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Some Californians have found a new drought scapegoat: immigr

  • Time:2016-07-02
  • water drinking filter
  • Some people blame California’s enduring drought on the nut farmers. Others vent against those in Beverly Hills, who keep their estates green while neighbours in the flatlands turn off sprinklers under threat of heavy fines. Now comes the latest, perhaps inevitable, scapegoat: immigration. A group called Californians for Population Stabilization, which has courted controversy down the years, says it’s a matter of simple mathematics. The state now has nearly 40 million residents, 10 million or so more than it did 25 years ago, and a lot of the new arrivals are from other countries. Therefore, they argue, it’s their fault. “California’s drought could have been prevented with responsible immigration policies and limited population growth,” one of the group’s recent Facebook posts reads. Another says, more ominously: “The drought has never been just about water.” No policymaker or environmental scientist is taking this line of argument terribly seriously – one climatologist told the Los Angeles Times bluntly it “didn’t fit the facts” – but it speaks to a growing anxiety among Californians of all income levels and political creeds that their way of life could be seriously threatened if it doesn’t start raining soon. Just as environmentalist campaigners are inclined to blame water-bottling giants like Nestle, and cities competing for water resources with farmers are inclined to blame agriculture, anti-immigration campaigners are happy to use the drought as grist to a well-established mill. Already last year, Californians for Population Stabilization, or Caps, ran a television advertisement to coincide with Earth Day in which a boy was depicted complaining about the lack of water and overcrowding. “Let’s slow immigration and save some California for tomorrow,” the ad concluded. Politicians and advocacy organizations hostile to immigration have struggled much harder in California than they have in, say, neighbouring Arizona, because the population is much more diverse; Latinos and other nonwhite population groups are climbing up the social and political ladders; and there is widespread recognition that without immigrant labour the state’s crops would not get picked, its children would not have nannies, and those well-watered Beverly Hills lawns would have nobody to take proper care of them. Policymakers and analysts do not always agree on how to manage the drought, but their debates tend to be about groundwater, the allocation of agricultural land and cutting urban waste. Population size has barely featured in their discussions. While protesters have risen up against Nestle and other bottled water manufacturers, the manufacturers themselves point out that their industry accounts for a tiny fraction of overall water use. Almond farmers struggling with the inconvenient fact that it takes a gallon of water to produce a single almond will sometimes point out that an ounce of beef requires 106 gallons. The media has not been immune from its own territorial impulses. In the wake of the devastating rains pounding Texas and Oklahoma, the LA Times ran a headline saying the floods “fuel hope for California drought relief”. One outraged Texan characterised the tenor of the piece as: “Lives have been lost but, hey, we can keep our almonds.”