So, what benefit are orchards? I mean to the Earth.
A great place for a coyote to hunt birds in the winter, as you can see from the tracks, so that’s useful. And a great place for geese to hunker down when the lake freezes an flying south is just not in the cards. Also, a pretty grand place for robins to eat unpicked apples. Yes, it’s a good place to get apples, which feed those other Earth creatures, humans, but that doesn’t count. 40 acres have been removed from the life of the valley to produce these apples, the majority of which are shipped out of the valley. Let’s be generous and call that neutral. If the orchard can support itself in the valley’s accounting, it will have to do so on its own. So, let’s see what it all means to the valley.
|Feeds coyotes.||But sagebrush and grass do better.||Weak.|
|Shelters geese.||But wetlands (not filled in for housing, airports or sports fields) do better.||Weak.|
|Shelter deer.||Ones that can break through the fence. Thickets do better.||Weak.|
|Block deer.||They need to go up and down slope. Now they can’t.||Negative.|
|Feed people.||Not here.||Negative.|
|Feed songbirds.||Well, robins.||Weak.|
|Feed bees.||For one week a year, not 8 months.||Negative.|
|Block bears.||Sure does.||Weak.|
|Support hawks.||No, the voles and mice are poisoned.||Negative.|
|Employ people.||Yes, but people from Mexico. Great people, but from Mexico.||Negative.|
That’s orchards. Most have now been torn out and replaced with vineyards.
Here, it’s simpler. The vineyard feeds birds and coyotes for a few weeks a year and creates drugs for humans, who don’t live here. Accordingly, its ecological benefit is very minor. In terms of the valley, both of these places, orchard and vineyard, are deserts, drawing on the stock of life and water in the valley but returning only a tiny fraction as life. What they do, however, is provide food (and drugs) for people living a long way away. Isn’t that, in essence, the definition of a colony? After all, aren’t grapes and apples both brought from distant cultures, and under the current model don’t they serve those cultures rather than the valley? It’s not as if the people of the valley don’t want something else. We do. We want local agriculture, healthy food, sustainable production, and a healthy natural world full of insect, birds and animals, to draw spiritual energy from, with clean air and clean water. None of these things are positively produced on the approximately 23,000 acres of fruit grown in the valley by this model. Most are diminished instead. Instead of enriching the valley and our lives, we are left with some pretty views of settler dreams, export the bulk of the energy to the world and keep the desert, even though valley residents, by and large, don’t want an export industry — don’t want a colonial industry — at all. We don’t, in other words, have an environmental problem. We have a political problem.