California wildfire
Hillside charred by the wild fire that raged through Napa and Sonoma counties in California, fence along left side and a small patch of green grass spared from the inferno. (photo Sheilaf2002 / Adobe Stock)

By Austin Snedden, Ranching Contributor, Valley Ag Voice

Misdiagnosis is something we generally think of when referring to the medical field, but just as misdiagnosis can happen in the medical field, it can happen elsewhere. It’s the recognition of a problem, but a misunderstanding of the cause, resulting in a solution that won’t fix it. Governments, large and small, are the primary culprits of misdiagnosis. Usually, it occurs with a complex problem that folks think needs an urgent fix—something that is so important that “something must be done,” even if we don’t understand causation or how to fix it. Although complex issues logically spawn most misdiagnoses, don’t underestimate the incompetency of bureaucracy and its ability to misdiagnosis simple problems. We can debate the proper role of government and how much we should call on it to solve problems, but it is hard to argue with the fact that government is primarily ineffective at fixing issues.

I have hammered climate change in previous articles, so I will not dwell too long. The significant illness of the planet is climate change, and the cause of the illness is humanity. The cure for the illness is to eliminate modern efficiencies. The primary problem with this diagnosis is that when looking at the earth’s long-term medical chart, there has never been a period where the climate wasn’t changing. The secondary problem with this diagnosis is the causation. Many variables affect climate, none of which can be held constant; therefore, we can’t properly employ the scientific method. The final and most dangerous problem with this diagnosis is that the supposed cure will result in food shortages, heating and cooling shortages, and ultimately, hardship and mortality for some of the poorest folks on the planet. This misdiagnosis, or at best a diagnosis that is no better than a guess, will ultimately result in a reduction in the use of fossil fuels that will make food less abundant and more expensive and energy for heating and cooling those in extreme climates less available. That is a certainty.

We are all too familiar with the deadly wildfires in California. They destroy lives, homes, property, and biodiversity. The scope of these wildfires is a clear illness that the layman can see. Wildfires always have and always will exist, but the destruction and ferociousness of the fires in recent years have been outliers. The government’s diagnosis of causation is climate change. I guess “spontaneous combustion” sounded too outlandish, so they went with its close relative, man-made climate change. For the average thinking person, it sounds ignorant enough that a minuscule temperature change causes fires, but dig in, and it sounds even more ignorant. Climate change did not create a forest policy that reduced grazing. Climate change did create a government policy that decreased logging, but climate change did not create a government policy that increased roadless areas. Instead, the government teamed with environmental groups to create a policy that increased fuel loads and reduced fire breaks in our wild lands. A misdiagnosis of wildfire built on a misdiagnosis of man-made climate change has resulted in a deadly, costly illness in wildfire.

The examples abound, but one that hit closest to home is the prescription of SGMA to fix an overdraft of our water table. The “illness” was a declining water table. The prescription was SGMA, but what about the causation of these declining water tables? The State “diagnosed” that farmers and municipalities were pumping too much water. If the State wants to learn the causation of overdraft, they might need to look in a mirror. The State of California did not deliver the water that was paid for and promised through the State Water Project because of a little fish and other environmental reasons, resulting in freshwater flowing out into the ocean that was earmarked for humans. If you are a farmer that had permanent crops or even annual crops, and you know, had to make a living based on production (unlike the folks in Sacramento), what do you do? You turn on your well pumps. The state created an ailment where the cure hurts the victim. Society tends to grow government based on the idea that there are problems the government will fix. Based on history and current examples of the government being a “physician” for our problems, I am not sure we can handle too many more “cures.”

Previous articleAerial Applicators–A Conscientious Pilot’s Wish
Next articleYoung Farmers & Ranchers