Saturday, June 27, 2015

Driving fast by the graveyard in California

Those were some brutal scenes that I was a witness to.  The dead lay in rows after rows.  Black and dark brown.

Yet, I did not stop to take photos.  I continued to drive in the slow lane as vehicles sped past me as they always do.

The dead, you see, were almond trees.  In California's San Joaquin Valley.

Like in this photograph from the Washington Post:


Usually when I near Coalinga, I prepare myself for the stink from the mega-dairies.  And I was prepared for that.  Acres of dead almond trees was new.  California's drought has dramatically altered its landscape already.  Yet, life goes on in California and elsewhere.

What a contrast to conditions in the old country!

Back when we were kids, watching a movie meant sitting through a government propaganda documentary as well.  Invariably, those documentaries--News Reels, they were called--were about hardships that farmers faced.  Almost always, they seemed to be about Bihar where if it was not floods it was a drought!

Even now, the prospect of a serious monsoon failure in South Asia is a nightmarish scenario--for the countries there and for the rest of the world too.  Because, unlike in California, half the population relies on agriculture for their existence.  Their livelihoods are dependent on a prosperous agriculture sector.  And unlike almonds, which are luxuries, rice and wheat are staples that sustain the hundreds of millions.

The fact that nobody really worries about California's drought is by itself a measure of the affluence in this country.  Of course, almond trees are down.  Lawns are brown.  But, life is otherwise unchanged.  The only noticeable difference is this: water is no longer served at restaurants.  Water is served only if the diner requests it.  To paraphrase Harry Truman's mother who reportedly told him "if that's your biggest problem, Harry, consider yourself lucky," here in the land of affluence if water by request is the biggest problem in California, well, we are lucky beyond our wildest imaginations!

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