A couple of days ago, my landlords started laying down an irrigation system in their finca. Its purpose – obviously – is to provide the trees with much needed water during the dry summer months. The worrying thing is that their finca is composed entirely of olive trees.
Olive trees thrive in the hot, dry climate of southern Spain. They don’t need watering.
Unless there’s a drought. A severe drought.
The last couple of winters have been unusually dry, which is great for me because I didn’t come to Spain because I like getting rained on, but isn’t so great for the farmers who depend on rain to water their trees and crops. I was chatting to some local people yesterday, and apparently it’s the same everywhere. Irrigation water, which many towns provide free to citrus farmers whose trees need a lot of water, is now being used to water the olive trees.
I straight away phoned my landlords to ask if I need to water the (nearly 30) olive trees in my garden.
The answer? “Not yet.”
I’m not sure that I find that reassuring.
A few years ago, in 2012, I read a book called 2052: A Global Forecast for the Next 40 Years by Jorgen Randers.
Randers worked on the original Limits to Growth project, which took place in the 1970s, and made a variety of predictions for the next 40 years based on different courses of action by humanity. The predictions turned out to be extremely accurate, so Randers decided to run the forecasting software again (which by this time ran on a laptop, rather than requiring an expensive mainframe computer), and wrote a book based on his findings.
The part that concerned me the most, and the part that makes me hesitate about putting down roots in southern Spain, is his forecast for desertification on the northern side of the Mediterranean basin. Perhaps we are seeing the beginning of this process now, as droughts become more common and reservoirs become dangerously low.
This year is also forecast to be a long and extremely hot summer, triggered by an El Niño climate event. The last one was in 2009, when it didn’t rain between May and December. That was followed by an extremely wet winter, so – reluctantly – I guess we should hope for the same next winter.
It’s 6pm as I write this, and the temperature is still 42C in the shade.