Visualizing how the American diet contributes to California drought

“Your Contribution to the California Drought”

This data presentation by the New York Times is a depiction of how much water California uses to grow various foods that are part of the American diet. The goal is to show how our consumption habits contribute to a drought in California and vice versa, how a drought in California can alter our eating habits. They also seem to want the reader do something about it, judging by their usage of “your” in their title “Your Contribution to the California Drought.”

They show California export and import data as well as agricultural data. Their target audience appears to be American consumers, perhaps more specifically whoever is stuck with the household chore of going to the grocery store. They show not only images of produce that California exports that require the most gallons of water to grow, but also ones that require the least. The images of foods coupled with the number of gallons of water required is simple, but very relatable. This simplistic depiction makes some of the data more shocking and surprising (i.e. that it takes 42.5 gallons to produce 3 mandarin oranges). Furthermore, showing the food as cut up or on a plate, instead of using some online graphic, makes the data easier to digest because it is how food is generally presented to us. However, they only have a quote about how the drought will cause consumers to pay more or switch to other products, which isn’t a very compelling call to action. It seems like there is another data story that they skimmed over with that quote, a story about how much food prices will go up etc. Overall, I think they are effective in conveying how the American diet contributes to the California drought, but does not do a great job explaining what one can do. I had a “so what?” feeling at the end.