as we did in the 12th century, or for millennia, as we did from 6,000 to 1,000 B.C., that's not really a 'drought.' That aridity is the new normal.

"The state will be able to sustain sizable agricultural yield despite dry conditions thanks to human engineering like irrigation works. Productivity will be seriously hampered, though, and food prices could jump across the nation.

"I think we would find a way to keep our cities going through prolonged drought, but we're not going to engineer a way to conserve or preserve the ecosystems of the state. We can't save our huge expanses of oak woodlands, or our pine and fir forests, or high-elevation alpine ecosystems with irrigation projects like we might our orchards and gardens. I worry that we will see very different wildlands by the end of this century."

I would bet that by the end of the century, those 23 million people will've died out or moved on and southern California will contain less that a million people. So, the question is, "are we that stupid to allow global warming to continue unabated?" Well, of course we are! Currently, the majority of voters favor Donald Trump for President; and you can't get any dumber than that! And, since all Republicans and some Democrats (who are but puppets of the 1%) will do absolutely nothing to stop global warming no matter how many treaties we have signed, you'd better move to Michigan, or one of the other Great Lakes states -- unless you have no need for water!!


03-12-1928 ~ 09-16-2016
Thanks for the plays!

03-24-1945 ~ 09-20-2016
Thanks for the direction!

03-31-1934 ~ 09-22-2016
Thanks for the music!


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Until the next time, Peace!
(c) 2016 Ernest Stewart a.k.a. Uncle Ernie is an unabashed radical, author, stand-up comic, DJ, actor, political pundit and for 14 years was the managing editor and publisher of Issues & Alibis magazine. Visit me on Facebook. Follow me on Twitter.

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Issues & Alibis Vol 16 # 39 (c) 09/23/2016