Did you know that 2013 was the driest year ever recorded in the state of California? And did you know that so far this is the driest January that the state of California has ever experienced? The worst drought in the history of California is happening right now.
Just check out the current conditions on the U.S. Drought Monitor. About two-thirds of the state is experiencing “extreme drought” at the moment, and Governor Jerry Brown says that it is “not likely to rain for several weeks“. Unfortunately for California, the truth is that the weather in the western half of the country is simply returning to historical norms. Scientists tell us that the 20th century was the wettest century in the western half of the United States in 1000 years, and that extremely dry conditions are normally what we should expect for most areas from the Pacific Ocean to the Mississippi River. If long-term conditions truly are “returning to normal”, then the state of California could be heading for a water crisis of unprecedented magnitude.
But it is not just the state of California that should be concerned. The reality of the matter is that the produce grown in California feeds the rest of the nation. Just check out these statistics…
The state produces 99 percent of the artichokes grown in the US, 44 percent of asparagus, a fifth of cabbage, two-thirds of carrots, half of bell peppers, 89 percent of cauliflower, 94 percent of broccoli, and 95 percent of celery. Leafy greens? California’s got the market cornered: 90 percent of the leaf lettuce we consume, along with and 83 percent of Romaine lettuce and 83 percent of fresh spinach, come from the big state on the left side of the map. Cali also cranks a third of total fresh tomatoes consumed in the U.S.—and 95 percent of ones destined for cans and other processing purposes.
As for fruit, I get that 86 percent of lemons and a quarter of oranges come from there; its sunny climate makes it perfect for citrus, and lemons store relatively well. Ninety percent of avocados? Fine. But 84 percent of peaches, 88 percent of fresh strawberries, and 97 percent of fresh plums?
Come on. Surely the other 49 states can do better.
In other words, the rest of us are extremely dependent on the fruits and vegetables that the state of California grows for us.
So don’t take too much joy in what California is going through. It is going to affect you too.