The Drought In California and the Need For Socialism

obamagolfWhile harsh cold and extreme weather conditions hit the rest of the country, California is heating up and has just recorded its driest year on record. Early in February, Governor Jerry Brown declared a state of emergency and called on Californians to reduce water usage by 20%. But the solution must go beyond individual conservation efforts, and strike at the heart of the issue.

California’s water is redistributed and transported through an infrastructure with six main systems of aqueducts. This system not only serves the population of 38 million, but irrigates over 5.5 million acres of farmland with 350 different crops. Some farming communities have had unemployment as high as 34% and some expect it to reach 50%. The impact of the drought goes far beyond California, and even beyond the farming industry itself—all the related packaging and transport have been affected by this as well.

Recent history and samples of tree rings show that droughts are a relatively regular occurrence in California. The severity can certainly be tied to climate change, but the only thing responsible for the impact of this drought is the incapacity or unwillingness of the bourgeoisie to seriously invest in infrastructure. Without this, all of the crops and jobs that are lost this time will only be vulnerable to the chaos of the next drought. This demonstrates capitalism’s increasing inability to deliver even the most basic of human necessities—even in the richest country on earth. This is not the first drought that the state has faced, and it won’t be the last. The question is how we can prepare for the next one.

Water rights have been one of the most hotly contested political issues since the Gold Rush in 1849. Usually, it is a conflict between the Northern and Southern halves of the state, but this year the political tensions have culminated in a petition to break California into six states! While about 80–85% of the demand for water comes from the lower two-thirds of the state, most of the water, about 75%, comes from the regions north of Sacramento. The water must be transported over mountains, valleys, and vast stretches of land. To illustrate this distance, water must be transported nearly 87 miles to San Francisco, 400 to LA, and just over 500 to San Diego. There are some generators integrated into the State Water Project, but they only account for a fraction of the energy necessary to lift water over the Tehachapi Mountains.

While the weather can’t be controlled, most of the chaos and suffering could have been prevented—but all of the funding is now directed at alleviating the damage after it has already been done. Alongside the infamous images of fallow fields and poor farmers, there are images of a grassy oasis which President Obama visited for a golf trip. Obama announced $160 million in federal aid, and the governor has come out with a proposal of $687 million including state and federal funds. The majority of that money is going to fund grants for local conservation projects, to sustain livestock, establish food banks in affected areas, and includes $15 million to an Emergency Drinking Water Fund.

The Democrats have suddenly become environmentalists, connecting the drought to climate change. Only moments ago they were supporting hydraulic fracturing, or “fracking,” which is estimated to use between 4 and 6 million gallons of water per well, and is known to pollute water supplies. Last fall, Governor Brown granted permission for fracking in the state, and President Obama reiterated his support for fracking in his State of the Union address.

The shortsightedness of the bourgeoisie is underlined by the climate change crisis. A report released by a nonprofit environmental group, called Ceres, showed that 96% of fracking wells in California were drilled in areas of high or extremely high water stress. Fracking without regard to its effects is irresponsible, especially during a drought; but we should have no hope for “responsible capitalism”! The capitalists and their politicians do whatever is in the best interest for their own class (i.e., higher profits). Ironically and hypocritically, Rex Tillerson, CEO of ExxonMobil, the largest natural gas producer in the US, has gone to court over an unsightly water tower near his home in Texas—which will supply a fracking well with water.

Despite the endless rhetoric that capitalist competition spurs innovation and progress, Marx and Engels predicted that this would turn into its opposite—towards ever greater concentration of capital and stagnation. Under capitalism there can be no rational plan of the economy in harmony with the environment; it is subject to the anarchy of the market. This is why the Marxists consistently explain that the problem goes far beyond individual conservation efforts or writing to legislators. We also disagree with those environmentalists who advocate vandalizing, destroying, or scrapping all of modern technology.

As Marxists, we understand that nothing can seriously be done to change our impact on the environment unless we strike at the root of the issue and end the rule of capital. The companies responsible for fracking in California each have profits in the billions of dollars. No amount of letter writing or petitioning politicians will stop this colossal machine. Only the working class has the power to immediately shut down production and put forward a viable alternative. Humanity must move away from the chaos of the market and the blind destruction of the environment, towards a conscious and rationally planned society.

Our ability to research and produce clean energy and to build modern, environmentally friendly infrastructure on the scale required is limited only by the artificial constraints of the capitalist system. The potential for an entirely different way of doing things can only be realized through a socialist revolution. Because of this, Marxism is the only force that can shake the nihilism and apocalypticism from the environmental movement and provide a real way forward. Serious environmental activists should delve into the works of Marx and Engels, as well as the political perspectives of the IMT, and decide for themselves whether or not these ideas are relevant to the crisis facing humanity. If you agree, we invite you to join us in the fight for a better world.

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