From Sri Lanka to Salinas


Ah, Sri Lanka.

In 2020: a beautiful, agriculturally self-sufficient island nation full of tea and tourists and holder of the highest “Environmental, Social, and Governance” (ESG) investor rating in the world.

And then, as part of the larger “green” effort spurred on by international Non-Governmental Organizations (NGOs), woke capital, and, seemingly, a desire to sit at the big table at the various and sundry global initiative conferences, President Gotabaya Rajapaksa banned the use of manufactured fertilizer in order to create a more climate-friendly sustainable farming sector. In April, 2021, the country went all-organic overnight.

What could possibly go wrong?

By the end of last year, Sri Lanka became unable to feed itself, prices for food (especially rice) and fuel and other daily basics skyrocketed, the tea crop – and the hundreds of millions it earns in international trade – was decimated. The nation defaulted on its foreign debt, had rolling power blackouts, the tourists are staying away in droves, and Sri Lanka, already wracked by corruption and COVID, spiraled out of control.

The public’s response? Even though the fertilizer ban had already been partially rolled back, just last month Rajapaksa’s presidential palace was stormed by thousands of everyday Sri Lankans and he had to flee the country – last word was that he was holed up in Singapore (note to Nancy Pelosi and Liz Cheney – this is what an actual insurrection looks like).

It seems Kermit was right – it ain’t easy being green.

But, considering the state’s claim to be the global leader in fighting climate change, can California – with its extremely powerful “climate lobby” that was able to ban the future sales of new gas-powered vehicles, a concept that would have been unthinkable a very few years ago – be far behind?

California’s commitment to confronting climate change cannot be underestimated., as proven by the 86 different climate partnerships, or “bilateral and multilateral agreements with national and subnational leaders” the state as entered into. (The list can be found here)

Additionally, a quick tour of state department websites finds numerous examples of “green,” “sustainability,” and “climate” pages and plans; even the state’s prisons got into the act with its climate change plan.

While there is no specific proposed legislation currently, Governor Gavin Newsom often touts his climate bona fides which could leave the door open to future efforts. “No challenge poses a greater threat to our way of life, prosperity, and future as a state than climate change,” said Newsom on Earth Day in April, more than a year into the Sri Lanka debacle. “With our rich natural heritage on the front lines of this crisis, California is building on our global climate leadership with bold strategies that harness the power of nature to fight climate change and protect our communities and ecosystems.”

Considering the state’s political landscape, it appears the unthinkable could already starting to be thought.

For background, the push to ban or restrict the use of manufactured fertilizers (in other words, not compost or manure) was formerly mostly tied to waterway protection (as the former Mayor of Lake Elsinore, I can personally attest to the kind of rapid growth – in our case sadly algae – nitrogen and phosphorus can spur in plants. PS – since the city and other agencies started large-scale remediation efforts, the lake has been wonderfully clear).

The current push, however, revolves around climate change and is based on the claim that nitrogen is a greenhouse gas so farmers should stop putting it on their plants. While this claim is untrue – defining nitrogen as a greenhouse gas is rather new and shaky itself, the overwhelming majority of nitrogen in fertilizers is captured by the plant itself or the soil, and modern farming techniques have greatly reduced the problem of “over fertilizing” – it has not stopped climate change activists from pushing massive restrictions and, in Sri Lanka’s case, outright bans.

Read the rest of this piece at The Point.

Thomas Buckley is the former Mayor of Lake Elsinore and a former newspaper reporter. He is currently the operator of a small communications and planning consultancy and can be reached directly at You can read more of his work at

Image: screenshot from video.