A Study of Exploitation

Rewind with me if you will, a lifetime ago, to a dust ridden town dotted by pueblos and wooden framed buildings. Some call this place a boom town, a gold rush only fifty years prior brought much of the population here. Fifty years before that only the Tongvan Indians called this place home. The strategic position of this place however, along with the discovery of multiple resources in the area has led to steady growth. Yes, this town is destined to become a city. An anchor of the western side of the empire, securing manifest destiny.

Los Angeles was a town of under 100,000 at the turn of the century, the land struggled under the pressure of this level of population. Water resources were dwindling, and ground water aquifers were being taxed. A solution had to be found, a city cannot simply stop growing. So in response the Los Angeles Department of Water Supply drafted a plan, Mayor Frederick Eaton and agency head William Mulholland began exploring possible sources of water. The Owens River was eventually chosen as Los Angeles’ artery, Mulholland took up the task of engineering the aqueduct.

Construction spanned eight years and involved much corruption. Land was virtually stolen from farmers in the Owens Valley and insiders provided information to real estate speculators. Harrison Otis for example, turned around the defunct Los Angeles Times when he became editor and used his privileges to print deceptive stories about water shortages to win the publics support for the aqueduct. In turn, Otis was granted information that the San Fernando Valley would be irrigated before the rest of Los Angeles. He bought up vast tracts of land and made a fortune.

The Owens Valley was once known as the ‘Switzerland of America’ for its snow capped mountain peaks and green meadows. After the Los Angeles Aqueduct was completed in 1913 it sucked the life out of the Owens Valley like a metroid. The once lush landscape transformed into a desert as Los Angeles expanded. Owens Lake dried up as well as over fifty miles of the Owens River. L.A. eventually built another aqueduct in 1970 and began draining Mono Lake. The population of Los Angeles peaked over 10 million in 2007, it became the most populous county in the United States as well as the most polluted.

In the end, a lush and unique valley was traded for a cancerous blight on the surface of the planet. Thanks civilization.