Water policy implications of Steinbeck

And it never failed that during the dry years the people forgot about the rich years, and during the wet years they lost all memory of the dry years. It was always that way.

John Steinbeck, in East of Eden

This famous quote came up today in Circle of Blue‘s conference call/seminar on California drought. A frequent message drawn from Steinbeck’s words is that we must do better – that we must teach people not to forget when the wet times return.

I’d suggest a different lesson to draw from Steinbeck’s wise description of climate variability in the Salinas Valley. What if the real message is that people will forget, and that what we as a society need to do is develop a politics and policy around our water that is robust to that inevitability?