What’s Next?

I struggle a bit with this blog because there are SO MANY things to “talk” about, and yet, there are so many different directions to go.  Ruminations to me, is about where do things I mull over, lead me to think about… and what are the implications in the larger sphere.

Sometimes it’s about farm life but it generally expands to a larger arena.  “No man is an island unto himself” kinda concept.  So how do things connect in the broader view and what should we consider.

head-in-sandIt’s very easy to take the so-called ostrich viewpoint; it I don’t like what I see so I’ll bury my head and pretend that it’s not there, and go on my merry way. A little like Scarlett O’Hara in “Gone With The Wind”, “I’ll think about it tomorrow!”.

 

But of course, tomorrow never comes; there is only today.

It’s definitely a tightrope to walk.  Overall I’m a fairly optimistic person, thinking the glass is half full rather than half empty.  I believed that people generally do what they think is the best thing to do, and don’t intentionally hurt or take advantage of others. Raised in a family that held religious values as the basis for our lives, it never occurred to me that people would not work for the benefit of others, by taking the long view. Boy, was I in for some real world lessons!

Marshmallow Studymarshm

You have heard the story of a group of kids, 4-5 years olds, that were offered a treat, a marshmallow.  They were shown a treat but told that if they could just wait a few minutes while the giver went to another room to get a 2nd treat, they could have two instead of just one. The wait was 15 minutes long. That has to be close to “forever” in a 4 year old’s world.

http://youtu.be/QX_oy9614HQ

The study looked at which kids would not wait, and which kids would hold out for the bigger prize. I.E. deferred gratification. And then these children were followed for an extended period of time. This study begun in the 1960’s looked at the long term behaviors of the two groups of kids and found that those who “could wait” had significant higher live achievements (you can read the study to hear how that was defined).  http://jamesclear.com/delayed-gratification

For my purposes in relating the story, it has to do with the seemingly innate ability to see the longer term goal as “worth” the added effort. That some people only see what is directly in front of them.  Other’s can see the longer term benefit.  Now it turns out that those attributes are not “written in stone” but can be adjusted somewhat BUT it takes concentrated work to do so.  For some, it’s easy and other’s it is a challenge.

I take the biological imperative perspective: each has survival characteristics that have allowed the trait to continue in our genetic heritage.  Or at least in the last 100,000 years of our current human development process.

  • The hunter who could wait patiently,
  • the farmer who could tend his fields,
  • the mother who could nurture her children:

each one of those aspects have long-term payoffs.

Of course,

  • the hunter who waited patiently, also wiped out the massive herds of buffalo that traveled the plains, in less than 50 years.
  • The farmer stripped the soil of it’s nutrients while initiating the desertfication process and then moved on to richer land,
  • and the mother died in childbirth after having 10 babies (more or less).

How “long a view” is enough?

It’s one thing when there are 5 million people on the planet who can move from place to place (you don’t think the middle east was always a desert do you?), which allows the earth to restabilize, usually.

Think 100,000 years to reach the mark of 5 million people, 8,000 years ago at the dawn of agriculture, give or take a few (years or people).

It has taken all of human history to reach 1 BILLION people, in 1800.              The kicker is, only 200 years to reach 7 Billion.

Up to 2005

Up to 2005

39popgrowth

Short-Sided View = Time’s UP!

In 1970, only half the population of today’s population, existed. We have doubled.

We have moved into a new era… one that we are unprepared to take on.  At least most of us, will and have resisted looking at the new future. We argue about where to move the deck chairs, on the Titanic, in her last hours. We have used our intelligence, our drive, our resilience to build the world we have now, and it’s a relatively comfortable world for most of us, at present.  Somehow we are resistant to looking at where we are headed.

 

As we contaminate our water, destroy the live-giving microbial life in the soil, strip the oceans of life and foul the air… what are we thinking? Where do we think we will end up? More critically, our children and grand-children.  Is our comfort and pleasure worth condemning them to pain and suffering? You do know that is the outcome of our actions today, don’t you.

Only 3.5%, Makes THE Difference

In a country of 300 million, research has shown it takes roughly 10 million to change the direction, and make a difference.

ganhdi color

The Process

“First they ignore you, then they laugh at you, then they fight you, then they join you”, to paraphrase Ganhdi.

I’ve seen major sifts in policy, but it’s led by the everyday man. Not by Wall Street or government, but by people who care enough to say something. Or, to VOTE with their dollars.

From the Vietnam War, to seat belts, to helmets, to family-centered birthing units, to organic foods, to climate change is real, to smoking IS harmful and no you don’t have the right to impose that on everyone else. All of these issues were part and parcel of the “crazies”, the outliers who don’t fit in. But change did happen.

Today we are the cusp: a point of transition between two different states: 

One that looks toward the realities of our future and moves to deal with it,

and one that says, “I don’t like what I see, so I just won’t look!

Someone else can deal with it.”

Where do you stand? Because where you choose to stand will today make the choices for your children, and their children.  It’s time to take the long view.

cusp

 

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Looking for the NEW California Gold… part 2

wellDiagramIt was time to start digging. Dig deep.

We’d talked to neighbors and area well drillers about what they had on their land, and what had been produced, in water wells.  An Indian Casino had gone in less than 10 miles away, that farmer’s were worried would suck all the local wells dry.

Neighbor’s were only getting marginal water (low flow and poor tasting, iron-containing staining water) in the 150 ft range. So some issues to consider.  We didn’t want to tap into water that would draw down our neighbors, draining them dry of the little they had.

Ain’t Cheap, That’s for Sure!

At roughly $60 a foot, it would be very expensive to drill.  $6,000 for every 100 ft.  The well driller recommended 200ft. and estimated we would get 35 gallon per minute (GPM). At that flow rate we would not have to put in extra equipment for fire backup. Of course, a total guess based on who knows what, but probably to give us the lowest possible estimate to get a well in. And NO, no guarantees. But, they could get the permit and be ready to drill in less than a month.

(Our first well drilling venture, in Hopland 2005… it took us three years to get a water well drilled! Need I say that we learned a few lessons along that road!)

This well drilling estimate looked good except that it did NOT include actually getting any water out of the ground… which would require a well pump, power, lines, etc. Whole other issues there.

Great folks to work with, Peterson Drilling (in business for over 50 years).  Showed up on time, knowledgeable and willing to discuss the whole process. If you know me, I was in hog heaven! Someone who would explain their work and the processes involved. 

They brought in close to a million dollars worth of equipment (today’s costs to replace the equipment) to start to

Drill Rig setting up

Drill Rig setting up

drill.  Before they began, raised an American Flag to the top of the drilling rig. American business doing real work producing something.

Over four days, they sunk the drill bit through layers and layers of various soil textures.  Along the way they took samples of the “spoils” coming up, and built a pattern of the different layers underlying the property. Some layers the drill bit moved through quickly, other’s it just crawled.  The operator making notes along the way of each change he observed in the “spoils”.

Often you could just “hear” the change in the drilling process to know that the underground terrain had changed. Think about it, you are going back hundreds and thousands of years as you move through those layers.

straining the spoils

straining the spoils

Scientists have taken the drill logs of over 8,000 different drillers, through out California, to build a picture of the underground layers and see the story they tell.

Building a Picture of the Underlying Layers

For us, the first 50 ft were sandy loan, perfect for growing crops. Well drained. This area had been an old flood plain so sedimentary soils had build up over time. And then we hit a clay layer, a creamy beige layer followed by a dark blue layer of clay.  The drillers called it “blue clay” and said it came from an ancient swamp land that had decomposed.

Clay ~ blue, white, beige

Clay ~ blue, white, beige

Blue clay is a “plastic layer”, a layer that water can barely penetrate. Instead of water moving many feet a day through the soil, this layer effectively blocked movement. Limiting it to 1-3 millimeters over a timeframe of a 100 years.  Water under this layer is basically ancient water that is not being recharged  The layer above this was the layer my neighbors had been, and still were, in.

Water “spaces” collapse

The problem with the soils & water withdrawals?  As water was removed, the soil particles compacted in and stuck to each other which prevent water from being reabsorbed into the soils, assuming it could even get there. (Maybe by pumping excess water back into the ground during the rainy season?)

We kept going deeper.  I did not want to be in a water reservoir that the neighbors were drawing on. We needed to go past another clay layer (i.e. through the bottom layer of that upper water reservoir).   A lower level would be a ‘contained’ reservoir, blocked from moving up by the clay layers above it; we would not be pulling out any of the water in the upper reservoir they were located in.

Boards stacked with Layers of Spoil Samples

Boards stacked with Layers of Spoil Samples

We hit the 200 ft level. No. Not far enough down.  

Good water bearing rock should be gavel-like in texture, some sand is ok, but small rocks are better.  Allows water to collect in the spaces and not as likely to compact down and prevent future water movement. Still no sense of any good layers of water bearing material.  Driller said, “I’m sure there IS water; how much or the quality? I have no idea.”

Keep going… I named 300 ft as the end point.  Somewhere between 200-300 feet we needed to find the right texture make-up of the layers.  I had to leave… couldn’t take the watching & waiting. I just knew I had committed our limited resources to the edge. We either got a return on it, or not (if we didn’t or if it was just minimal, it would severely limit what we could do with the farm land.)

Besides, I figured it was the ol’ boiling water figure of speech…. watching it wouldn’t make it happen any faster.

It was the middle of the 3rd day.  They would finish drilling and then start pumping water INTO the well to flush it out, and see what we would actually get.

Flushing the Well with Water

I came back. As I drove up, I could see the well head gushing water out.  They had placed a black tub on top to direct the water downward into the mini-drainage canal they had built at the start, to channel all the “spoils”.

Water, water

Water, water

Asking the driller how much longer they had to flush the well before we would know how much water we would get; he laughed, “honey, that’s not water we are flushing the well with, that IS  your water coming out.” I was shocked, stunned… on the verge of tears, actually.

I had prepared my self for a dribble,  3-4 gallons a minute that with a storage tank, you could get by on.

confined by upper & lower levels of clay

confined by upper & lower levels of clay

He was telling me we had a 100 GPM flowing from the well, of good water. No sulfur, no iron, just pristine water.

Ancient water that did not have hormones, antibiotics, industrial chemicals leached into it, protected by the upper layers of clay.

We even had enough water that we would be able to share with our neighbors.

Severe Drought in a Desert State

Why was I so shocked?  Here we are in the middle of the worst drought in California in over a hundred years, and we actually found water.  Turns out in the last 100 feet they drilled, roughly 85 ft of it was water-bearing material.  They hit another thick clay at 307 ft and stopped at that point.

Management becomes the key issue.  And will be an interesting point for discussion. How should water be managed? and why?

Water management in the past, and the future…

Land has dropped 30 ft/50 years

Land has dropped 30 ft/50 years

In the Central Valley of California (Sacrament Valley & San Joaquin Valley, 20-70 miles wide by 400 miles long) agriculture there has resorted to pumping from the aquifers to feed the water hungry farms.  Of course that valley production provides a quarter of the food for the entire country.  Move over one valley closer (cooler) to the coast, to Salinas and farmers produce close to 90% of some crops to the entire US. If you eat, a good portion comes from California farms.

Ground water, for years, has not been able to meet the needs of the industrial sized farms, despite building huge canals and moving water directly to the area.

The largest number of well permits ever issues, has occurred in the last two years.  Wells are being drilled to a 1,000 ft or more, as the surface wells (to 300 ft) dry up.

Land subsidence is dramatic; certain areas have dropped some 30 ft in the last 50 years. In the last 3 years of this drought, the land is collapsing in at the rate of a foot a year; as the water is removed, the land subsides.

collapsing layers as the water is removed

collapsing layers as the water is removed

Because it is becoming compacted it can never again hold water in the volume it has held in the past. This is happening in a relatively progressive state.

Ogallala Aquifer, largest in the USA, is already being pumped dry…

It has already happened in the mid-west where one of the world’s largest aquifer is located. The Ogallala Aquifer, spanning eight states, has been drawn down to a quarter

Ogallala Aquifer

Ogallala Aquifer – spanning eight states

of it’s initial size, in less that 60 years of intensive farming. Estimates mark 2028 as the expected date for the water to be gone.

Water that took thousands and thousands of years to collect… gone.  It would take a 100,000 years, it is estimated, to replenish the water naturally. It recharges at roughly one inch a year; while being drawn down 5 ft a year, in places.

Contamination ~ no way to undo that damage

The other danger? They want to build the Keystone XL pipeline right through the land the overlies the Ogallala Aquifer.  Don’t worry, “we won’t let it contaminate the water” by leaking into it! Right, as if I believe that one. If it happens, it’s something you can’t take back. Is that a gamble you want to take? Just how much DO you trust cost conscience corporations?

It is the time for each one of us to begin to say, it’s enough. It’s time to start thinking and acting sanely.  

You say, “It’s the corporation, it’s big business, it’s someone else’s problem.” But if you drive, if you heat or cool your home, if you eat food… you ARE part of the issues.  It is time to start taking responsibility for what needs to happen, on a local level. If you are waiting for big government to make changes, they won’t until you make it happen.

California Gold, in a Desert State, is called WATER

So I look at my “California Gold” and am reminded of my responsibility to the future… it forces me to consider a broader picture than just me and my “tribe”.  The need to chart a path that builds resilience for the future rather than just doing the traditional “taking” today, for me and mine. Actually, it’s what we all need to be doing, and doing it actively before we have no more choices.

Winning the Darwin Prize!

California 2012 voters raced again to the forefront of winning a Darwin Prize*

gmo

gmo (Photo credit: decorat)

By their actions, again, the majority have chosen denial to deal with real issues.  “I don’t want to know if something is really natural or is GMO (genetically modified); I would rather pretend that everything is OK. And then I can avoid having to face the choice of paying the cost for real food.  If you don’t label it, I don’t have to think about what it might mean.  Never-mind that my neighbor might want to have the choice to know.

Hell yes, it will cost us! But it ALREADY costs us in ways we don’t put on the tab.

It was a bit misleading to say that labeling GMO foods would NOT cost anything (because they change the package labels all the time).  The reality is, OF COURSE it would raise the cost of food.  The industrial folks don’t do it ’cause it IS more expense than their created “knock off version” of food.

Trust me, I know.  We have raised our own beef, pork, chicken, and organic veggies.  Doing it to make money is fighting an uphill battle when you price compare to industrial food.  If the industrial people had to label their GMO food, which meant many would not buy, they would have to shift to foods that would increase their cost of doing business.

Don’t make the mistake of thinking the industrial complex is in the business of making food; they are in the business of making money.  If the cost of that production goes up, then it gets passed along.  There ain’t no such thing as a free lunch! That cost will show up in your grocery cart.

Did you hear about the Freebies?

Unfortunately, when buying industrial food you are getting a lot of “free” extras! Because it is not staring you in the face, it can be ignored… for a very, very long time.  But it comes back to bite you.  You know, like when you don’t pay the power bill, eventually the power get’s turned off. Maybe not today or tomorrow, but it will.

So when I see the autism rates are skyrocketing (1 out of 60 births, vrs 1 out of 10,000 historically), when autoimmune disease are epidemic (thyroid, lupus, rheumatoid arthritis), when the onset of diabetes has become the province of staggering numbers of the very young instead of the old, I believe our cultural advances are slowly poisoning us. I wonder just what IS the price we are paying for those freebies.

I know, too many variables to make an absolute correlation.  Well, if I wait to long, I won’t even have to worry about it, will I.  After 30 years in the medical world it did occur to me that the most cost effective patient, after the healthy one, was the dead one. From a strictly monetary assessment of costs. OTOH (On the other hand), a whole new income stream to supply medications to deal with the possible side effects!

Is it the food? The water (with it’s load of residuals of hormones & medications & chemicals) we drink? Or the air? …the neuro-toxic mercury we all breath in and eat (from the residuals of burning coal)? A zillion possibilities… I. Don’t. Know. and I could be wrong.

What is Different?

What I DO know is that there have been some dramatic changes in the last 100 years…  we’ve shifted away 10,000 years ago, from the hunter-gather society that we were bred from. Let’s see: 100,000 years to 10,000 years to 100 years. (And actually, according to the latest research in archeology that 100,000 years is really at least 600,000 years of development).**

We developed over thousands of generations, where survival meant dealing with “upfront & in your face” problems, in your immediate future.  Things like getting away from predators, finding food, staying warm/cool, shelter from the elements, etc. No need to worry about 10 years down the road because immediate survival did not depend on that. Our “stone age brains” are wired for fight or flight, right now.  And maybe, food for the next season.  We survived in a world that utilized what nature provided, for food, in very basic forms.

The Stone-Age Brain: Death by Over-Consumption

We’ve moved into a new realm where, in the Western World, most of us have our basic needs met with highly processed foods & chemicals.  In fact, for many, met to well. Fat, couch-bound, car focused, and entertained until death.

I don’t think our “stone age brains” have had time to evolve to a world of “enough”. We consume as if we can not get enough. (Those details are the meat of another post, though.)

But some will…survive. It’s a brain that has adapted to the new “reality”… that considers cause and effect, actions and consequences on a longer time frame. “Neo-brain”.

Those who think (delayed benefits) about the longer term effects, will be the ones that DO survive as they make the adjustments they see the need for.

Survival battle

darwin

IN or OUT of the genetic pool?

That “stone-age brain” will lose the battle of survival of the fittest because it will kill itself off!  It will be those who consider the long-impact of our actions, that will win that battle, without even having to “fight”. They will simply look for the sustainable practices that will make a difference in long-term survival. And significantly, then take personal action that will make a difference.

The real challenge is to keep the stone-age brains from dragging the survivors down, as the stone-agers grow & harvest the darwin award!

If you kill off that which sustains you… by default you will die.  The problem is that you take a lot of “innocents” along with you. As well, you (the masses) may inflict tremendous damage on the underlying systems. But some will survive. The systems, over time, will re-balance.

Our human nature tells us to reach out to others and alert them to the dangers! One can only reach out to those who are unaware.  Once the “word” is out, if denial is the choice that is made… it is made for not only yourself… but those whom you care for, as well as others who have not made any choice.

Here in California, with the defeat of Prop 37, Label GMO Foods, and the defeat of an added soda tax (to discourage excessive consumption) we are saying that the health of the community cannot be legislated.

And yet, we did pass No Smoking laws, eventually.  So there is hope. Overtime, other parts of the country have made changes as well. With all the issues coming to a head, the question I ask is, “How much TIME do we really have, this time?”

KUDOS to those who spread the word!

They fought a strong battle. 47% of those that voted are now even more aware of the challenges ahead. And many in other states that listened to the battle, learned much as well. Those that could not vote and those that did, can now vote a different way, in the future.

It becomes even more imperative that we vote with our dollars and actions to support those farmers that do see the future, and are helping us to survive this Darwinian hit list!

The quality of our survival will depend on them.

*************************************************************************

* Darwin Awards commemorate individuals who protect our gene pool by making the ultimate sacrifice of their own lives. Darwin Award winners eliminate themselves in an extraordinarily idiotic manner, thereby improving our species’ chances of long-term survival.

For example: killing oneself while manufacturing a homemade chimney-cleaning device from a grenade would be eligible;

OR –  John used wood and rope to make a traction device to ease his wife’s neck pain. But applying traction to the neck takes a delicate touch. His DIY (do-it-yourself) medical device turned out to be a gallows, as John found out when he tested it and hanged himself.

** FYI: Atheist, or not?  I personally believe in intelligent guidance, so evolution, for me, is not an anti-bible concept. I find it a matter of “hubris” that man thinks to dictate to “GOD” the details of how things should be done.

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