Since the year 2000, the Western United States and Northern Mexico have been in “near perpetual drought.” This year is expected to be the driest in the last century and one of the driest of the last millennium! The last few months were the driest for Arizona, New Mexico, Nevada and Utah in 126 years. The flow of the Colorado River, the biggest water artery in the seven Western states, is down by 20% in the past five years. This “megadrought” is the worst water crisis the United States has seen in generations. In fact, it is more than a drought, which implies a temporary drying. Scientists are using the term “aridification” to describe the long term and permanent drying of the West.
The effects on human life are already devastating. Western salmon stocks are shrinking due to declining river flows, farmers are facing crop failures and cattle losses, and reservoirs producing power for human use are at their lowest levels in decades. Winter snow packs this year were well below normal, signaling less water for irrigation for the coming farming season, and less fresh water for drinking. Dry, parched land increases the likelihood of another destructive fire season. All these water-related crises increase the price of food, and drive more people into poverty.
This is not inevitable, but an effect of irrational planning in an economy that makes no sense. For example, California, the largest state in the U.S., produces the majority of the nations’ fruits, vegetables and nuts. Yet it is one of the warmest and driest states – an extreme example of the insanity of U.S. water policy.
The Western megadrought is a huge red flag for us to stop the destruction of the environment we all depend on for life. Our planet is entering an era of mass extinction. The last mass extinction was 66 million years ago. Today, the rate of extinction is hundreds of times faster than it would have been naturally, that is, without the petrochemical industries, deforestation, overfishing, and other effects of capitalism. Most of the arable land has already been destroyed by the pollution and overproduction of capitalist industries, and a third of the world’s people already lack access to clean drinking water.
Capitalism is a system based on corporate growth, overproduction and exploitation of more and more natural resources. In the pursuit of profit and growth, there is no stopping environmental destruction. The apologists of this system celebrate the “prosperity” it offers. Indeed, it offers wealth for some, while keeping the majority in poverty. However, this voracious capitalist system is reaching the limits of the planet’s ecosystem and is destroying its very foundation. When the environment is so devastated that we cannot grow food and drink water, there will be no “prosperity” for anyone – we will be extinct.
This system has growth and environmental destruction built into it. The capitalists and their politicians will not abandon the system that maintains their wealth and privilege. Only we – the people who make the system run through our daily work – can stop this insanity. Only by getting rid of capitalism can we bring this madness to an end. The scientists warn us that we have little over a decade to stop the industrial pollution causing climate change. We must act now to build the organizations necessary to save our planet and ourselves!