In 1950, it has been repeated ad nausea; Los Angeles County produced more agricultural commodities than any county in the state. By the mid-1970s, it began to lead the nation as the most polluted air basin, despite its sea breezes. Today, in this grim "metric," it appears to have fallen behind both the San Joaquin Valley and Riverside/San Bernardino counties.
The San Joaquin Valley is the richest farmland in the western US. Today, Los Angeles is an asphalt jungle and its eastern neighboring counties are developing along the same dismal pattern.
Humanity has yet to learn how to reclaim asphalt jungles for agriculture, should the need or desire occur.
It is not too late to stop the LA-ification of the San Joaquin Valley. Abundant farmland still exists. Given its inversion layer, more development can only turn this valley of the best farmland in the West into a respiratory hell.
Regional and national food security, health and safety for San Joaquin Valley inhabitants and a responsible attitude toward global warming and the waning of the Sierra snow pack argue forcefully against more population growth.
All that is stopping a sane approach to Valley agricultural and natural resources and health and welfare of its inhabitants is the entire political economic system – local, state and federal – dominated by real estate development and the financial, land-owning, construction, and realty interests that swarm around it, and the political passivity of the residents. To turn the San Joaquin Valley into a continuous metropolitan region from Sacramento to Bakersfield is no more nor less than business as usual: destructive enrichment of the few at the expense of many.
It was recently argued in a Merced County staff report on a residential development that criticism of how the development would deal with a Williamson Act (farmland preservation) matter was, in fact, an attempt to stop the project and the population growth and increase in autos the project would create. This, the staff report implied, was an illegitimate reason for arguing the Williamson Act matter.
The same is constantly said about criticisms and lawsuits for violations of local, state and federal environmental law and regulation. "It doesn't matter because the critics just want to stop growth."
This sort of logic reminds me of an old movie, "Never on Sunday," in which an Athenian prostitute who attended every performance of ancient tragedies and was greatly moved by their sorrow and destruction, consoled herself with the belief that in the end "they all went to the seashore."
Presumably, county officials that produce this bilge plan to retire to Pismo Beach to breath clean sea air after their careers of disservice to the San Joaquin Valley public.
The growth now occurring in the San Joaquin Valley is a tragedy, of which one element is always the willful denial of truths like endemic respiratory illness and global warming, which can only worsen with more Valley growth.
The loss of the culture of farming is both sad and frightening.
“The best product of the American farm is the careful farmer,” Wendell Berry once wrote. There are some left. There are also some San Joaquin Kit Fox left, but the trend toward extinction is clear in both species.
American culture and economy -- this gargantuan brat -- has no place for the modest, patient, skillful and inventive farmers who built our valley. Those people wisely mistrusted booms and all the other deals too good to be true, and they did not indefinitely abide whores in government. They believed in hard work and earnest prayer.
In our valley today, the political theory is that the public is the servant of the public servant, who is the servant of destructive enrichment, a form of self-indulgence practiced by a few people and corporations with great wealth, who lack the imagination to do anything but destructively pursue greater wealth.
The poor dears. The appropriate places for them are gated reservations locked from the outside instead of the inside. Let them play Monopoly with their money! Meanwhile, permit the San Joaquin Valley public time and space to deal with the consequences of their binges in real estate.