Monday, May 25, 2015     Volume: 29, Issue: 43
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Weekly Poll
Do you think more agricultural operations should practice dry farming in California?

Yes, before irrigated agriculture sucks up the little precious water that is left.
Maybe, but it's the farmer's choice, not mine.
No, we must produce produce produce all we can.
Wait, what is dry farming?

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New Times / Letters to the Editor

Cal Poly's vision statement misses the mark

Rob Rutherford - San Luis Obispo -

According to the Cal Poly vision statement, as developed by President Jeffrey Armstrong, Cal Poly will develop whole-systems thinkers, among other things. The currently proposed master plan makes it clear that the leadership at Cal Poly does not understand the words of its vision. I agree that it is critical for Cal Poly to enhance the ability of students to think in terms of whole systems. Given its historical approach to education, the students should be learning while doing. That should apply to the administration as well.

The CSU is a system—a whole system. As taxpayers, we would appreciate a whole-systems approach to the education of our youth. Until all campuses of the system are operating at capacity in every way, there should be no need to create more capacity at any of the campuses. I don’t believe that I have seen any compelling reason for Cal Poly to increase enrollment given the scope of the entire system.

The crop science students cited in The Tribune have it partially correct. As a leading institution producing the next whole-systems thinkers, the last thing we should be doing is destroying soil—the basis for civilization. Certainly, class 1 soils are particularly valuable from a crop production standpoint; however, all soils have some potential for food production. However, that is just the tip of the iceberg. Soils are so much more critical than simply providing the habitat for the microbial life that moves nutrients into plants and animals at other places in the food web.

A shovel full of healthy soil has more species of life than the entire above-ground biomass of the Amazon rain forest. This biodiversity is what provides the resilience required in all forms of life. Healthy soil has a tremendous ability to store water. As organic matter increases, water-holding capacity increases. At a time when we are concerned about water supply, it should make sense to do a better job of storage. Soil has the capacity to store carbon for long time periods. Through the liquid carbon pathway, humus can be created, which will keep carbon in the soil and out of the atmosphere for a significant time. Soil provides the habitat, and basis for habitat, of life on the planet. There can be no culture, no society, no civilization without it.

If Cal Poly truly believes in whole-systems thinking, its leadership ought to be practicing what it proclaims. It ought to be looking at the complex relationships that maintain a civilization in ways that it has not previously done. This will take innovative and creative approaches. The current master plan is just one more iteration of the same kind of limited, parts-based thinking that has driven us to where we are today.


Michigan State bid good riddance to Armstrong

Dr. Randolph Beaudry - Michigan State UniversityDept of Horticulture, Plant & Soil Sciences -

This is a letter from Michigan State University: While we appreciate the difficulty President Jeff Armstrong and the other administrative leaders bring to the faculty at Cal Poly (and sympathize with the faculty and lecturers there), we also appreciate that it is at Cal Poly and no longer at MSU. Ergo—we thank them for lifting this yoke from our shoulders. Perhaps it is time for some folks to realize they do not have the skills to lead at a university.


SLO county residents should demand safety over oil

Klaus Schumann - Paso Robles -

The other day, my wife and I attended the Paso Robles City Council meeting. The agenda dealt with the Phillips 66 application to expand crude oil transportation through the county. After listening to the comments by Phillips 66 personnel, we are outraged that such an expansion is even being considered. What about the recent derailments and explosions of trains? Who in their right mind would want to invite these kinds of threats to the beautiful Central Coast?

We live some distance up the hill from the rail lines on Paso’s beautiful west side, well within the estimated 1-mile blast zone if one of the 80 (!) cars of the proposed trains should catch fire and explode. The length of some of those trains could span nearly the entire length of Paso Robles! The trains are just a stone’s throw from the Downtown City Park, the center of tourism and the Park Theatre! Some of the oil could come from Canada’s tar sand fields. Clearly, much of the most populated areas of SLO County would be endangered if the Phillips 66 plan is approved.

To our surprise, Paso’s leaders voted against public safety and instead groveled to the feds for more regulations. While safety regulations should be a given, these highly dangerous trains should not be allowed in the first place.

The safety of all SLO citizens demands a denial of the required permission!


Vineyards should be more responsible with water

George Robertson - Morro Bay -

Water, water everywhere; oh no now it’s nowhere. What do we do? Residential use consumes 20 percent of all the state’s water. I read recently that today we are using less per capita than we were in the 1980s. That sounds like responsible use of our resource.

Now that Gov. Brown has mandated a 25 percent reduction, the question I have to ask is how do we do it? Having already installed low-flow faucets, ultra low-flush toilets, reduced the number of loads of laundry, limited shower length to five minutes, and use “used” dish water for the few plants we have, what else can we do? We are already at a minimal use of our precious resource. My car hasn’t been washed in years! After we have done everything we can, has the water usage meter dropped by 25 percent? I don’t think so.

So the battle line will have to be drawn, because who is going to voluntarily shut off water to agriculture? I think we have to enlist those on the planning commissions who allowed the millions of acres to be placed on the agricultural list, all those wine vineyards along highways 101, 41, and 46 that stretch as far as the eye can see. They are going to have to tell them: “Sorry, your investment is going to be affected.” The homeowners who have lived in this area for years can no longer afford to drill deeper just because the vintners can. It’s not fair. The fact is the vineyards should not be here. This is a semi arid plain.

I don’t think the rest of us should suffer because people have planted a crop that uses more water than all the people that live in the state. Let me ask it another way: Do you think it’s fair that your business could eventually cost the lives of 30-plus million people? Or more realistically, think about what you are doing to the aquifer—land is actually sinking. It’s not an easy problem; I think we all get that, but this isn’t an easy drought. I go back 60-plus years, plus my parents and several more generations, farming in California. None have ever seen a string of years with so little water. I mean no snow in the Sierras, what the … ?