The Deeper Issue of Drought

California Gold has new meaning in the drought of 2016. When previously the nickname “Golden State” referred to panning for gold and the promise of wealth, and even a football team was coined the “49ers” after the men who left everything to dig for riches, now, in the fourth year of drought, it is a marketing term to make a dead lawn the new chic. Green grass is out of style. No longer are you deemed a hack who can’t afford a gardener if your lawn is dead; a gold lawn is the badge of responsibility.

In a July news article from Reuters, Victoria Cavaliere takes it a step further when she states that “Gold is the new brown and residents and companies who let their green lawns turn brown and brittle will no longer face the possibility of fines for an unkempt yard,” as a result of a measure signed by Governor Jerry Brown to “severely limit” water use.

A walk around the neighborhood reveals who’s in and who’s out. Some have revamped their lawns to the desert style cactus and rocks. But there was “that celebrity” who got caught stealing water for his Hidden Valley Ranch and movie sets continue to hose down the pavement to film street scenes. Large companies have posted enormous signs stating “We use recycled water” in the middle of all their greenness. Other organizations, like the Mormon Temple in Los Angeles, have let their mega-lawns die out completely. So what gives? Why are some citizens willing to go gold while others remain adamant to hang on to the so-yesterday green?

It’s hard. To save water. I don’t like to turn off the faucet when I’m brushing my teeth. My husband tells me the lake is a foot lower every time I brush. A bucket in the shower to catch the not-hot-yet water is annoying. Using the bucket water to flush the toilet makes a mess. It splashes everywhere. A gold lawn is dusty and tracks more dirt in the house. Plus, it looks bad. I get it.

Sacrificing is for people who live in other neighborhoods or other states or other countries. Not us. Not me. We, who have it all, should be able to turn on the faucet and not think twice about where it’s coming from or if there is enough to go around. We live in California, the land of opportunity and little golden statues hailed as the pinnacle of success, thousands of miles away from the third world countries where the citizens walk for miles to fill a five gallon container with water from the nearest well. That’s not us. We are civilized. We are entitled.

The deeper issue of the drought is the space between the solution and the problem. This dilemma brings out the integrity of our mindset, the character we draw upon to make the decision to go gold or stay green in all water consumption activities, not just the lawn. Sacrifice and entitlement are opposites; the yard (or the heart) can’t hold both at the same time. Selfishness lacks compassion and puts the problem on someone else’s plate to solve. Luckily, we can make up our minds to change course and do the right thing.

–Tara Schiro is the author of “No Arms, No Legs, No Problem: When life happens, you can wish to die or choose to live,” the inspirational memoir of Paralympian Bob Lujano. Available on Amazon and Barnes & Noble