History books and movies document how the “dirty thirties” drought and subsequent dust storms drove many off the land in a mass migration in search of farmable land. We may be on the cusp of a modern day repeat as the rapidly escalating drought in California is fostering discussion of a forced relocation.
Suffering in its third year of drought, more than 58 percent of the state is currently in “exceptional drought” stage, according to the latest U.S. Drought Monitor map. That marks a huge jump from just seven days ago, when about 36 percent of the state was categorized that way.
Exceptional drought, the most extreme category, indicates widespread crop and pasture losses and shortages of water in reservoirs, streams and wells.
If the state continues on this path, there may have to be thoughts about moving people out, said Lynn Wilson, academic chair at Kaplan University and who serves on the climate change delegation in the United Nations.
“Civilizations in the past have had to migrate out of areas of drought,” Wilson said. “We may have to migrate people out of California.”
Wilson added that before that would happen, every option such as importing water to the state would likely occur— but “migration can’t be taken off the table.”