By Will Falk
I have a problem with some of the people I call the “shower police.” These are the people yelling about how we all need to take shorter showers because of the water crisis. They deem anyone a hypocrite who accuses corporations and the government of being the worst water offenders while not enthusiastically letting a night of the strongest urine fester in their bathrooms.
My problem with the shower police is not that they’re wrong that we all need to live as simply as possible. We do. My problem with that shower police is not that they’re wrong that we all must endure much more than funky bathrooms. We will.
My problem is that the shower police often confuse personal change with social change.
I need to be clear. There is a water crisis. We need to stop it. But, we will only stop the crisis with an accurate diagnosis of the social climate producing the climate.
According to a study by the Pacific Institute, 93% of the water used in California is consumed by agriculture. 5% is used by residences.
I’ll write it again: 93% of the water used in California is consumed by agriculture.
Most of the water is not used by you. Most of the water is not used by me. It’s used by agriculture. Not flushing your toilet is not going to stop the water crisis. Taking shorter showers is not going to stop the water crisis. Washing your dishes less is not going to stop the water crisis.
You know what else is not going to stop the water crisis? Buying stuff, or not buying stuff. Why? Because the worst consumers of California’s water produce heavily subsidized crops – cotton, corn, and wheat. The government will pay them to produce their crops whether we buy them or not.
History supports my argument, too. Consider the Anti-Nazi Boycott of 1933 that began as a response to anti-Semitism following Hitler’s appointment as Chancellor of Germany. It took a world war to stop him 12 years later. Look at the American Free Produce Movement began by Quaker abolitionists in 1826 to end American slavery. It wasn’t for 39 more years and the nation’s bloodiest war until American slavery was ended.
I know many of my readers will be rolling their eyes at my juxtaposition of the Holocaust and American slavery with California’s water crisis. They may have a point. The Holocaust, of course, threatened the existence of European Jews while American slavery murdered millions of Africans.
Then, again, maybe they don’t. California wildlife officials have banned fishing in the San Lorenzo River, the Big Sur River, and the Pescadero Creek to protect endangered salmon and steelhead trout. Meanwhile, John Boehner and other members of Congress want to pump water from the Sacramento-San Joaquin Delta -home to more endangered salmon and threatened delta smelt – to support more agriculture.
Now, I am not saying that the same tactics used to stop the Holocaust or American slavery will be effective to stop California’s water crisis. War may not be appropriate. But, if history teaches us anything, action on a wide-reaching social level that directly affects agribusinesses and the government will be the only effective response.
So, despite what the shower police may call you, I don’t care so much whether you are funked-out and stinky from not showering or you are a hypocrite. I care whether California will have water. The salmon, trout, and smelt care, too.