By: Victor Davis Hanson

January 27, 2023

It has been snowing, raining, and flooding in California for nearly a month. So great is the deluge that our “climate scientists,” who warned us of a permanent drought and the end of a snow-capped Sierra and green spring coastal foothills, and who until this week admonished us that the “drought is not over” as they allowed 12-million-acre feet of precious California water out to the sea, now concede that the drought is over! Yes, it is over, but they further warn that it may not be in a month or two or three, or a year or more or never in fact.

Oh yes, they now cite “climate change” for the too-wet year, as a month ago they blamed “climate change” for the too-dry year. Suggest that these natural long cycles of California weather predated the Industrial Revolution, and as in the last half-century, witnessed 2–4 years of drought followed by near-record precipitation, punctuated by a few “normal” years in between—and you are a climate denialist.

I was born in California in 1953 and remember some very wet years. I have pictures of the farmhouse I live in covered once with snow and my brothers and mom having snowball fights when I was in first grade. In 1998 I remember walking across the CSU Fresno campus amid a mini-snow flurry. I remember living among flooded streets during the early 1970s in Santa Cruz. So, California weather is the story of extremes.

What is new is that we are a state of 40 million, not the 15 million residents of my youth. And we live with an ossified infrastructure that is largely unchanged since the 1970s. In other words, we canceled new damns, reservoirs, aqueducts, and canals, all once part of the California Water Project master plans. And then we wonder why we have no water. And so, we blame the dearth on periodic droughts that require stringent reductions.

Our elites believe it is sacrilegious to build a reservoir so that 40 million can enjoy the lifestyles that 15 million once enjoyed 60 years ago. One reason why there are shortages of water is that there are 25 million more mouths to feed, 10 million more lawns to mow, and a trillion more showers to provide than in 1960—and no commensurate increase in the ability to deliver water—and by intent. The Jerry Brown–Gavin Newsom motto of California governance was: “Don’t build it, and those who are not Americans will come.”

In contrast, in the olden days of Pat Brown, Ronald Reagan, George Deukmejian, and Pete Wilson the motto was if you need four-lane freeways, then build six, if we must have 5 reservoirs then build 10, and if there are 18 CSU campuses then expand to 21. Their idea was that the state would always grow, but only traditional conservative governors would invest for that growth rather than redistribute and consume what others had built.

Had we just honored the voters’ will who passed a “water proposition” bill in 2018, that would have led to three huge reservoirs of additional storage space, and much of this current bounty would be captured and banked.

Do the state apparatchiks let the water out, so that when the drought returns, they can say “California suffers from a permeant drought” and then mandate all their pet projects?

So, they can insist on returning farmland to its natural state (on the irrigated West Side that would mean tumbleweeds, dry and hot winds of dust, and Valley Fever outbreaks), or reinventing our tapped rivers as torrents of 19th-century fantasies, or mandating Draconian water rationing that means toilets don’t work on the first flush, shower heads clog with sediment, and we all have rocks or plastic lawns instead of grass?

In a word, California tries 24/7 to ensure that life is not sustainable as in the past, and when it is then not, they boast, “California’s current lifestyle is not sustainable.”

But our decline is not fated in such a naturally rich state with a richer inheritance, but a matter of choice.

California chooses decline.

We see thousands of homeless, calcified infrastructures, terrible public schools, soaring crime, a broken budget with massive deficits, hundreds of billions of dollars in unfunded mandates, the highest basket of income, gas, and sales taxes in the nation, one-third of the nation’s welfare recipients, a fifth of the population below the poverty line, unaffordable housing, fuel, and food costs, and 40 percent of the nation illegal aliens.

And they see “sustainability.”

[Editor: I can relate to the authors personal experience as I was born and raised in Southern California in the 40s, 50s, and early 60s. I fished and hunted in central and northern California. I married a girl from Northern California and have lived through his experiences and learned about the differences between the two ends of the state. It is sad today to see California destroying itself.]