Concerns over the viability of ambitious agriculture in the San Joaquin Valley are not recent: In the 19th century, Berkeley soil scientist E.W. Hilgard—he of Hilgard Hall—described the salt intrusion that occurs when arid and mineralized lands are irrigated. Hilgard first cited the impacts following visits with engineers from India and warned that similar soil salinization was inevitable for the San Joaquin Valley, which was increasingly coming under the plow.
San Joaquin Valley
Rey León and I drive down an arrow-straight stretch of two-lane asphalt northeast of Huron, in Fresno County, on the western side of the San Joaquin Valley. On one side of the road is a vast cotton field, the bolls white and fat, ripe for the harvester; on the other is a regiment of solar panels covering multiple acres.
Sherry D. Martinez thought she had the flu. The then-45-year-old had all the usual symptoms—fever, fatigue, sore joints—and then some. When it became difficult to breathe, a doctor diagnosed her with pneumonia and sent her home with antibiotics. A few days later, bumps appeared on Martinez’s skin. When she scratched at them, they oozed. Her doctor put her on stronger antibiotics, but still her condition worsened. She developed a rash and severe eye pain.
The 20th century was the century of the megaproject, and as usual, California pointed the way for the nation. Southern California’s freeway system and the State Water Project, both largely completed by the 1970s, were mighty testaments to the conceit that we could build our way out of any problem. That view, of course, has since been tempered by inconvenient realities.
Posted on May 7, 2018 - 4:51pm
Labor Day might seem like a vestige of days when collars were bluer, but a coterie of researchers and educators at UC Berkeley’s Labor Center are using their skills to aid the labor movement as it fights to regain relevance.
Posted on September 4, 2017 - 10:57am
Like many before him, California Governor Jerry Brown has vowed to “fix” the Sacramento-San Joaquin Delta, that vast and beleaguered wetland east of San Francisco Bay that is a source for much of Southern California’s water, an agricultural powerhouse, and a nursery for valuable fisheries.
Posted on August 16, 2017 - 12:15pm
The Tuolumne River has long been revered by whitewater kayakers and rafters for its pristine wilderness canyon and challenging rapids. But “The T,” as it’s known by river-runners, was once famed for something else: Salmon. Before the Hetch Hetchy and Don Pedro Dams were built on the river’s upper reaches in the last century, the Tuolumne supported up to 130,000 spawning Chinook salmon annually.
Posted on October 17, 2016 - 1:11pm
The decision by Gov. Jerry Brown’s administration to lift mandatory water restrictions is good news for any Californian who likes to raise petunias and zucchini and take showers lasting longer than three minutes. But is it really a good idea? After all, last winter’s greatly hyped and much-anticipated El Niño turned out to be something of a bust.
Posted on May 27, 2016 - 2:52pm