Fire is the ever-present threat during the dry months; it seems to get worse every year. Our hearts go out to those suffering from the current conflagrations. It is hotter and drier, earlier in the season than in the past. We are seeing the impacts of climate change firsthand; we need strong community on the local level and a societal response that includes major spending on decentralized water and land-use projects.
Fire begins and we react, scrambling to put it out. How do we become proactive, responding to the threat of fire danger with actions that will reduce the severity over time?
There is a tremendous, untapped potential for small reservoirs to support pasture management programs that build deep-rooted, perennial grasses. These ponds and lakes could aid in fire suppression, while helping via irrigation systems to create green-belts that can slow or stop fires.
California was green in the summertime when it was covered with old-growth forests and perennial grasses. The shallow-rooted annual grasses took over as grazing animals prefered eating the more nutritious perennials. The old-growth was felled, and fast-growing young trees with heavy water needs have grown up. More people need more water for more uses, while there is less rain and hotter, drier summers.
Human landscape management has existed in a negative feedback loop since the beginning of agriculture. Our history is one of denigration and abandonment, from the pine forests of the Middle East to the redwoods of California. We have used the resources without returning the proper care and attention to the land, and we are witnessing the results.
Rotational grazing and irrigation can help rebuild the native grasses to their rightful place of prominence in the landscape. This would create more organic matter in the soil and would help rainfall to sink into the groundwater instead of running off during heavy rain events. The groundcover and soil would hold more water and dry out slower during the warm months.
Installing reservoirs would mean more water to the ecosystem, and could also be used to provide water for pasture and animal management, along with row crop cultivation. This would invigorate a decentralized system of small farms engaged in direct action to reverse the process of desertification that is underway.
Government spending should provide professional support and infrastructure needs to jump-start this decentralized land-management system. The program should include grant funding and a support system to help install water storage, solar power, electric fencing, mobile livestock enclosures and food production capacity.
Farmers/land managers should be paid a base salary, keeping the farmer from needing an off-farm job, but avoiding overuse of land due to economic pressure. Clear benchmarks and programmatic engagement could ensure maximum productivity and accomplishment of regenerative land-use goals.
Paying farmers to manage brittle landscapes to make them more healthy and abundant would yield fulfilled humans engaging in a thriving environment to create rural economies that benefit everyone. Nutritious food and exercise would help to lower obesity rates and provide connection with the earth, lowering depression and anxiety levels.
A public-private partnership of this magnitude would require massive investment, but could be counted on to produce measurable gains in productivity, overall water availability, quality of life, and access to healthy, nutritious food. If this program were launched on a large scale, it could help to lower landscape temperatures and buffer floods by slowing water in the highlands. This program would redress damage caused by industrial timber and ranching.
We need a comprehensive infrastructure spending plan along the lines of the New Deal, geared towards a decentralized land management strategy that would create opportunity for meaningful employment and measurable changes in quality of ecosystem at a landscape level. Management plans could be utilized to deal with invasive species like bullfrog and thistle.
In vegetable land, the share this week has crisp, cool carrots and crunchy beets from Irene’s Garden Produce for grating over salads or roasting in the solar oven (or in the oven early in the morning before the heat arrives). Potatoes from Inland Ranch offer themselves as roasting companions. Kale and onion provide nutritious greenery and a burst of flavor from us at HappyDay, along with refreshing cucumbers and grillable summer squash. Don’t be afraid to dice up carrots, cucumbers, onions and squash, with beets grated over the top and your favorite salad dressing. Oil and vinegar with salt and pepper can work wonders. As always, we are enjoying the bounty and we trust that you are too, much love from Team HappyDay! 🙂