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All in outside: Use less water today, eat an orange tomorrow

National water usage is connected to California’s drought-stricken citrus orchards. 2013 was California’s driest year ever. Photo Courtesy of

National water usage is connected to California’s drought-stricken citrus orchards. 2013 was California’s driest year ever. Photo Courtesy of

Troy Regier, a second-generation fruit grower from San Joaquin Valley, is growing increasingly worried about drought.

“We’ve had a couple of dry years before,” Regier said. He is doing his best to sound optimistic as he talks to a public radio correspondent about the widespread drought currently plaguing California. “We’ve [not had] hardly any rain this year.”

No kidding. This last year of 2013 was the driest year on record for the state of California, according to the National Weather Service. Rain and snowpack, as Regier explains, are imperative for maintaining the lakes and rivers that farmers like him use to water their crops.

The local water districts then distribute allotments of water to each farmer on an annual basis. When such reservoirs run low or dry up altogether, as is becoming the case now, farmers may receive little or no water from the district and are forced to rely on wells that tap into underground aquifers. The problem with aquifers is that they are expensive, both in terms of money and environmental costs.

Besides, they are running dry, too.

As I was listening to this story, I felt the usual sympathy for the poor farmers and the obligatory guilt for yet another atrocious effect of climate change.

I, like many other environmentally conscious folks, have become accustomed to such emotions and have learned to console myself in various ways. For instance, I do not much care for oranges, so the plight of the citrus crop does not really hit me very hard. I felt better. Moreover, I live in Tennessee. What could I possibly do about the weather in California? Haul buckets of water across the country?

But this logic is flawed. It assumes that geographic location and immediate self-interests automatically and systematically prevent action. That kind of narrow-minded thinking is ostensibly obsolete.

No longer can we reconcile to ourselves that we are too far removed from problems to take appropriate and meaningful action. Though the pros and cons of our increasingly globalized world can be debated ad nauseum, our interconnectedness is undeniable.

For better or worse, we are cohabitants, dependent on one another and the earth. If you ate an orange at breakfast, almonds at lunch or anything else that California grows, which is 85 percent of our fruits and vegetables, then you are undoubtedly a part of this problem.

Before you write this off as another woeful lament about the horrendous consequences of climate change and how despicable our species is, remember that you are not alone.

Remember that because you are a part of problems you are also a part of the solutions.

Remember that your actions, no matter how big or small, have reactions.

So, turn off the sink when you brush your teeth. Take shorter showers. Do not have the waiter fill your glass when you know you are not going to drink it.

You may think these small acts of conservation do not matter, but I guarantee Regier does. If we use less water today, we may be able to eat oranges tomorrow.

One Comment

  1. I would like to see us focus as much or more on the abuses of water by industry (such as the recent case in WV) than on the poor soul trying to brush her or his teeth.

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