Last Friday night, I went grocery shopping because I’ve never been cool. While other Los Angeles denizens were hitting the clubs or knocking back martinis, I tried to discern my chicken-scratch handwriting to ensure I wouldn’t forget any of the necessities on my shopping list. I got the usual: rice, chickpeas, tomatoes, onions, green lentils… and then I got to the frozen meat aisle.
For those of you who haven’t been following this blog series, at this point I might remind you that since January of 2014, I have been maintaining a vegetarian kitchen. I wasn't ready to fully take the plunge into all-out meatless meals, and still enjoyed the occasional dinner out with a beef burrito or chicken sandwich, but when it came to the food I prepared myself, which was at least 80% of the food I consume, I was going full veg. The reason: meat has such a large virtual water footprint I couldn’t justify that much water consumption in a time of severe emergency drought.
But this past month, for the first time since we elected Pope Francis, a large portion of California was no longer in a drought. And with the ongoing rain deluge we’ve been getting, perhaps the remainder of the state may soon get some much-needed liquid relief.
So what’s a girl to do? Was it time to splurge on some bacon and lamb chops?
In my case, on this evening, the answer was “no.” That’s the short answer, at least. The full explanation is just a bit more complicated.
Most of our drinking water in Los Angeles comes from outside the city, and most of that water travels hundreds of miles to get to us. On the upside, that means the city of Angels can remain mired in drought while our tap water flows from an abundant supply. On the downside, the opposite can be true as well, as communities like the Mono Basin and Owens Valley can grow increasingly parched while we keep draining them dry.
The fact is, it’s almost impossible to know how the things we do now will impact other people. That bacon I was eyeing? It could be from Central California, or Iowa, or even from Denmark. Our water comes from the Mono Basin, or sometimes from the Delta, and even from the Colorado River. Our clothes, our gasoline, our cars, our, shoes, our electronic devices – everything we own came from somewhere else, and without a great deal of research, we can’t know how our shopping habits impact other people and environments.
At least one resource is a little illuminated: we at The Longest Straw hope to clarify the journey your water travels to get to you, and we hope that when our movie is released later this year, you’ll take that journey with us.
In the meanwhile, maybe just lay off on the cheeseburgers.