Disappearing from the map

  • By: Al Smith: Chamber President/CEO


Many of you may know that I have hosted a radio program for the past twenty-four years on KMJ Radio called Legends and Legacies.  For those of you who don’t, it is a two-minute vignette about the glorious history of Fresno and the surrounding area.

While wading through the scripts created by the late, great historian Cathy Rehart, I witnessed the evolution of the Valley. Once, we were a desert wasteland whose only inhabitants were Native Americans, living harmoniously with wild elk, antelope tumbleweeds and jack-rabbits. Then came the innovative farmers, railroads and gold fever that changed it all – transforming this area into the largest, most vital metropolitan entity between San Francisco and Los Angeles.

But largest and most vital are the operative words.  What happens if all of this goes away?

The history of California is littered with cities that have vanished.  When an area’s economic foundation fades away, thriving communities are permanently altered or vanish off of the map.

As one looks out into the future for this place we call home, one wonders if the same thing could happen here?  Because on the ongoing need for water to support our prosperous economic foundation of agriculture, the devastating impact from Mother Nature’s selfishness combined with our political leader’s avoidance – what will the Fresno area do if and when all of our fields are fallowed? 

There are many serious issues we debate and address each day, like crime, lack of education, transportation – but they all pale or become irrelevant if our ability to acquire water evaporates (Pardon the pun).

We may not be able to control the actions of Mother Nature, but we can affect our elected officials. More often than not, it seems today’s government leaders wait until there is a catastrophe before they act.  If it’s not already here, waiting for that catastrophe is unacceptable.

It appears our Governor barely knows the Central Valley exists, except during fund-raising season.  Most of our legislators are in the same boat.  To put together a committee to study whether we have a drought, is like asking a committee if the Rim Fire had ablaze? Just take a look outside. 

Unfortunately in order to have enough influence to alter our water policy, we need more muscle and that means creating alliances.  We will never get the Bay Area’s support – they have their water supply – but Southern California may be a different situation.

In addition to our collaborative efforts with the Farm Bureau and the Latino Water Coalition, the Fresno Chamber has opened dialogue with other central and southern Chambers in the hopes that, collectively, we can influence enough state officials that the catastrophe is already here. 

If we don’t succeed, start packing your bags in preparation of finding a new home and start converting your dollars into Yuan, because you will be buying your produce from China.


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