Activists Occupy California’s Imperial Valley

9 Nov

Agriculture is threatened and the environment is in peril:

Anita Nicklen, a migrant rights advocate and mother of two of the younger protesters, explains the links in a potentially fatal chain. “Farmers are under tremendous pressure to fallow land and sell their water entitlements to San Diego’s suburbs. Fewer crops means fewer farm workers and fewer dollars circulating in our local economy. There is also less runoff from irrigation into the rapidly shrinking Salton Sea. Fish die, migratory birds leave, tourists stay home. As the sea dries up, its toxic contents are exposed to the wind.” …

But the death of the Salton Sea, an extraordinary reservoir of sinister chemicals, would be like opening Pandora’s box, a creeping Chernobyl of respiratory illness and cancer. Partial depopulation of the Imperial and d valleys might follow.

To prevent such an apocalypse, Sacramento proposed a $9 billion restoration plan for the sea, but authority for the appropriation was blocked in court in 2009, and the plan now faces the triage of the state debt crisis. Meanwhile, climate change and a long drought in the Colorado Basin have reinforced political pressures to allow much larger water transfers from the Imperial Valley to the coast.


What I discovered, in fact, was a desert flower brought to blossom by a combination of long cultivation (local activist tradition), lots of sunlight (dialogue via social media) and, equally important, the existence of a local greenhouse (a physical space for meeting and interaction). …

Occupy El Centro provides a framework both for concentrating forces, as against Wind Zero, and for nurturing new solidarities on both sides of the steel wall that now separates the two Californias.

“Because the Imperial Valley is on the border,” Camden, said, she looks forward to “opportunities to take part in not only local or national activism, but global activism as well.” Anita hopes in particular that they can link with similar groups in Mexicali and begin to build an “Occupy the Border” dimension.

Finally, there is the virtual community aspect of the Occupy movement that enables participation in spite of geographical distance. Thanks to Facebook, for example, the Valley’s college diaspora, including recent UC Santa Cruz graduate Jessica Yocupicio, was able to play an integral role in planning the protest.

Complete article in The Nation.


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