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Water Socialism

We drove up through California's Central Valley on Rt. 99. Passed fallow fields and orchards. Farming never ends. Workers are out trimming bare fruit and nut trees. Some farms put up signs identifying their crops. The differences between the naked almond and pistachio trees are intriguing. Not the sort of thing one thinks about while bemoaning Amazon groceries (formerly Whole Foods) charging twice as much per pound of shelled, roasted pistachios as Costco. 

The workers are still mostly Hispanic. But the names on trucks and farms and small businesses all over the Valley are increasingly Indian, and more and more men wear turbans. There are interesting looking new temples with gilt domes. And in fuel stops and convenience stores English and Spanish are both minority languages. 

One evening’s dinner was chicken curry and fish tikka masala. The fish was salmon, not indigenous to the Indian subcontinent. An ancient recipe adopted to a new continent’s available materials. Globalism. Delicious. 

We drove to Roseville for a day of business, then down to Vacaville for another business stop. Then the 680 to the 580, over the Altamont Pass to the I-5, on which we drove down the other side of the Central Valley back to L.A. Different farms, fewer people, more industrial spaces and lots of cattle ranching. 

On both sides of the Valley, constantly signs calling on the government to provide more water for farms, to build more dams. Socialism.

But on both sides of the Valley, constantly signs calling on the government to provide more water for farms, to build more dams. Socialism. Wanting the government to provide what the farmers do not want to pay for themselves, to make their businesses profitable. 

This is probably a good thing, and as usual with good things, under-exploited by a clueless Democratic Party machine. But an opportunity for local political activists throughout the Valley. My suggestion is that local activist get out and share with their neighbors the SOCIALISTIC nature of the campaigns sponsored by corporate mega-farms for taxpayers to provide them with water. 

This is an opportunity to promote unity and progressivism. It should not be an effort to ridicule or criticize Valley politicians who are owned by corporations. Rather, they should be celebrated for their embrace of socialism and government involvement in necessary public projects. 

This does not mean that progressives and liberals must embrace the corporate welfare inherent in the corporate socialist ideas of taxpayers providing farm water. Not at all. It is very unlikely that the corporate farmers’ view of what constitutes a good government water project will seem as good to many people, from farm workers to consumers, to those concerned about environmental exploitation, pollution and pesticide over-use. 

What is important is to recognize that the corporations are acknowledging the need for government involvement in the provision of important services to provide for public need. Since they want government involvement in their water supplies, they inherently need the government to regulate how that water supply is produced, quality ensured, protected and distributed. 

BRAVO! Environmentalists have been telling us for years that the government must be involved in such issues. Erin Brockovitch became famous and rich pointing out the failure of corporations to take care of their own water polluting activities, and the absence of government protection for consumers and families. Now the same corporations are acknowledging the need. 

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Rather than condemning them, or demanding explanations for why they come to this position so late, let’s welcome them and acknowledge their new socialist tendencies. Since it’s an election year, what better way to communicate with corporations than through the politicians whom they own? 

tom hall

So activists should be identifying Valley politicians who live by the largesse of farm and fertilizer and other agri-biz corporations and reach out to their constituents. Of course, reach out to the politicians, too. Ask for greater clarity on their positions, cite to vagaries stated on their websites and visit them when they do constituent meetings. Show up at hearings on bills they support, and ask questions that put their bills in larger context - how does the narrow focus of the bill impact people not mentioned in the bill, but affected by its terms? 

Ask about not just water availability, but about water quality. And ask about whether the water will suffer from pesticide pollution, either before being delivered to the corporate farms or after it runs off farm fields and sinks into the local aquifer. Ask where the water will come from and whether routing it to corporate farms will be taking it away from some other needs. 

One of the claims being made by corporate farmers is that the current, years-long California drought is “man made,” rather than something science-based, like global climate change. That fairly opens the issue of climate change for discussion when any politician supports delivering more water to corporate farms. Just as asking about water pollution from farm operations raises questions about whether tax payers should be underwriting the pollution of our ground water. It also opens the door to whether government providing the water should regulate whether the water is used efficiently, or with old-fashioned spray irrigation that wastes thousands of acre feet of water every year. 

And the corporate embrace of socialist thinking reaches so much more. If government should be involved in providing corporations better water supplies, shouldn’t it also be involved in providing better schools, particularly in rural areas? How about better broadband access, to let student connect with the wider world? 

As we cruised along the Central Valley, beekeepers were laying out stacks of beehives, wooden boxes, each with a hive of bees. These will be spread among the groves to fertilize the fruit and nut trees. In some groves, birdhouses were scattered among the bare trees, soon to be hidden by new leaves. 

The bees fertilize the plants so that fruits and nuts sprout and grow. The birds feed on insects that want to eat the budding fruits and nuts, so the crops flourish. I wondered if the birds and the bees negotiate some sort of detente so that they each do their own job, and the birds eat other insects. (Idea for a children’s book here?) 

The beekeepers stack their hive boxes four and five tall. Each has a small opening in the bottom edge through which bees leave and enter, with a small shelf where bees do dances to teach other bees where they’ve found food. Bees are social insects with a variety of documented rituals. I wondered if bees feel a sense of social status related to where in the stack of hive boxes their hive is located. Is a higher box a higher status hive? Do bees from different boxes act like Jets and Sharks to each other? 

We know that for political activists, working on a federal candidate’s campaign is higher status than working on statewide or local campaigns. But we also know that local activism can pay more immediate dividends, in terms of improves services and more honest government. We also know from Barack Obama’s first book, Dreams from My Father, that local activism takes constant action and pruning, like the maintenance of the fields and orchards. 

But local activism also allows more freedom to experiment. While standard campaigns attack and attack, what impact might it have on Central Valley voters if there appeared a bunch of highway signs praising conservative candidates for their turn toward socialism? Maybe a water-needs quote, with a brief “thank you for identifying the need for socialist government solutions.” 

Tom Hall

What impact might such signs have on passing drivers, farm workers, Moms worried about book banning in local schools? The alt-white fringe has begun to show some attention to the problems of corporate domination of government. Such signs could provoke them to ask questions at various meetings. 

If the alt-whities start to turn against corporate owned candidates, can anything bad result? 

Tom Hall