Ed: Environmentalism in the valley is a hot topic, both socially and politically. Really, we draw people like Sean Hannity and Paul Rodriguez to the valley just to talk, somewhat uninformed at times, about water. We grow food for the world, but that process contributes to the poor air quality of the valley. And lately, the politics of environmentalism intermixed with the politics of neighborhood and art in Fresno. While we won't recap the whole drama, the mural on Neighborhood Thrift Store featured a woman, made of water, with the San Joaquin Valley flowing from her mouth. It flowed to scenes of farms being worked and to the city. As the mural progressed the artist changed the piece to have the water (and her mouth) damned up, but flowing from a grate on her neck. Water is life in the valley. And let us not forget the signs along 99 that inform us 'where water flows, food grows.' The valley should be at the front of environmental discussion however, we are woefully at the back consistently sticking our heads in the sand. We ignore years of drought and water lawns like there is no tomorrow. Farmers sell off their water rights for the construction of more tract homes. We demonize people that support environmental causes like restoring salmon runs in the valley and protecting endangered species like the Delta Smelt. And the biggest city in the valley still isn't using water meters, although they are slowly in the process of installing them for future use. How can we cultivate a culture in Fresno and the valley that is willing to examine how we are using our environmental assets properly, while still working to stimulate businesses?
Adam: Transparency and education. There’s a lot of partisanship going on. Taking everyone back to their SATs, Republican : Democrat :: Agriculture : Environmentalism. Now, don’t get me wrong, I don’t think it’s always aligned that way but I’d say a large percentage is. And I’d say that a big part of that is the nature of how political parties engage and co-opt issues affecting their constituencies. I think that the water issue would be oh so much simpler if it were removed from the world of politics but that ain’t gonna happen anytime soon, if ever. But, what I think could really help the issue is for people to count to 10, take a deep breath and attempt to engage the opposition, or at the very least attempt to understand and empathize with their position. All too often there’s a lot of finger-pointing and shouting, so we end up with some cathartic debate but no one budged from their initial position.
Ed: That’s a good recommendation, Adam. I mean, I even remember Paul Rodriguez getting into a shouting match with another man here in Fresno over water and representing farm workers that almost escalated to a physical confrontation. That’s not what we need, at least in my opinion. We do need clear discussion of the issue, whether it is water, pesticides used, housing development, or the cars we drive. Sadly, it seems that there are few that are willing to really engage at that level, and even fewer that are willing to actually implement it in their lives. I mean, I can talk a good game about conserving water and how farmers need to balance with environmental needs, but it’s all bull hooey if I take a forty five minute shower every day before I jump in my car alone to drive across town. At some point we all need to implement environmental change in our lives. What practical changes do you think the average Fresnan, as well as the city of Fresno can implement?
Adam: Well, there are the obvious answers that get mentioned a lot. Xeroscaping is a big one; making sure that the plants in your yard need little to no watering. Cut back on your water usage from dish washing to showers to low-flow toilets to hosing off your driveway to making sure your sprinklers are working and aimed the right direction. Try to buy things that are local and/or in season. It reduces shipping of products from out of the valley, cutting down on pollution and fuel usage among other things. What things would you recommend besides those?
Ed: Reading local blogs, because those out of town blogs pollute your mind. Just kidding. I actually think that what the city can actually do would be to accelerate the pace of bringing water meters on line and force people to actually pay for what they use. I’m betting that when people are faced with the prospect of less money in their pocket they’ll rethink their water usage. Individually I’d encourage Fresnans to walk or bike somewhere once a week instead of driving.