My research question asked what water rights activism takes place California’s Central Valley, what that activism’s goals are, and if or how that activism unites or fractures along socioeconomic, ethnic, or other lines.
Thesis Moment (transcribed from paper draft): “…more recently, activism in the region has focused on the very water that makes life there possible. While farmers and their supporters battle dwindling water allocations and increased reguloations, other organization attempt to combat contamination in small public water supplies, each driving towards greater stability and equity in the Valley’s water systems. Although some rifts exist between corporations and families, growers and laborers, to a great extent activism in the San Joaquin Valley presents a unified front: defending proud farming communities against the human and natural forces that currently threaten them.
To make this argument, I need to provide a historical background of California and the Valley’s water systems. This will segue into a summary of the Valley as it currently is, socially and economically. A key component here is to resist the ‘caricature’ of the region availale in many sources: huge corporate farms, obsessed with profits, willing to exploit the environment and workers. I will highlight sources supporting the greater opportunities available to farm workers, the continued presence of family farms, and the fact that what large corporate farms do exist are isolated or in certai smaller pockets.
With this established, I’ll introduce what activist movements do exist, emphasizing their connection to this large base of concerned family farms (and so backing up their legitimacy). Families Protecting the Valley will be a main example, but there are various other organizations with similar goals. I’ll essentially make the pitch for their cause as well, and discuss how it’s a relatively unknown issue in urban California. I will also mention the distinct water quality activism which also takes place, which isn’t for or against the farming cause, but is a distinct type of water activism worth noting. I will conclude with a paragraph on what concerned city folks can do, and with larger lessons to draw from this and similar historical situations.