One of the common themes in drought journalism (mine at times included, sadly) is the tendency to cry “drought” at minor excursions into the down side of natural variability, when the real problem is not so much water supply as voracious consumption. Blaming nature is a whole lot easier than blaming ourselves.
Is that the case now in California? Bettina Boxall’s story in this morning’s LA Times (h/t Belshaw) seems to suggest it might be:
The water interests who have spit out grim news releases the last two months were silent Monday in the face of the growing snowpack.
Those who would like to build new reservoirs and canals and to weaken environmental regulations have invoked the drought like a mantra in recent weeks.
A recently introduced congressional bill that would allow federal officials to relax endangered-species protections in the Sacramento-San Joaquin Delta is titled the California Drought Alleviation Act.
“For over 100 years in California, the drought argument has been used consistently to justify actions, and I think this is no exception,” said Robert Wilkinson, director of the Water Policy Program at UC Santa Barbara’s Bren School of Environmental Science and Management.
Until we figger out how to dramatically slow then reverse our population growth, it is imperative to find blame elsewhere.
Sure, there is the problem more generally of attributing to nature problems that should be attributed to us. Are all natural disasters truly natural in origin? The Editor-in-Chief at Science, back in 2006, remarked on how we “let ourselves off the hook” by calling them acts of God, or whatever. But demand-driven drought does exist. And if you define a drought as insufficient to meet demand>, then it would be legitimate in the right context.