- Along with devastating bushfires, recurring droughts in California are very much in the public eye. In 2015 news of a potential repeat of the ‘Oklahoma dustbowl’ was reported on BBC UK. This huge ecological disaster had lasted for the entire decade of the 1930s, causing sandstorms reaching as far as New York City, devastation, starvation and a population shift with 2.5 million people displaced.
‘El Nino’, climate change, and melting earth poles are said to be at fault – while the image of the very reporter telling the tale begs to differ. Marching in a sea of sand right up to the horizon, it doesn’t take much to notice that man’s play with nature that’s at the root of the problem. scorched
The ‘Oklahoma dust bowl’ was a certified man-created ecological disaster. The once most fertile plains with topsoil six feet deep had been exhausted through 4 generations of farming. Steadily increasing exploitation on an ever more gigantic scale with enormous expansions of shallow rooting crops had left entire states turn to dust in the ‘dirty thirties’.
Refusing to learn from history, corporations have since increased the devastation multifold with new technologies and means. “Entire landscapes have been bulldozed, hills erased, all features disappeared, leaving flat plains from horizon to horizon easily operated from a central station with giant remote controlled tractors.“ says artist Brian Calvin whose own family had been displaced to California by the Oklahoma dustbowl.
- Without a bush or hedge in sight for miles on end, there is nothing, no root system to hold water or the dead earth. There’s no shade, and no life, all killed off by herbicides and pesticides. Dust and drought and apart, for the few people around, cancers are ripe due to the agrochemicals which poison the harvest, travel the air and leave the little groundwater there is, contaminated.
Come 2015, and the drought in California is unbearable. Electricity for Las Vegas, golf courses, swimming pools make headlines as culprits, private pools are regulated, fines incurred on garden watering and car washing, added taxes and higher prices duly paid. But aren’t these token measures to blame the consumer and fool the public?
Franck Vogel has made it his mission to expose untold truths in the hope to be a catalyst for change.
His story on the Bishnoi people in India was an emblematic breakthrough in his career. This first community of eco warriors which has been going strong since the 15th century represent a beacon of hope for mankind and the planet. Steadfast to the very end, they even sacrifice their own people if needed to save trees and wild animals, protecting nature and the eco system, the very foundation of all our lives.
Albinos in Tanzania uncovers the reality of an escalating human body trade the world has turned a blind eye to. Today, in 2016, Albinos are hunted down in broad daylight in various parts of Africa, their bodies and body parts sold for thousands of dollars at a time. Black magic being very popular within political arena, it is very telling that in Tanzania, the center of this activity, witchcraft was banned for a while — until a month before last the election.
With Transboundary Rivers, Conflicts and Water issues’Franck Vogel looks at the way water and power are interlocked – and the unspeakable price the world pays for the gain of few.
“ My French subtitle is Will there be wars over Water in the Future. But the reality is, it’s already been going on for years. In 2012 when working on a documentation of the Nile, I realized that the 20 years of civil war in Sudan was a “water war”. The struggle that finally led to the creation of a new separate country, South Sudan, in 2011, had broken out over a water dispute in 1983. “
“The Sudanese government started to build a canal which was to bypass a large swamp area. Realizing that the canal was going to drain the whole area taking away the livelihood of some 100 000 people, the locals attacked the digging machine. This riot set off Africa’s longest-running civil war to date. The pending completion of the Grand Ethiopian Renaissance Dam keeping most of the Nile water on their side is bound to trigger issues with downstream Egypt...”
The crude exploitation of Colorado River causes damage not only to the now dry Mexican basin, but the entire West coast ecosystem....
“I was in California in 2015 when the last big drought hit. The news, talkshows, all were referring to Las Vegas, its golf courses, electrical supply through water power, the swimming pools etc. However, I found that those factors only extract 15% of the river water. “
“ 85% of the Colorado River is used for agriculture and a good portion of that is detoured into the All American Canal leading to the Imperial Valley, where it feeds the agriculture run by 300 families, Alfalfa being one of the main crops cultivated. Alfalfa is a very water needy plant grown primarily as cattle feed; 70% of the Alfalfa produced at the Imperial Valley feeds livestock in China and Japan. A pound beef takes 1870 gallons water; a 200g steak takes 935 gallons / 3550 liters to produce...”
Imperial Valley: Although this region is in the Colorado Desert with temperatures up to 125 degrees and low average rainfall of 3 inches (76 mm) per year, the economy is heavily based on agriculture due to irrigation, supplied wholly from the Colorado River via the All-American Canal. Alfalfa: In most climates, alfalfa is harvested 3-4 times a year, but it here up to 12 times with yields up to 20 t/ha. The US was the largest alfalfa producer in the world by area in 2009, with 9 million hectares (22,000,000 acres).
“ For almost two decades already, no water at all has been passing the border to Mexico. The delta is dry, once comprising 780 000 hectares of waterways, it has shrunk to 60 000 hectares and is about to disappear through manmade desertification. “
But who gave the farmers rights to these enormous quantities of water in the first place?
“The 1922 Colorado River Compact is an agreement among seven states to regulate the water allocation. However, with focus on 'development' of the area the ecological impact was not taken into account, and 'average flow' in the years 1905-1922 used for calculation was abnormally high,... in the subsequent years the overall quantity dwindled leaving the country dry.”
“There have been several efforts to revoke the situation, but to no avail. It takes a vote in congress to change the terms of the water division... highly complex legally and sensitive politically, it's the elephant in the room..."
It is a question of power of course, and those making fortunes with desert farming on river water have a strong lobby to defend their interests.
“Yes, Mexico... as well as the Navajos Indians for example have water rights too, but no-one to ensure they are granted. So there’s no water in the Mexican delta - or in the Navajo's pipes.”
The impact is as horrific as multifold...
“First of course, it deprives the Navajo population of water with all that entails. But furthermore, the large scale desertification of the Navajo reservation creates a vicious cycle that affects everyone: NASA has proven that the dust created here is carried away by sandstorms and air currents – worsened by desert car racing.
Sand is propelled some 200 miles south before the particles settle on the San Juan Mountains, where one of the main tributaries of the Colorado River originates."
"The dust covers the snow peaks causing them to melt rapidly, creating floods in the early months of the year, and drought the rest of the time. The weather patterns are affected, further increasing the speed of desertification.
In 2013 the San Juan mountain caps melted two months earlier than usual, the drought that followed caused the lowest water levels in history. Half of the turbines on Lake Mead stuck out of the water.“
More floods more drought: a prime example of ‘natural’ disaster, all man-made...
Maybe Mars was once as fertile as earth? We need no wall at the border but a vote in Congress to retain water in the Colorado River — to sustain the eco cycle, and life in Mexico. Stop the madness before blue earth turns red.
Franck Vogel talking to Uscha Pohl
Note: it takes 9,788–9,958 litres of water to produce 1kg of cotton, but only 2123 litres for 1kg of hemp with its 1000 benefits. Hemp equals Alfalfa in being long rooted but has many more qualities and requires a lot less water...
TRANSBOUNDARY RIVERS (FLEUVES FRONTIERES) by Frank Vogel
La Martinière Publishing, 264 pages large format
Released Sept 2016 (France), English edition expected 2017
The COLORADO: The River That No Longer Flows To The Sea
Exhibition Video / Installation images
Transboundary Rivers project Franck Vogel
Growing Alfalfa in the desert by David Zetland
Living with Water Scarcity by David Zetland
Salton Sea Sense :
A resource for California's largest lake and potential environmental catastrophe
Virtual Water by Tony Allan