Nature, Labor and Community in California’s Imperial Valley Alan Rudy iss 310: People and Environment



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Nature, Labor and Community in California’s Imperial Valley

Alan Rudy

ISS 310: People and Environment

Spring 2002

Thursday, January 9

Imperial Valley and Salton Sea

Landsat Hydrophotography

Farms and Farm Value,
1940-1972

1939 Map

My Problem:

  1. I'm interested in the connections between environmental crises, labor struggles and rural development.

  2. But, my research started with the 1991 Silver Leaf whitefly superpest outbreak.

  3. What do I do?

  4. Start with evolution of the whitefly and seek connections to labor processes and agricultural development patterns.

The Whitefly:

  1. Whitefly comes from intensive cultivation, and serial ripening with great crop diversity.

  2. The Imperial Valley produces > 100 crops with a 365-day a year growing season.

  3. Crops are planted so that one field is harvested one week, another the next, and another the next – there are almost always several ripe, succulent, or young crops for pests to attack.

  4. As such, extremely high pesticide usage has been the rule ever since the 1950s.

More Whitefly:

  1. Whitefly superpest unlike other pests (more crop hosts, 5X repro rate).

  2. Esp. bad for highly capitalized, very disciplined and intensive agricultural systems with

  3. Massive landholdings, contract inputs-management-labor, Hoover Dam/All-American canal/intensive drainage system.

Landholdings

  1. Neither the 160-Acre nor the Residency Limitation associated with the Irrigation Act of 1901 has been enforced in the Valley since the completion of the Hoover Dam, and All-American Canal.

  2. Massive units of production.

  3. Not a single farmstead – everyone lives in cities, across the border or on the coast.

Contracts – No Owner Operators

  1. Management

  2. Land Preparation

  3. Chemical Inputs

  4. Labor

  5. Processing

  6. Marketing

Water Infrastructures

  1. Irrigation – 1901

  2. Flood/New-Alamo “Rivers”/Salton Sea – 1904-1907

  3. Dam/Canal – 1929-1939

  4. Drainage – 1940s

  5. Limitations

  6. 1930s – against legal advice, unenforced

  7. 1970s – threatened, Supreme Court decision, Congress rewrites Reclamation Law

Labor History

  1. Indigenous canal digging, land leveling

  2. Chinese, Japanese, Filipino, Hindu

  3. succession/exclusion

  4. Mexican – exception to 20s immigration laws

  5. Multiracial union drives, 1929-1934

  6. Violently suppressed

  7. Bracero Program – 1941-1965

  8. UFW – 1968-1982

Community History

  1. Mexicali/Calexico

  2. Holt/El Centro/Brawley

  3. County/SPRR/IID Struggle

  4. IID – Swing + Johnson = Hoover Dam

  5. Dam/Canal: Saves ag, kills communities

  6. Maquiladoras, NAFTA, Prisons “rejuvenate” IV cities

  7. Right to Farm” ordinance

Environmental Problems

  1. Supersaline Salton Sea

  2. 5-10,000 migrating eared grebes die annually

  3. The Sea is a key locale for migratory waterfowl

  4. Supersaline Irrigation Water – Mexico?

  5. Selenium saturated sediments

  6. Industrial/Sewage from Mexicali

  7. Massive/Devastating pest outbreaks

  8. Very low air quality



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