Wednesday, July 06, 2005

jittery in Fresno

I've been watching the Unplanner's blog with interest the last few months.

Now, he has decided to pack in his California civic planning and leave the golden sunshine behind. Specifically, he knows what is in the sausage, and has no desire to be clusterfucked. He's got a family, and peak oil is setting up to hit the sun belt hard.

Packin' it much for P.O. planning
1. It is over populated and growing too fast. Plain and simple, the demographics of this area scare me. Even though I live in what is considered rural in california terms, by non-CA terms it is still crowded. My county, is home to nearly 400K people and growing rapidly. What's worse is the population distribution indicates that a sizable portion of the population has YET to enter the child bearing age. Plus due to our relative inexpensive cost of living, thousands more are flocking to us each year.
2. Despite this county being larger than the state of Connecticut, most people are jammed into the North-western 20% of the county. The bulk of the land is occupied by 10K foot mountains.
3. Water. It only rains on average 8 inches of rain a year...
4. Socio economics.

I am sure some people will find this hysterical, overwrought.

I don't. I can't blame Unplanner for being worried.

8% decline a year. Will it be a smooth decline, or will every export country clam up and preserve fuels for local consumption? How do you build a monkey trap?

The United States is the biggest energy importer in the world, consuming over thirty percent of the global daily allotment of oil. What happens to the food supply if there is a six month supply disruption at the wrong time of year?

Lately, driving around, pondering highways stuffed full of cars, I mentally remove the guzzlers, trying to identify hybrids. Less than 1 in 100. SUV's are no longer high fashion, but that doesn't stop the nouveau riche from clanking around Redmond, WA in their Hummers.

And I don't live in California. It rains up here in Washington State, we've got plentifull rivers and fertile valleys, I could grow tomatoes in the soil outside my window tomorrow. (mmm, pesticides.)

California smells of asphalt and dust. And possibly, tragedy.
No one knows what is going to happen.
Listen to your intuition.


At 10:58 PM, July 06, 2005, Blogger Matt said...

As bad as it is in Fresno, it's worse in LA. Hopefully only one more year, then I'm outta here.

At 12:43 AM, July 07, 2005, Blogger UNplanner said...

As the subject of this post, I thought I outta comment...

California (for the most part) is deathtrap waiting to be sprung. C'mon 36 million in a state that is chronically short on water and is running short on energy. Over half of the population lives in the driest portion yet the state keeps growing like there is no tomorrow.

Hey, wait may be there really won't be a tomorrow.

IN ANY CASE, we are trying to get out of the state (or at least the southern three quarters of it). Coastal or extreme N. California remains an attractive location as does anyone of those interior (west of the Cascades) valleys in OR. Maybe WA.

Sure, this place is not LA. Thank goodness... But I feel the end result will be similar.

At 8:32 AM, July 07, 2005, Anonymous whirljack said...

Personally, I'm planning to move to either Northern CA or Southern OR from the Midwest. Southern CA, I would agree, will be one of the worst places to live in the future. Which is one reason I might go with OR instead... I worry that Southern CA's decline will affect Northern CA in a bad, bad way...

At 11:27 PM, July 07, 2005, Anonymous Anonymous said...

If I may ask, whirljack, why would you leave the Midwest? It has its problems, but it also has water, ready farming, liveable terrain, and so on.

At 12:50 AM, July 08, 2005, Blogger monkeygrinder said...

Yeah, California scares me.

The gap between what we should be doing as a society and what we actually are doing is part of the reason I'm sounding the alarm for individuals.

At 2:46 PM, July 08, 2005, Blogger UNplanner said...

Yes, and it will likely be an individual-only alarm. It simply is too late to try and save the whole "system."

Take the case of our favorite whipping boy, Los Angeles. LA planners at the turn of the LAST century began to realize that continued growth was begining to pushing the limits of the water supply, which at the time was 100% locally drawn. In what would become the stuff of legends, Mulholland and company engaged in one of the most ambitious resource grabs ever seen to that point in time; he oversaw the taking and redirecting of water from hundreds of miles away to slake LA's evergrowing thirst. Over time, the LA basin's water "tentacles" extended some 600 miles to reach the Sacramento Delta area in the north and the Colorado River in the west.

In short, LA utilized the classic social leveraging strategy, Scope Enlargement. By doing this LA (which now I am going to refer to as Southern California) was able to grow far beyond what its local resource (namely water) could ever supply.

This of course took an enormous amount of energy to construct (which was not an issue at the time) and a sizable amount of energy to operate. As I have mentioned before, some 6-8% of the states grid power is utilized just to MOVE water.

Similar to water, electricity itself was being brought in from evermore distant places. The city of Los Angeles owns and operates coal plants in Nevada. The state as a whole draws electricity all the way from BC in the north to Baja in the south.

In otherwords, we are collectively over extended and dependent on a continued flow of cheap energy to ensure the continued flow of raw materials.

But if the state as a whole has a problem, LA is the epicenter. With over 10 million individuals existing on imported energy (electricity, natural gas and our favorite-gasoline), raw materials and even food everything HAS to function alright in order for life to continue.

At this point it IS TOO LATE to save southern california. There is precious little arable land left to farm on. I am not denigrating the value of urban agriculture, but I see no plausible way to feed that many mouths with such a small amount of remaining land. Of course that just assume food is the only issue.

Start subtracting out energy and you lose personal mobility (crucial in an area where almost nothing is within walking distance) and before long, economic viability. As energy supply continues to wane, delivery of the essentials begins to get affected such as water, food and other raw materials. In all liklihood the removal of wastes will also become an issue too.

Without water, how could you even think of growing food, if you even had the room for it?

Peak energy will functionally lower Southern California's carrying capacity. Drastically. With nothing to fall back on, a gradual un-planning back to sustainability cannot be achieved.

The smart ones will slip out while they still can.

At 8:01 PM, July 09, 2005, Blogger monkeygrinder said...

Good comment, Unplanner. You should re-publish it on your blog at some point.


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