A commentary at Real Clear Energy asks if California’s ridiculous environmental policies could spread nationwide. As the saying goes: As goes California, so goes the rest of the country. However, the Golden State should be looked at as not only what is wrong with environmental measures but how the Left uses them as a means to drag down a once beautiful and prosperous state.
An “Ecotopian” Future: Can California’s Green Extremism Go National?
by Joel Kotkin, September 29, 2020, Real Clear Energy
They paved paradise…And put up a parking lot…With a pink hotel, a boutique…And a swinging hot spot…Don’t it always seem to go…That you don’t know what you’ve got ‘til it’s gone — Joni Mitchell, “Big Yellow Taxi,” 1970
One is often at a loss to explain California to people from other planets—like, say, earth. This is a state that issues mandates for electrification of everything while reducing its generating capacity. It blames devastating fires on climate change, without taking the blame for forestry practices that helped make the seasonal fires much worse. In California, pot is legal, but owning a car with a gas engine, however clean, may soon not be, and climate skeptics of any stripe face opprobrium, consignment to obscurity, and—if they have assets—court dates.
To understand how a state could adopt what often seem insane policies, impoverishing its people while claiming the mantle of social justice, you need to consult the state’s unique history. California is just not like other places, and you won’t get anywhere without understanding that. With few navigable rivers and a lack of water near its coast and fertile valleys, the state largely engineered its own rise. “Science is the mother of California,” said the University of California’s second president, Daniel Coit Gilman. Largely dominated by desert, flammable dry chaparral and high mountains, California depended on bringing water to its bone-dry coast, tapping electricity from distant dams, and accommodating a massive influx of new residents with largely suburban housing.
The state’s rapid population growth from 1.5 million in 1900 to nearly 40 million today placed enormous strains on its natural systems. During the Gold Rush, mining practices devastated the Mother Lode country and poisoned the rivers. In the rest of the state, natural scrubland was converted first into farms, then into housing tracts, wiping out whole ecosystems. Those who grew up here, from Jerry Brown to Joni Mitchell, or who have lived here long, like this writer—nearly a half-century resident—have witnessed immense changes. We’ve seen the citrus orchards all but vanish from the coast, the massive 1969 Santa Barbara oil spill, ever-more suffocating traffic congestion, and the densification of many communities. It’s hard not to harken back to “better times” when the grove near your house is now a Target.
Still, where these real challenges, along with concerns over climate change, might have encouraged constructive solutions, they have instead metastasized the apocalyptic side of modern environmentalism. Predictably, The New York Times suggests that California is “ground zero for climate disasters,” while the Los Angeles Times claims that California now fights not just fires and droughts but “climate despair.” A letter to the editor insists that the state is already “a climate change hell,” a logical conclusion to reach, judging by media coverage of the recent fires. That voice of establishment reasoning, the Council on Foreign Relations, helpfully chimes in that “California is a Preview of Climate Change’s Devastation for the Entire World.”
In California, we appear to have made the transition from awesome to awful.