Friday, August 29, 2014

In which I get very worked up about water in California

I took a road trip from Los Angeles to the Ancient Bristlecone Pine Forest last weekend with Di. On the way back down the 395, we noticed a Crystal Geyser plant. We were incredulous that this plant existed in a hot basin just a couple of hours west of Death Valley. Practically all we could see on either side of the highway was dry, parched grass.

Yesterday I saw a link to this article about East Porterville on Facebook, a town whose wells have run dry and who now have to resort to using bottled water. The photo for the article showed boxes of Crystal Geyser being distributed to residents.

East Porterville is on the western side of the Sierra, at very close to the same latitude of a Crystal Geyser plant.
I've fallen into a vortex of links about the drought and about Crystal Geyser in the Eastern Sierra. In 2012, the plant in Olancha alone proposed to pump and profit from the equivalent of nearly 4,000 individuals' water usage: about 120 million gallons per year. There have been concerns about this plant since it was first proposed in 1996: Corporate giants slurp up a tiny town's pure water.

That Sierra granite makes California water taste so good. Except now there's no snow on the Sierra.

Crystal Geyser is only one of many companies profiting from drying up California, in large part because "California happens to be the only Western state without groundwater regulation or management of major groundwater use. In other words, if you're a water company and you drill down and find water in California, it's all yours."

The more I read about the drought, government policy, and the bottled water industry, the angrier and more frustrated I get. The idea of allowing people to buy the best-tasting water essentially privileges those who have the economic access to buy water over the public's right to have potable water out of the tap.

I haven't been able to find any information about business regulation in relation to the drought. Is it just not being covered, or is it not happening? I imagine that the economic impact of restricting business' water use is a concern, and it is often cited that "reclaimed water" is used for corporate lawns and golf courses rather than potable water, but it just doesn't make sense to see huge expanses of green while individuals are urged to let theirs go brown or face possible fines.

I make the the drive between Los Angeles and the Bay Area often (which I recognize is also environmentally problematic). Along the way, there are long stretches of dry, dusty land displaying signs that say things like "Congress-Created Dust Bowl," "No Water = No Jobs," "Water = Jobs."
Image source
From reading Cadillac Desert, I've gathered that agricultural operations in California should never have grown as immense as they have. While the Central Valley has incredibly nutrient-rich soil, California doesn't have the water to support huge export agribusinesses (which aren't sustainable even when there is sufficient water).

Water in California is complicated. The majority of the us live in a desert, but we do not live or do business as though we are. This drought is not our first wake-up call. Whether we're going to answer in any meaningful ways is yet to be seen.

What the report about East Porterville made me realize is that the small rural towns without immense political and economic capital are going to suffer first, while our populous urban centers will be able to keep putting off the very real consequences of this drought for some time. We get to think about this drought in the abstract, when it is not at all abstract.


Octavia Butler's Parable of the Sower came up in our conversation on the roadtrip, as it often does when talking about California and drought and climate change. The book's starting point is just 10 years from now, and we were dumbstruck by how easily we could imagine the world looking the way Butler describes. More on that in another post.

Wednesday, June 18, 2014

Visions. Are. Legendary. // Circus Returns to National Queer Arts Festival

On Friday, June 20, Topsy Turvy Queer Circus returns to the Brava Theater as part of the National Queer Arts Festival. Thanks to the overwhelming demand for last year's show, another performance has been added; there are two nights now instead of one.
I'm housemates with a performer and the amount of work that is going into this thing is no joke. Rehearsals, travel to rehearsal spaces (finding rehearsal spaces!), sweat, tears, exhaustion, endless stretching, training, choreographing, costume design-- these performers are working hard.

The acts last year ranged from flat out physically incredible to poignant to playful to jaw-droppingly hawt (and often, some combination thereof). Tidbits from last year's show:

Tickets are available on a sliding scale basis ($15-20) here or via the links below. 

And if you, like me, made a critical online-ticket-purchase error
last year, fear not-- no more drop down menus in this year's ticket buying process!
Topsy-Turvy Queer Circus: Visions. Are. Legendary.
India Davis and Indi McCasey

Brava Theater
2781 24th StreetSan Francisco, CA 94110

Friday, June 20th at 8pm: Buy TicketsSaturday Matinee, June 21 at 2pm: Buy TicketsSaturday Night, June 21 at 8pm: Buy Tickets

I just double checked my confirmation email. Yup, I bought a ticket for the right show. Phew. 

Wednesday, June 11, 2014

American Revolutionary at Laemmle Pasadena this month!

In 2010, I was fortunate to become connected to American Revolutionary: The Evolution of Grace Lee Boggs as a transcriptionist. I got to listen closely to quite a bit of raw interview footage as well as interviews with some of the people whose lives she's touched in her long, long involvement in civil rights and community organizing in Detroit.

I missed the Los Angeles premiere last year because I was in the midst of my transition from LA to Cambodia to Oakland. I finally had the opportunity to see the film when it came to the Bay Area as a Gala Presentation for CAAMFest 2014.

Having done quite a few hours of transcription, and knowing that it was only a small portion of how much footage there was in total, I have a new depth of appreciation for the amount of work it takes to produce such a film. I enjoyed recognizing some of the bits that I'd transcribed, and was astounded at how much is left on the cutting room floor. 
Before my involvement with the documentary, I had little awareness of Grace Lee Boggs beyond knowing vaguely of her from the Blacklava "roots" shirt on which she appears alongside Philip Vera Cruz and Yuri Kochiyama (I got to share some Asian American history with the Executive Director of GirlVentures recently when I wore the shirt in honor of Yuri Kochiyama's recent passing). 

American Revolutionary provides a glimpse into her early life and her journey, the evolution of her ideas, but still left me with similar questions that her autobiography Living For Change left me with, this yearning to get a sense of who she is beyond the theory and practice of activism, her emotional life. I don't think she is intentionally evasive to those questions, though; she has been a student of philosophy all her life, centers her thoughts around activism and the theories behind them, and her discourse is framed around that. 

And ultimately, perhaps that is what makes her such a compelling subject-- the thoroughness of her commitment to social change, that she seems to live and breathe movement, that she seems constantly consumed with gathering and synthesizing ideas to create revolution. It is a way of being and way of living that I respect deeply; by the amount of critical and community acclaim the documentary has received, I am one of many. 

If you are in the Los Angeles area and didn't get to see American Revolutionary at the Los Angeles Asian Pacific Film Fest, see it in its theatrical run June 20-26 at Laemmle Pasadena