What is California For?

Any landscape is fitted by climate, soil, topography, and latitude for a particular kind of human economy.

At one time all the numberless landscapes of the world were fitted for a hunting-and-gathering economy, the one universal.

By our own actions and our own numbers we have now made that particular way of life all impossible for all but a few.

What is left?

In the short span of our history here on earth we have treated ourselves to several “revolutions” in economy, in fact in our whole way of life.  First we had an Agricultural Revolution, which remains to this day the most important and pervasive of them all, when we learned to grow crops and raise livestock to feed ourselves in hugely greater numbers than before, and at the same time we learned how to live in cities, how to govern ourselves by monarchies, and how to wage war on a massive scale never imagined before—and all this a mere 10,000 or so years ago, which was also, and probably not by coincidence, the end of the Pleistocene Megafauna” everywhere except Africa. 

Next, and very recently indeed, we had an Industrial Revolution, which led to even bigger and uglier cities and to even bigger and uglier wars fought on a—you guessed it—industrial scale, and with industrial methods and technologies.

Then, just yesterday, we had a few more “revolutions”—atomic, electronic, informational

But let’s go back to basics.  We are still creatures of the first big revolution, the Agricultural one, even if it does not operate by industrial etc. technologies.  Since we are, most of us, doomed to live by agriculture, the next question is, logically, what kind(s) of agriculture?

Going back to the first sentence, “any landscape” . . . etc.

Places that get plenty of rain in summer are the places for agriculture sensu stricto.

Places like California, without rain during the growing season, are naturally suited to 

  1. mainly ranching
  2. dry-farming in suitable places, with suitable crops at suitable intervals (example of farming in Estremadura . . .)
  3. irrigated agriculture on a very limited scale along perennial streams, but only to the extent this can be done without depleting water necessary for biological processes that evolved with the stream . .. . and so, a very limited scale.

To the extent that we try to recreate Iowa in California, we destroy it.  Just exactly what we are doing, of course.

Bottom line:

Encourage ranching, at least of the “traditional” sort.  Discourage industrial-scale agribiz that relies on mining “fossil” water, saturating the land with poisons, losing topsoil to erosion and especially to salinization, and killing whole landscapes from horizon to horizon with bleak monocultures.