Managing Scarcity IV: Science & Solutions

20 images Created 25 Jan 2018

California was remade. The Central Valley, formerly a vast seasonal wetland that author Mark Reisner called 'the Serengeti of the West', is now a vast agricultural plain criss-crossed by concrete canals. Rivers newly damed and levied began to choke with silt, destroying spawning habitat for native fish. The cracks in our system began to spiderweb until nobody could ignore them.

Over the course of a silent spring, the environmental movement awoke and began to fight. To even their own surprise, they began to win. By wielding newly-passed legislation like the Clean Water Act, Clean Air Act and Environmental Species Act the environmental movement became a juggernaut of power. Nowhere was this more true than California, birthplace of the hippie.

In 1986 biologists discovered thousands of dead and deformed birds at Kesterson Reservoir in the Central Valley. Runoff from agriculture carried with it heavy salts and other chemicals which became increasingly concentrated through evaporation until the toxicity caused massive death and disfigurement. This disaster attracted national attention.

Avoiding another Kesterson or similar large-scale disaster is a shared priority of both the environmental and development lobbies. Lawsuits brought by environmental groups representing native tribes, individuals, landowners and communities force developers and other defendants to modify or abandon plans that would harm public resources - ground water, navigable water, rivers, wetlands, air - and others.

The findings in these cases are guided by the men and women who venture into the field to measure and quantify our environment. Biologists working for the Federal, State and local governments, as well as private and public universities, are the people who will see us through this quagmire of our own design. This project is dedicated to those that study and defend our most important resources.
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