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A Class Based Drought


I went on an expedition today, in order to document photographically what is happening to the Central Valley of California during the drought we are enduring presently. I hoped I could share with you what it looks like to be in the midst of an extreme drought (because it seems so many of my blogging friends are wading through a rainy summer this year). However, in the process of taking photos I have unearthed something so disturbing and disheartening, that I am flummoxed. It turns out this is a drought particular only to certain socioeconomic groups (of which I am one).

Our city government has advised us we are only to water twice a week. Unfortunately, with the daily temperature routinely above 100 degrees and the humidity under 20%, the plants and the trees are not surviving this meager watering schedule. And so the trees and the lawns are dying. I really could care less about the lawns, but trees must be cherished. Having lived in Cheyenne, Wyoming – where there are very few trees, just prairies, tumbleweed and pronghorns, I appreciate ALL trees. Our city government is sending forth this propaganda, “Don’t Frown on Brown, Brown is a Responsible Lawn”. But homeowners are letting everything die, not just the lawns.

A “Responsible” Lawn

Don’t frown on brown!

South of our city, entire towns have run out of water. Those that can afford to, are digging their dry wells deeper, in hopes of finding water. Those that can’t afford to (it costs about $30,000 to dig deeper into a well, from what I understand) no longer have any water at all. I went out to some of these smaller towns on my expedition and this is what I found. Abandoned houses, dry canals, dead orchards and brown as far as the eye could see.

I then went back into town, had to stop for something to drink and I started thinking. Are the fancy people suffering? The people with their rolling lawns, their manicured privet balls and their freshly planted, bedding plants – are they surrounded by brown and dying vegetation? Have the country clubs let their greens become responsible lawns, like the rest of us? I went to find out. I felt like a true investigative journalist taking these photos. This particular country club is surrounded by a 10 foot thick hedge of oleander bushes. It is situated in a neighborhood where the “old money” lives. I had to get out of my car and covertly clamber through the bushes to get these photos. Thought for sure I was going to get caught by water hose wielding security men – but I escaped, undetected.

Covert photo (through Oleander bushes) of pristine golf greens

I then went over to another neighborhood, where all the ridiculously large mansions stand. It turns out they are immune to the watering restrictions as well. Hmmm – this is most curious and annoying. It just proves with enough money, it doesn’t really matter if the upper class abuses our limited resources thereby potentially harming others less fortunate or greedy. What matters most in the fancy people’s minds is that they are free from discomfort, free from eyesores and surrounded by perfection.

Beautiful lawns and gardens

Are the fancy people above the stringent water restrictions? Take a look at these photos and decide for yourselves.

But – there is hopeful news. The El Nino is building strength in the Pacific. This is the system that brings rain to California from November to March. There is some other type of atmospheric system called a PDO and this may affect the strength of the El Nino. All this meteorological stuff sounds like an anime cartoon, two big bosses, the El Nino and the PDO, fighting it out in the Pacific.

El Nino vs PDO smack down

While I am finishing this post, a most unusual thing has occurred. Outside I hear a rumbling in the sky. And then a strange flash sends strips of bright light through the half-opened plantation blinds. I wander to the patio and my family is standing, looking up into the skies. The sun is sending final rays of red, sepia light through the massive clouds before it loses its battle for supremacy to the thunderstorm. And it rains. The rain comes down in sheets, intermittently sideways with the blasts of winds. It has rained and rained and rained. It is still raining 3 hours later.   It never rains here in July. And you know what, the fancy people don’t have dibs on this water, we all get our fair share.

Rain in July?

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