Weekend To-Do (Good) List: California Drought

Hi all. Welcome to your weekend. As you might know, I’ve been digging the themes for our To-Do (Good) lists recently. Today I present a list dedicated to….(drumroll!!!!)….the California drought!

That’s right. Those of us in California are officially in the middle of one of the worst droughts on record. In response, and for the first time ever, California is under mandatory water restriction, enacted by Brown and aimed to reduce the state’s water usage by 25%. The way the mandates will work is that different cities are assigned different reduction requirements. For example, Beverly Hills must reduce their usage by 35% while Compton has to reduce theirs by 10%. This is all based on a city’s per capita usage.

I’ve liked Jerry Brown for the most part since he became governor, but dear readers, I am frustrated. It seems like he is missing a huge opportunity right now. In fact, no, I don’t think it’s an opportunity…I think it is an obligation that he is missing. This whole plan is not equitable, it is not sustainable, and it is cowardly.

It begins here. The group that uses 80% of our water is big agriculture and they are EXEMPT from the mandates. Exempt!! I’m not talking about the little family farms, which, by the way, are under the same water mandates as other citizens according to their cities and are going to suffer for it. No, I’m talking about the big farms. These “farms:”

Harris Ranch off the I-5 in the San Joaquin Valley of central California.

Harris Ranch off the I-5 in the San Joaquin Valley of central California.

How can this exemption possibly be justified? How could turning off your sprinkler possibly be the best way to tackle the behemoth of climate change that is giving California a front-row show right now all while letting the user of 80% of the water go on with business as usual? You need 7.7 cubic meters of water to produce 1 pound of beef. That’s equivalent to around 77 baths. Any 5-year-old could tell you this just doesn’t make sense.

Plus, it is no secret to anyone paying attention that these types of facilities, CAFO’s, 1) are detrimental to the environment and our indigenous ecosystems, 2) are producing meat and dairy that is full of antibiotics, at-risk for contamination and processed through unnatural, inhumane methods, and 3) are ultimately unsustainable.

Haven’t scientists been telling us for years that restoration agriculture, sustainable food practices, and local economies are CRITICAL for the survival of our Earth? California is facing a new future of extreme weather not in abstractions but right now, today. I would hope that we would have bravery enough to realize that big changes have to take place in our way of living as a society, not just as single households. The impact isn’t going to made by the Jones’ decision to let yellow mellow. It’s going to come from severely cutting down our use of resources for these types of agricultures. It’s going to come from committing to a return to natural biogeographies. It’s going to come from listening to the science and economics condoning locally-sourced, vegetable-rich diets.

I don’t know all the complexities of this argument and I’m not claiming to. I am quite confident though that there are significant shifts in lifestyle that we are all going to have to adopt to keep this planet. And I believe that Brown has an obligation to not just slap a bandaid on this drought but to begin the stitching of the wound. He has a chance to sound an alarm and lead in a new way and instead I feel like it’s politics as usual. And why wouldn’t it be? The little guy suffers, the big business wins. Who will be the first to get their water shut off?–the already disenfranchised, of course. The head is in the sand.

We cannot use land and resource like this:

Harris Ranch off the I-5 in the San Joaquin Valley of central California.

Harris Ranch off the I-5 in the San Joaquin Valley of central California.

and try to live like this:

Beverly Hills Mansion

Beverly Hills Mansion

and still hold onto this:


Our only home

And so, without further ado and with more than a slight sense of defeat as I step off my soapbox, there is just one item on your Weekend To-Do (Good) List. It is this:

Cut your shower time in half and safe the world.

No really. It’s going to work.

~~~S Wave~~~

p.s. If you want a second assignment, it is to remind me why things are still, always hopeful. I know why, but sometimes it’s good to hear it from the lips of others. *sigh* ❤

Peace of Wild Things

Los Padres National Forest     Photo Credit: S Wave The sharing of this poem is dedicated to my grandmother, Maxine, who turns 93 today. This is one of her favorite poems an it always reminds me of how she has demonstrated to me how to “rest in the grace of the world.” She does this not only with words, but with her own actions. I’ve watched and learned much from her. The accompanying pictures are of her own little wild thing, her first great-grandchild, Charlotte. I’ve also included places I’ve recently traveled in California that I think she would love to see.

The Peace of Wild Things BY WENDELL BERRY

Topanga Dance 1  Photo Credit: S Wave

When despair for the world grows in me

and I wake in the night at the least sound

in fear of what my life and my children’s lives may be,

I go and lie down where the wood drakeTopanga Dance 2 Photo Credit: S Wave

rests in his beauty on the water, and the great heron feeds.

I come into the peace of wild things

who do not tax their lives with forethought

 of grief. I come into the presence of still water.

And I feel above me the day-blind stars

waiting with their light. For a time

I rest in the grace of the world, and am free.

Happy Birthday, Grandmother. I love you in the day and night. I love you in the happy and sad. I love you in the near or far. I love you in the nows, thens, and to comes. xoxo



Which Little Piggy Goes to Market?

UPDATE: In January the Supreme Court overturned California’s law for the humane treatment of downed hogs (and other animals) being slaughtered for human consumption. Meanwhile, Gary Ackerman (D-NY) has again proposed a bill to Congress that would put in place stricter federal legislation regarding downed animals. His proposal would permanently forbid downed animals from entering our food supply and allow them humane euthanization.


The other night, I planned on attending a lecture at the UCLA campus on the topic of Farmed Animals and the Law. The speaker was Compassion Over Killing’s General Counsel Cheryl Leahy. The topic interested me in light of the upcoming Supreme Court ruling regarding California’s slaughter methods for farmed animals. This case is being closely watched by animal rights groups and California citizens concerned about what goes on in their state. The story of the case goes like this…

In 2008 California passed legislation called the Humane Methods of Slaughter Act (HMSA). One important change that the HMSA brought to California food production was that downed pigs (and other livestock) could not be assigned into the slaughter line. A “downed” pig (or goat, or sheep, or cow) is one that is so sick or injured that it is non-ambulatory. According to federal standards, although these animals can’t walk they can still be included in our food systems. Of course a non-ambulatory animal must be dragged, forklifted or torturously “prompted” in order to get them to the final line.  The US government has said NO to putting downed cattle into our food. California residents decided that wasn’t enough. They have said NO to downed pigs, sheep, and other livestock as well.  They decided that no downer animals can be added to the food system and must be euthanized on the spot. This puts pressure (rightfully so!) on transport procedures, daily care, and veterinary care standards.

Now the pork industry is arguing that California cannot require slaughterhouses to adopt euthanasia procedures since there is no federal law mandating it. The case, National Meat Association vs. Harris, has gone to the Supreme Court. Arguments have been made and it is expected that a decision will be delivered in the next few months.  This case raises questions not only of animal welfare, but also of states’ rights.  In fact, this is the first time in my adult life when I feel like I grasp what is meant by states’ rights. As a resident of California, it pisses me off that the federal government might come in and crush the efforts that this state has made toward more humane food production. Perhaps I wouldn’t be if I didn’t unwaveringly believe that the pork industry lobbyists are playing puppeteer in this scenario in order to protect their bottom line no matter the suffering that upholds it.

Ultimately, I don’t want anyone to eat a pig. But millions—oh, let me be specific…one hundred thirteen million—pigs are killed each year in the United States by the huge pork industries (of which there are just 4 main players, go figure) in horrific conditions after living their short lives in crammed enclosures and terrifying transport trailers. Every small step, every bit of compassion that these exploited animals can receive is worth hoping for and fighting for.

I was eager to hear what Cheryl Leahy expected the outcome of this case to be. Alas, Los Angeles traffic got the better of me. As I sat on Wilshire, just a mile away from campus yet going nowhere, I came to my own prediction that California has a slim chance of winning this case. I’m not trying to sound pessimistic, but realistic. Lobbyists for the meat and dairy industries are so powerful that it makes for a David and Goliath battle every time someone goes up against them.  In the Occupy Wall Street declaration and manifesto, one grievance against corporations is that they, “have profited off of the torture, confinement, and cruel treatment of countless animals, and actively hide these practices.” Bingo. But there’s a second “Bingo.” And that is in OWS’s concluding remarks where they incite citizens to “create a process to address the problems we face, and generate solutions accessible to everyone.”

This brings me to the question that many of posts will most likely end with: What can I do? First of all, I will certainly post an update on the case as soon as I hear of it. Second, I will continue to NOT eat meat as long as the status quo system of factory farming and CAFO’s is as grotesque and amoral as I believe them it to be. Third, I will continue to encourage others to do the same. And who knows…it might just be time to write another petition!

Stay tuned…

Irvine, CA passes progressive humane law



“Irvine, California’s City Council passed an unprecedented bill this week banning rodeos and circuses with exotic animals, and the retail sale of dogs and cats. This huge victory for animals passed with a 4–1 vote after nearly 40 supporters, including IDA’s Elephant Campaign Director Catherine Doyle, spoke in favor of the ban.


Most dogs sold in pet stores come from puppy mills where dogs are kept in filthy, cramped, inhumane conditions. Animals in circuses suffer terribly from cruel training, painful physical problems from living in semi-trailers and on chains, and sheer boredom. Animals in rodeos are not aggressive naturally – they are domesticated animals who are painfully coerced and injured for the sake of entertainment. IDA applauds the city of Irvine for their compassionate decision. Congratulations to the Irvine activists whose perseverance and hard work made this amazing victory possible. California just got a little safer for animals.”    


   – In Defense of Animals (IDA)