**Disclaimer: I am not a scientist. If you are a scientist and something in this article sounds incorrect or misinformed, please (politely!) let me know in the comments. Thank you!**
As I write from an undisclosed location in greater Los Angeles, it’s 97 degrees with 20% humidity.
If you’re reading this (anywhere), you’re probably thinking: “We know. Scalding hot temperatures are the new normal for fall.”
One word, my friends: Desertification.
No, it’s not a way of turning any food into dessert. It is:
“the process by which fertile land becomes desert, typically as a result of drought, deforestation, or inappropriate agriculture”
Drought? California has that. Check.
Deforestation? The Los Angeles basin naturally has few natural sources of water besides rainfall. Settlers planted trees in LA for shade. However, developers cut down trees to build housing, and the city of LA stopped paying for maintenance of old growth trees, causing many residents to chop ’em down rather than pay for upkeep. Deforestation? Check.
Inappropriate agriculture: NASA defines desert/ arid biomes as having less than 25 cm of rainfall per year. The San Joaquin Valley, where most of California’s agriculture takes place, gets about 40 cm (16 inches) annually. It’s practically a desert. Farming in a desert sounds dumb, right? It is. But what if you want to farm where there are a bunch of trees? You cut them down, right? Bam: Deforestation. Agriculture leads to deforestation. Deforestation leads to desertification. Central Oregon had its driest years on record, resulting in massive wildfires. It’s happening everywhere. Fun Fact: Over half of the nation’s crops come from California. Over half the nation’s crops come from improper agriculture.
That is why Southern California, and areas like it, are 90 degrees in October. Drought, deforestation, and improper agriculture. Desertification. We turn our fertile areas into deserts.
Some of you may be thinking, “Oh good! I love cacti and sunburns!”
SNAP OUT OF IT!
Humans, like all living creatures, need water to survive. Do you really want to end up living in Mad Max: Fury Road?
Water consumption is complex and multifaceted. Transportation, agriculture and energy account 70% of Americans’ daily water use. You can still help. Here are a few lifestyle changes you can make to save water long- term.
- Flush less. If it’s yellow, let it mellow. If it’s brown, flush it down.
- Only use the water you need. Turn your faucet off while you brush your teeth, turn your shower off while you’re scrubbing your bod or waiting for conditioner to sink in, and use your dishwasher instead of hand washing. Only run the laundry machine on full loads.
- Get your car washed at a site that uses recycled gray water.
- Vote. Read your local legislation on water rights. Keep in mind that “access to fresh water” usually means diverting water from natural sources and disrupting local ecosystems, which provides water to metropolitan areas but creates drought in natural areas.
- Keep your trees! If a tree is damaging your infrastructure, problem solve by pruning or trimming. Trees store water and create rain.
- Drink more beer. I’ll be writing a bigger post on this, but cut back on wine consumption. There is a global trend of deforesting to plant vineyards, because wine is very profitable. This has especially become a problem in Oregon, South Africa and Central California. Drink beer instead.
- Cut back on central heating and cooling. They take water particles from air and dehydrate environments.
- Eat less meat. You don’t have to become a full blown vegetarian, but try cutting back red meat consumption to once a week. Cornell University reports 54 percent of US pasture land is overgrazed, leading to erosion, air pollution and- yup- desertification. Furthermore, more than half the grain grown in US feeds livestock.
- Avoid palm oil. The Rainforest Foundation says:
“Palm oil, found in half of all processed foods in the US, and many common household products is a key contributor to rainforest deforestation. Read your food and product labels carefully and refuse to buy products with palm oil or insist on sustainable alternatives.”
Palm oil also makes you fat.
- Reduce & reuse. National Geographic reports 91% of plastic isn’t recycled. Only 79% of plastics placed in the recycling bin actually get recycled. It takes 22 gallons of water to make 1 pound of plastic. Take inventory of your plastic use. If you buy single- serving food products, you’re using a lot of plastic. Buy in bulk from shops like Whole Foods and Sprouts. Buy a reusable water bottle.
- Keep your plants. Lots of us swapped our lawns for rocks and cactus, but plants make your house cooler and rocks make your house hotter. You don’t like this. Instead, plant native shrubs or trees, and water them with gray water.
- Give a damn. Water is life. Wanna live? Care about water.