Sure, part of these numbers are due to Governor Brown's executive order imposing California's first mandatory water restrictions. That garnered a lot of attention, and surely the threat of penalties and fines going after residential as well as agricultural users did its part in bringing out people's inner conservationist (except for a few rich folks whose brown lawns seem to remind them of their withered souls).
Perhaps even more importantly, another thing that's been happening is a shift in consciousness leading people to make changes simply because of a growing understanding that we don't live in an ecological vacuum. When you see images of the drought-stricken California landscapes, watering your lawn and washing your car becomes a moral dilemma.
Even though there's still water coming out of your faucet, you are all of a sudden painfully aware that each time you turn that knob you are siphoning the most precious, life-giving resource we have and that by skipping certain activities you'll still easily get by while contributing to the overall well being of the common space we share. It's a powerful shift from "me" to "we."
Which leads me to an even bigger lesson we might learn from this:
If people can be persuaded and inspired to make water cutbacks while there is still water flowing from their faucets, it isn't too far fetched to think that this change in behavior could translate to other areas of consumption. Most notably, I'm thinking of our obscene overuse of fossil fuels, with its endless tentacles ranging from excessive driving, shopping, and meat consumption to careless electricity use, wasting of food, and poorly insulated homes, to name just a few.
In other words, if the California drought can prompt a level of urgency that leads to almost 40 percent consumption reductions within months, the specter of a rapidly warming planet should be able to inspire similar action in our relationship with non-renewable, CO2 spewing fossil fuels.
The good news is that countries across the globe are beginning to pledge up to 50% in greenhouse gas emissions reductions for the upcoming COP21 climate summit in Paris.
The question is whether people everywhere will be willing to collaborate by changing their habits and behavior to reach these goals once they have been officially set. More broadly speaking, the question is whether humans are capable of stepping out of the current perpetual growth paradigm and willing to enter into a global "less is more" Zeitgeist.
If the response of Californians to the current drought is any indication, the answer will be yes.
photo: Kevin Cortopassi via Flickr
crossposted at A World of Words
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