A lot of detail and some good history, but I didn’t like it. The tone bothered me. The story is told as a narrative of loss. In that it is like many such books and that is certainly a perspective you can take.
But I think narratives of loss miss the important parts. The world is perpetually changing, with some things bursting into existence and other flickering out. You emphasize the comings or the goings and it makes a very different story. Similarly, there is struggle that leads to success or failure. This can be framed as worthless energy spent or a growth.
Another theme was what I might call the stolen land idea, which depends on zero sum thinking. This says that if you get, you must take from others. There is sure enough a lot of that.
However, in California’s case we need to take much more account of the creation. There is no such thing as a “natural” resource. There are potentials that depend on human effort, intelligence and innovation to get. California is blessed by nature, but the California we appreciate mostly results from human interaction with that blessed land. It is not just a gift or a lucky throw of the dice.
Another book I read about this was “Water to the Angles” about the construction of the Los Angeles aqueducts. I liked that book better. It was more hopeful. LA is a desert. It is prosperous because of human effort.
Nothing lasts forever and yesterdays solution is often today’s problem. This is something I like, BTW. Having challenges is what makes life interesting. What I don’t like is pessimistic tone. I felt this book had too much of this.
California is a wonderful place. We can easily imagine how it might be better, but we owe a lot to those who made it what it is today.