California has at all times been too huge for its breeches. The individuals, first Spaniard, then white American, took from the Indians a land mass close to 1,000 miles lengthy after which referred to as it one state. Highest mountain, lowest desert, longest coast, most epic valley, riparian forest, Redwood forest, wetland, grassland, inland sea — every was its personal state of nature.
When the traces of latitude cowl 10 levels, and the rain falls 125 inches on one finish and 7 inches on the opposite, and the individuals select to reside the place the water isn’t, what’s a state to do? And so started the infinite tinkering to even out the variations.
One of the excessive alterations of the earth’s floor in human historical past happened within the Central Valley, the place I reside. The hog wallows, house to the Yokut Indians, have been flattened by a hunk of metallic referred to as the Fresno Scraper. By dam, levee, canal and ditch, the Sierra rivers have been despatched to locations rivers by no means went. The farmer grabbed the snowmelt and erased the valley, its desert and marsh. Cotton barons, chased out of Georgia and Virginia by the boll weevil, drained Tulare Lake, the biggest physique of freshwater west of the Mississippi, and transplanted the plantation — its mint juleps, its African-American farmhands — onto the grime of California.
Alterations no much less grand remodeled Southern and Northern California. When the primary taking proved inadequate to the self-esteem of our remaking, farmers and housing builders put in pumps that reached lots of of toes into the aquifer. They dug out historical water because the Forty Niners had dug out gold. The orchards, vineyards and vegetable fields sprawled from good soil to unhealthy soil. Suburbia crossed into the desert after which into the forest. It hardly registered that we have been pumping a lot water out of the earth that the earth itself was sinking; the aqueduct, canals and roads have been sinking proper together with it.
This was the value to appreciate our dream: a world-class metropolis within the south, a world-class metropolis within the north, the world’s most industrialized farm belt within the center and a second valley on the opposite facet of the hill given over to its personal mad pursuit of a chip.
You may take a look at the magnitude of this ambition and conclude that California is fated for apocalypse. Which may be true. But it surely’s additionally true that the size of our invention, our genius and our tragedy, requires us to maintain reinventing, and these reinventions change into not simply our future however America’s future. It was in California the place Luther Burbank, a horticulturalist generally known as The Wizard, bred the Santa Rosa plum, the Elberta peach and the Russet Burbank potato. It was right here, in a bed room and a few garages, the place Apple, Hewlett-Packard and Google have been hatched.