The Atlas of California: Mapping the Challenge of a New Era

The Atlas of California: Mapping the Challenge of a New Era

by Richard A. Walker, Suresh K. Lodha

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California is at a crossroads. For decades a global leader, inspiring the hopes and dreams of millions, the state has recently faced double-digit unemployment, multi-billion dollar budget deficits and the loss of trillions in home values. This atlas brings together the latest research and statistics in a graphic form that gives shape and meaning to these numbers. It shows a new California in the making, as it maps the economic, social, and political trends of a state struggling to maintain its leadership and to continue to offer its citizens the promise of prosperity.

Among the world’s largest economies, California is the nation’s agricultural powerhouse, high tech crucible and leader in renewable energy. The state is the most populous and most diverse state in the continental U.S. Yet its infrastructure is coming under increasing pressure. Water supply systems are strained, the legendary highways are over capacity, and the celebrated system of public schooling is unable to offer affordable quality education at all levels. Health and welfare services, particularly for the poor, needy, disabled, and seniors, are at great risk.

This indispensable resource gives readers the tools they need to understand the transformation as California attempts to forge a new identity in the midst of unprecedented challenges.

Product Details

ISBN-13: 9780520272026
Publisher: University of California Press
Publication date: 10/04/2013
Edition description: First Edition
Pages: 128
Sales rank: 802,575
Product dimensions: 7.30(w) x 9.50(h) x 0.40(d)

About the Author

Richard Walker is Professor Emeritus of Geography at the University of California, Berkeley, and author of many books, including The Conquest of Bread and The Country in the City.
Suresh K. Lodha is Professor of Computer Science at the University of California, Santa Cruz and coauthor of The Atlas of Global Inequalities.

Read an Excerpt

The Atlas of California

Mapping the Challenges of a New Era

By Richard A. Walker, Suresh K. Lodha, Jannet King


Copyright © 2013 Myriad Editions Limited
All rights reserved.
ISBN: 978-0-520-96686-4


Land & People

California enjoys the most distinctive and varied landscape in North America. It boasts high peaks and sunken valleys, live volcanoes and earthquake faults, rolling hills and lava beds, white water and level plains. Its climate is even rarer, falling between rainy northwest and arid southwest, with a Mediterranean balancing act in between. Coastal fog and alpine snow frame the scene. But nothing prepares the visitor for the astounding array of microclimates and regions, nor for the fantastic biodiversity nestled into the innumerable corners of the state.

California's unique landscape is the stage on which its rich history has played out, leading to claims of three, four or a dozen different Californias divided by mountain ranges, ocean vistas, and water politics. Without a doubt, the wealth of nature has benefitted Californians economically, but it has equally touched their hearts, making this the world center of environmentalism for over a century.

Millions of people have been drawn to California since the Gold Rush, creating a state of permanent migration, both domestic and international. It remains an unsettled place in many ways, a mixing pot that never quite melds. Yet it has been a continual source of wonderment for the diversity of its people and the way they have carved out a way of life — and degree of tolerance and optimism — at odds with so much of the world. Not to be forgotten, however, is the dark side of this collision of peoples from many continents: a dissonant history of racism, repression, and annihilation of the native people.

The lure of California has had many names: the California Dream, the Golden State, the Land of Sunshine. No doubt a favorable climate and hopes for the future have led people to our shores, but the foundations of the state's allure are mostly practical: a thriving economy, lots of jobs, an open society, reuniting families torn asunder, and more. Once here, it is the people, their wits and their labor, who have built the California dreamworks. Few, however, wish to remember the failures and defeats, or simply the bent backs and unrewarded drudgery that mar the gilded image.

California stands at a threshold today. The golden economy has lost some of its luster, inequality is growing, and the state is finding it hard to provide for the new Californians of this generation, the new majority of people of color. What we and they choose to do about it will tell if the Dream stays alive.

Land & Nature

California is so distinct in topography, climate and ecology that it has been called "an island in the land". Facing the Pacific Ocean on the west, it is walled off by high mountains in the north and east and by deserts in the south and southeast. Within that realm lie nine major topographic regions.

Dominating the state's midsection are three parallel regions: Coast Ranges, Central Valley, and Sierra Nevada. Southern California has three regions, as well: Coastal Plain, Transverse Ranges, and Mojave Desert. The Transverse Ranges run east–west, cutting across the grain of the Sierras and Coast Ranges. Northern California has two subregions: Klamath and Siskiyou Mountains on the west and the volcanic landscape of the Southern Cascades to the east. Beyond the Sierra, California shares a piece of Nevada's Basin and Range.

California's landscape is a creation of the tectonics generated by the collision of the Pacific and North American plates. In the distant past, the Pacific floor dove under the continent, pushing up the Sierra (as in today's Cascades). Now the Pacific plate slides along the San Andreas fault system, twisting northwest and pushing upward, creating the Coast and Transverse Ranges, and periodically shaking up California's cities. California has benefited greatly from the gifts of the land: gold, silver, and other minerals left by volcanism and uplift; oil deposits from sea beds driven far beneath the coast; and deep valley soils deposited from ancient mountains.

California occupies one of the five Mediterranean climate zones of the world (wet winters, dry summers). Heavy fog off the Pacific cools the coastal regions from Mendocino to San Diego during the summer. Far Northern California sees the most rain, akin to the Pacific Northwest. In far Southeast California lies desert: the Mojave and pieces of the Colorado and Sonoran zones. The Sierra and northern mountains enjoy heavy winter snowfalls, the southern mountains a light dusting.

The state's flora and fauna are remarkably diverse, combining species adapted to a Mediterranean regime, those tolerant of the extremes of alpine and desert climates, and remnant species from wetter and colder epochs. California has more endemic (unique) plant species than any other part of the continental US. Some, such as the sequoias and bristlecone pines, are wonders of the world. Others, such as Monterey pines and California poppies, are common in gardens and plantations worldwide.

Californians have profited from cutting the forests of redwood, fir and pine growing thick along the northern coast and along the mountain ranges, and even more so from farming the broad valleys beneath the summer sun. Yet resource extraction left a legacy of ravaged landscapes and agriculture introduced a host of new species that displaced the native flora and fauna. The combination of rare beauty and rampant devastation is key to Californian's legacy of conservation.

Public Lands & Parks

Large areas of California are in public ownership, mostly federal lands administered by the US Forest Service, National Park Service and Bureau of Land Management. Public lands occupy over 47 million acres — almost half of the state's 100 million acres. Only Alaska and Nevada have more acreage in public lands.

California has more units of the National Parks system (monuments, historic sites, seashores, reserves, recreation areas) than any other state (32), covering 7.5 million acres. Yosemite and Sequoia were two of the earliest national parks, and Yosemite Valley is arguably the oldest in the country (given to the state to administer in 1864). The National Park Service (1916) was the brainchild of Stephen Mather, the first of several Californians to serve as its director.

National forests began to be set aside in 1884 after most of the west had been sold into private hands. Almost 2 million acres of redwood forests were disposed of before the country woke up to the devastation of uncontrolled logging. California now has the second highest national forest area of any state: 20.7 million acres. Californians led the fight for the National Wilderness Preservation System (1964) and the state has more wilderness areas than any other, lying mostly in national forests. Desert lands were long thought of as useless, except for military purposes, but large tracts have recently been set aside in parks, such as the Mojave National Preserve.

California has the largest state park system in the country: 278 units encompassing 1.4 million acres, including parks, historic sites, natural reserves, and recreation areas. Most are smaller than national parks, but they attract almost twice the number of visitors. The first historic site was marked in 1889 and the first park created in 1902, but a state parks system was not organized and financed until 1928, growing rapidly thereafter. Today, the state's perennial budget crisis has hit the parks hard, with few new units added and many closed to regular use.

California's urban areas are packed with city, county and regional parks and open spaces, adding up to more than 1.5 million acres. Offshore, the state has thousands of square miles covered by four federal marine sanctuaries. The state has also designated over 100 state marine protected areas, and development along the 1,000-mile coastline has been tightly regulated since 1972. San Francisco Bay has been protected from further incursions since 1965 and includes five of the over 50 national wildlife refuges in the state.

Californians have been leaders in national and global conservation for over a century. The movement has been inspired by the state's magnificent landscape and by the devastation of the land by mining, logging, and urbanization. Since the days of John Muir, its momentum has never slowed, taking on new threats to the land and waters as they arose, such as large dams, ski resorts, suburban sprawl, bay fill, and coastal development. Today's conservationists focus on climate change, energy conservation, and rethinking cities.

Colonialism & Native Californians

Native Californians arrived more than 10,000 years ago. They lived in families and clans of exceptional diversity, speaking 100 languages and 300 dialects. They prospered on the abundant wildlife, which they managed through seed collection, land-clearing fires, and fish ponds. Their numbers reached perhaps 300,000 in pre-Colonial times, the largest concentration north of the Valley of Mexico, but unlike the Iroquois they did not form nations.

The Spaniards reached California in 1542, but left it alone until their empire was threatened in the late 18th century by British, French, Russian, and American expansion. The Christianizing Missions founded by Father Junipero Serra, where natives were forced to live and work, brought devastation through disease and destruction of past ways of life. Native numbers fell by one-third to one-half, especially along the coast.

The Mexican era after 1821 brought new trials to people further inland and northward. Mexican rancheros exploited the natives as indentured labor, while building a trade in hides and tallow. Again, thousands of the natives perished. The Mexican–American war in 1844–46 brought California under the sway of the US, which annexed the northern half of Mexico in 1848.

Following this, the Gold Rush drew in some 300,000 fortune seekers. Miners overran the last mountain redoubts of the native peoples, and many were enslaved. Nowhere were American Indians treated worse. The first governor, Peter Burnett, called for the extermination of native tribes, a task aided and abetted by state militias. California opposed Indian Reservations and federal agents were notoriously corrupt, leaving most native people landless and scattered. There are over 100 recognized tribes in California, but most bands never reclaimed lands other than tiny rancherias.

The population of Native Americans fell to a low of 15,000 by 1900, then started a slow recovery, often through mixing with the conquering people. Estimates depend on the criteria for inclusion, but have increased rapidly since 1950. Before that, many did not want to identify as a disparaged people; but with the rebellions of the 1960s native heritage became a source of pride, swelling the census count. In addition, Native Californians migrated to the cities, where they were joined by tens of thousands of American Indians from around the west, forced from reservations by poverty and the federal decertification of tribes. By 1970 they were outnumbered by new migrants, and numbers were climbing fast. The urbanization and mixing of tribes gave rise to the American Indian Movement, ignited when young militants seized Alcatraz in 1969 and proclaimed it liberated territory. Today, there is a renewed pride in learning native languages, crafts, and culture.

The legalization of native-run casinos, over 60 in 2011, has earned more than $7 billion. The income has been used to improve housing, restore tribal lands, and improve education, but has led to disputes over tribal membership. After 200 years of oppression, Native Americans are still struggling to preserve their identities and culture and finding it an uphill task to attain the same level of education, health, and liberties as other minorities do.


Nearly one-eighth of people in the United States live in California; no other state is close. California has long boasted rapid population growth, drawing in large numbers of migrants from other countries and from elsewhere in the USA, because of its continuous economic expansion and demand for labor. The weakened economy slowed the increase in the 2000s, making it the decade of least growth since the Gold Rush and the first when more people were born in California than moved into it. Immigration was way down from its peak in the 1980s, and there was no net migration from other states. Even so, California's population rose from 34 million to 37 million between 2000 and 2010, and should exceed 40 million by 2020.

Currently, 27 percent of California's people are foreign-born, compared to 13 percent for the United States as a whole. Hispanics/Latinos made up more than a third of California's population in 2010 and will soon pass Euro-Americans/Whites, whose share has fallen from over 90 percent in 1960 to 40 percent today. Asians overtook African-Americans as the next largest category in the 1980s. Native Americans make up fewer than 1 percent of the state's population. Mixed race, at 2.6 percent, is an undercounted but growing category.

The age distribution is that of a mature economy, with a large number of baby boomers retiring in the next 20 years. But the age distribution of immigrants is younger than that of the American-born, and they have larger families, on average. This key group provides the bulk of the labor force today and will continue to do so in the near future.

Although most people are concentrated in the coastal metropolitan areas of Los Angeles, the Bay Area, and San Diego, rapid growth is occurring in the Inland Empire of Riverside and San Bernardino counties in Southern California, and the Central Valley from Sacramento to Bakersfield in Northern California. The geographic distribution of people by ethnicity/race and national origin is also uneven: Whites dominate in the mountainous areas, while Hispanics/Latinos are disproportionate in the inland valleys. The coastal cities are the most mixed.


Yearning for a better life, domestic and foreign migrants have poured into California throughout its history. They have come to search for gold, work as laborers, establish businesses, unify families, and escape poverty and persecution. They have been attracted to California for its jobs, openness, climate, and opportunities to realize one's dreams.

In 1848 the cry of gold drew fortune-seekers from the East Coast, Europe, Latin America, and China. Chinese and Irish came as laborers to build the transcontinental railroad and to work in agriculture and manufacturing. Germans, Scots, and Scandinavians came as skilled workers. By the 1900s, farmers were drawing on new sources from Japan, the Philippines, and India.

During this period, California suffered serious outbreaks of anti-immigrant agitation: anti-Chinese in the 1870s, anti-Japanese in the 1900s, and anti-Mexican in the 1920s. These eruptions influenced national policies, such as the ban against Chinese entry in 1882, the restriction of Japanese immigration after 1908, and forced sterilization in the 1920s. Californians helped pass the Quota and Immigration Acts of 1921 and 1924 that resulted in a dramatic drop in immigration for the next 50 years.

The explosive growth of Los Angeles from 1900 to 1930 lured millions of White Americans west, as well as tens of thousands of Mexicans and African-Americans. The Dust Bowl of the 1930s drove thousands of poor Whites, popularly known as "Okies", to California, who moved to the cities in World War II along with large numbers of new migrants, White and Black, from the south.

The postwar boom drew millions more domestic migrants, but when domestic sources ran dry immigrants took their place. From 1942 to 1964, the "temporary" Bracero Program brought more than 4 million agricultural workers from Mexico into California. Then, with the lifting of quotas in 1965, millions of Mexicans, Central Americans, and many nationalities from Asia joined the rush to California.

California has welcomed many political refugees over the years, including European émigrés after the revolutions of 1848, Filipinos uprooted by the American takeover of 1899, and "boat people" escaping Vietnam after 1975. But some of the worst anti-immigrant reactions came with the internment of Japanese in 1942, mass deportation of Mexicans in 1954 to 1955, and the infamous border wall with Mexico in the 1990s.

Although California continues to be the nation's most immigrant-rich state, the rate of growth of the immigrant population, which peaked in the 1980s, is now one of the slowest in the nation. Several new immigrant gateways have emerged, dispersing the immigrant population much more widely across the United States.


Excerpted from The Atlas of California by Richard A. Walker, Suresh K. Lodha, Jannet King. Copyright © 2013 Myriad Editions Limited. Excerpted by permission of UNIVERSITY OF CALIFORNIA PRESS.
All rights reserved. No part of this excerpt may be reproduced or reprinted without permission in writing from the publisher.
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Table of Contents

Introduction 9

Acknowledgments 15

Photo Credits 15

Chapter 1 Land & People 16

Land & Nature 18

California's geography sets it apart from the rest of North America. Its natural blessings have been a source of wonder and wealth, its frequent earthquakes a challenge.

Public Lands & Parks 20

Half of California's land is in public ownership, and much of that is protected in the most extensive system of national, state, and local parks in the United States.

Colonialism & Native Californians 22

California was part of the Spanish Empire, then Mexico, before being annexed to the United States. Native peoples were annihilated by Spaniards, Mexicans, and Americans alike, through forced removal, slave labor, disease and massacres, and are still struggling to regain their rightful place in state life.

Population 24

California is the most populous state in the United States and for decades was among the fastest growing, due to high immigration and birth rates.

Migration 26

For centuries, California has been a magnet for migrants, both domestic and foreign. They have come from many places in search of a better life, escaping poverty, war, famine, and persecution-but often facing hostility on arrival.

Unauthorized Immigration 28

California has the highest number of unauthorized immigrants of any state. Although their presence is controversial, several industries depend on them to fill low-wage, low-skill jobs.

Chapter 2 Politics, Governance, & Power 30

Government & Politics 32

Democracy in California has long suffered from unequal representation, a weak party system, and the power of money in elections. But voting patterns are solidly Democratic have become more so in recent elections.

Budget & Taxation 34

California has the largest budget after the federal government but has suffered budget shortfalls, revenue volatility, and reduced taxation, resulting in huge cuts during the recession and making planning difficult.

Government Finances 36

Tax revenues constitute roughly half of the general revenue of California state and local governments. Two-thirds of expenditure goes to education, health, welfare, and safety.

Military Power 38

California is the most militarized of states. It has been a strategic intellectual and technological center for the military, and served as the Pacific base of operations in several major wars.

Crime & Incarceration 40

California's prison population and funding for corrections have soared in the last 30 years, even though violent crime rates have dropped. The US Supreme Court has ordered a reduction in the state's prison population to reduce overcrowding.

Chapter 3 Economy & Industry 42

Economic Growth 44

California's economic growth has long outpaced the rest of the country. With its vibrant and diverse industrial tapestry, it is a model of economic innovation and prosperity.

Workforce 46

California's prosperity has been built on its workforce, both in numbers and quality. Labor demand and supply, skills, and wages have long exceeded the national average, feeding the state's remarkable growth.

Business & Finance 48

California is home not only to globestraddling corporations with large management teams, but also to thriving small businesses and start-ups. It has long been the second-largest center of finance in the country.

Agribusiness 50

California's agribusiness is one of the agricultural wonders of the world, leading the country in the variety and quantity of output, and setting the pace for modern farming and food production in the United States.

Technology 52

California is known around the world as a leader in technology and innovation. It has offered highly favorable conditions for innovators to flourish and put new ideas into play.

Chapter 4 Urban Areas 54

Cities & Metro Areas 56

California is highly urban, and the state's cities and metro areas are among the nation's largest, densest, and most economically significant.

The Bay Area 58

San Francisco has long been world famous but is today pan of a large, complex urban region: the Bay Area-high-tech capital of the world and richest big city in the country.

Greater Los Angeles 60

Los Angeles is California's largest city and the country's second largest metropolis. It is popularly known for its remarkable growth, sprawling landscape, and mixture of peoples, but is equally a manufacturing and transportation powerhouse.

Real Estate 62

California runs on real-estate development. The scale of building is huge and property values high. After the greatest real-estate bubble in history in the 2000s, the state suffered a devastating crash.

Highways & Transportation 64

California has one of the most advanced transportation systems in the world, including highways, airports, seaports, and railroads. The challenges of city committing are great, as are those of handling an immense flow of goods, within and beyond state borders.

Chapter 5 Water & Energy 66

Water Supply 68

Northern California has abundant rainfall and the Sierra a large snowpack; excess runoff is stored and moved south to supply agriculture and cities in the southern half of the state.

Water Use 70

Water use exceeds natural supply in many parts of California, especially in drought years. Water conservation has checked the growth of consumption, and it must continue.

Energy: Fossil Fuels 72

California has one of the lowest rates of energy consumption in the United States. Fossil fuels, mostly foreign and domestic imports, dominate energy supply, despite efforts to develop alternative sources.

Energy: Electricity 74

Total electricity demand has been rising in California due to overall growth plus inland migration. Yet higher prices, government policies, and technical change have kept per capita electricity consumption flat over the last two decades.

Renewable Energy 76

California is a leading producer of renewable energy, but the goal of significantly increasing the share of electricity generated by renewables faces many obstacles.

Chapter 6 Environment 78

Climate Change 80

Global climate change is being felt in California in the form of rising average temperatures and sea level, weather extremes, and more wildfires. The implications for water supply, flooding, and ecosystems are potentially grave.

Carbon Emissions 82

California is a national leader in reducing carbon emissions through transportation planning, industrial controls, and the use of renewable energy, making it one of the lowest emitters per capita of greenhouse gases in the United States.

Air Pollution 84

Although California has made dramatic progress in reducing air pollution, a majority of the population continues to breathe air that poses significant health risks.

Water Pollution 86

California's surface, ground, and coastal waters suffer serious contamination from farms, cities, and industry, jeopardizing health, recreation, and wildlife. Toxic chemicals pose risks to the public and the environment.

Chapter 7 Health & Education 88

Healthcare: Quality & Outcomes 90

Good health depends greatly on access to and quality of healthcare, on health behaviors, socioeconomic conditions, and physical environment, which vary widely across California and create persistent disparities between places and racial/ethnic groups.

Healthcare: Cost & Access 92

Healthcare costs have been rising rapidly, burdening families, employers, and governments. Yet California ranks towards the bottom in per capita health spending, as well as in state Medicaid support, employer-based coverage, and percentage of uninsured.

Pre-K Education 94

Despite its leadership in introducing a variety of early childhood education and support programs, California provides preschool access to only half of its three and four year olds, and quality access to even fewer.

K-12 Education 96

California's once-heralded K-12 public education system today ranks near the bottom in student achievement, graduation rates, student-teacher ratio, and per-pupil funding. Greatly increased investment and commitment are needed to put public schooling back on a sound footing.

Higher Education 98

California's public universities, vital engines of economic and civic life, are in danger of failing to provide affordable access to quality higher education. Can California rediscover its former commitment to public higher education?

Chapter 8 Inequality & Social Divides 100

Income, Wealth, & Poverty 102

Income and wealth inequality have grown significantly in the last 30 years, fueled by stagnant wages, rising assets values and corporate pay, as well as federal tax relief for the rich. Poverty is rampant in California despite its wealth and prosperity.

Hunger & Homelessness 104

Millions of Californians go hungry every day and tens of thousands are homeless. This is one of the worst records in the nation. Government food assistance programs that help mitigate hunger need to be strengthened. Homeless people have little institutional support and often face hostility.

Race & Ethnicity 106

California enjoys a rich mix of people of different races and national origins, just one of four states where minorities are the majority. Yet the participation of people of color in politics and business is much less than that of Whites, and almost all suffer disproportionately from low incomes, poor health, and less education.

Gender & Sexual Orientation 108

California's record of gender equity is good in education, moderate in wages and political representation, and poor in business. The state has been a pioneer in the struggle for gay rights, but has suffered setbacks on the question of equal rights to marriage.

Youth & Old Age 110

California's young and old suffer disproportionately from deprivation, and many are ineligible for government benefits because of inadequate measures of cost of living and need.

Chapter 9 Challenges Ahead: A Glimpse into the Future 112

California's glory resides in its prosperity but, in the face of multiple challenges, it needs to forge a new identity.

Chapter 10 Data Challenges 116

Data must be selected and interpreted with caution because of the challenges presented by inconsistency, omissions, imperfections, and underlying assumptions.

Definition of Key Terms 118

Sources 120

Index 126

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