Sunday, August 10, 2008
Westlands Water District
For years I've zoomed up the 5 freeway, never thinking too much about the miles and miles of agriculture I'm passing, just thinking about my final destination (if San Franciso I'm probably dreaming about the amazing vegan chocolate cupcakes at Herbivore).
Turns out much of the land on either side of the 5 is part of Westlands Water District. Did you know there is only one actual community in the whole of Westlands Water District? All the rest of corporate-owned agriculture. And that whole central valley used to be a huge inland sea, thousands of years ago, which means there is a lot of salt in the soil and also in the groundwater.
Contrast the 5 to the small farms that hug highway 99, which runs almost parallel to 5 (they come together just north of the grapevine). Along 99 are smaller orchards, farms with more diversity in what is planted. Nearer the 5 are fields and fields of monocrops, things like cotton, alfafa, and corn. The cotton and alfafa are very water intensive (and we are growing them in the desert because ...?), and the corn and alfafa being grown is fed exclusively to cows. As I wrote in an earlier post, there are 1600 dairies in the central valley, and the smallest dairies have around 8000 cows. So that is at least 12,800,000 cows. Each cow poops around 40 pounds per day (this is a direct quote from a rancher I met at last November's California Water Policy Conference in LA). That is 512,000,000 pounds of cow poop in the central valley every single day!
And why should any of us care about all that pooh? Besides the horrible smell (ever driven by cowschwitz on the 5?), cow manure releases a considerable amount of methane gas, one of the greenhouse gases that is contributing to global climate change.
And yes, Chris's shirt in the picture does indeed say "poop," but he's not making a statement about cows - it's a great political shirt and the poop stands for something like people against outrageous oil profits ... Chris, if you read this - please comment and tell us what the acronym means!