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While This Agave Gently Weeps

While This Agave Gently Weeps
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Poor lonely Agave, with barely any plants for company, languidly waits for El Niño to come and wash away the bare soil surrounding its forlorned leaves.

The agave is weeping because not only are we in a multi-year drought in California, now we are headed for a catastrophe of biblical proportions.

EL NIÑO!!!!! (shrieks are heard in the distance)

The warm waters in the Pacific will herald in unprecedented winter storms, and all sorts of hell will break loose.

Why? Because there has been so little rain, the soil has forgotten how to soak up water. People have let their plants wither and die, so there is very little ground cover on residential properties. There will be mudslides everywhere!

I know I sound like a doomsayer, and I’ll take that. I don’t WANT to be the one who sees tragedy coming, but I can’t help it! Everything Los Angelenos have been told about how to deal with the drought has been completely wrong, in my opinion. Instead of allowing people to let lawns go fallow, there should have been mandated re-plantings, not just rebates for eventual replanting. A healthy garden planted with a variety of trees, shrubs, perennials, succulents,and grasses is a superior water holding device than any rain barrel (which they are giving rebates for btw). The underground network of roots, penetrating to varying depths, would have stabilized soil and held hillsides in place. The gardens would have added to this large city’s greenspace and helped to offset the heat island effect – but Los Angeles has less planted space than it had before, when it should have more.

To gardeners like we Ranters, what I propose makes sense – but it is completely counterintuitive to the norms, who think plants use water, we are low on water, so we must get rid of plants, right? THAT is basically what has happened in this city. It seems that nobody in charge of planning how to respond to a drought spoke to any horticulturalist about the matter.

So here we wait for yet another Apocalypse. Living in Los Angeles is like being in the 90’s tv series “Buffy The Vampire Slayer” – there is always an apocalypse around the corner. This one is THE DELUGE. We are being told to fix our roofs and clean our gutters and sandbag our hillsides. But no matter what we do, we have the feeling it is not enough, because the forecasters are telling us HOW BAD THE RAINS WILL BE. We will all die, of course. Die ironically watery deaths, after years of dry dry dry.

Sigh. I’m weeping along with this depressed agave. Think about me as the Deluge approaches, and pray your Sad Little Ranter doesn’t get swept away in a slide of mud from the unplanted hillside above her house! I TOLD THEM!!!

(sounds of me and my agave friend, sobbing gently…)

 

Posted by

Ivette Soler
on October 28, 2015 at 3:31 am, in the category Real Gardens.

13 Comments

    • Saurs
    • 10th May 2016

    Great point about attacking (mostly symbolics) lawns without recommending, requiring, or incentivizing a renovation of the pre-existing landscape (rather than merely its destruction). We need to start subsidizing the planting of climate-appropriate shade trees, the kind that will reduce hydrophobic soils, provide comfort to people and shelter for animals, reduce heating / cooling costs (as much of an environmental problem as lush, residential lawns), and counteract erosion. This is not an impossible task, provided local and state governments aren’t controlled by self-styled anti-government “outsiders” who think slashing public works budgets is a responsible, rather than self-defeating and nihilistic, act.

    • Chris N
    • 19th May 2016

    The planners obviously didn’t talk to any ecologists, hydrologists or soil scientists either, all of whom could have warned of the consequences of these policies.

    • admin
    • 29th October 2016

    Looks like CA is reverting back to what some historians say is the norm, desert.

    • Saurs
    • 1st November 2016

    The bulk of populated southern California (coast to western San Berdoo and Riverside counties) was never a desert, though. Chaparral shrublands and mediterranean biomes are distinct from deserts.

    • admin
    • 13th November 2016

    I think the loss of the aquifers (and the sinking of the land which then eliminates what was an aquifer forever) might well turn SoCal into a desert.

    • Ivette Soler
    • 14th November 2016

    Marcia, California is a large state which encompasses a huge variety of climates – desert is only one. Los Angeles is not a desert, we have high and low deserts close by. No matter what the climate, from temperate maritime to our coastal belts to our chaparrals to our desserts, all are feeling the effects of this prolonged drought. The media loves to sensationalize, so take what you read from most sources with a grain of salt. The reality is concerning enough without the sweeping generalizations. I’m happy you can gather your flowers and tomatoes – so can I. But years earlier my harvests were much more abundant. Never forget that all of us are a natural disaster away from a very different way of life, so wherever you live, appreciate your garden and the way you can garden, but know that things can change, rapidly. And you might not be able to brag about your harvest to those who struggle.

    • admin
    • 15th November 2016

    I didn’t intend my comment to be boastful.

    • Ivette Soler
    • 15th November 2016

    Marcia, since California is the 9th largest economy in the world, I think they will be finding ways to send us more water before they migrate people out of the state.
    And I’m sorry, but the entire west is not arid. The southwest is arid, but northern California, Oregon, and Washington, all western states, are far from desert like.
    And it is southern California that uses water from the Colorado river, I don’t believe the northern part does, but I may be wrong.
    You can’t paint “California” or “The West” with such a broad brush, no matter how sensational the result is. Different parts of the state are feeling the impacts of the drought differently. And if we, as a state, weren’t growing much of the entire nations’s food supply, the water tables would be higher because there would be less pumping of wells and aquifers. We could deal with periods of drought better if we were only supplying our local communities with food – but again – that is not what we have here. We have an interconnected system of food production. It doesn’t bother people when food leaves the state, but it really bothers them when water comes in.
    Of course I understand your point, but I feel by saying how everyone just needs to leave California lets the powers that be off the hook. They need to figure things out. They need to listen to people who know plants, water, soil, and the biome – the climate crisis is real and the thought and decision making processes need to change significantly. I don’t think people will be shipping anyone out of California soon, but they COULD start making decisions that impact us in positive ways, instead of keeping their heads in the sand! Thanks Marcia!

    • Meg
    • 15th November 2016

    The real problem is, no matter whether you call it chaparral or desert or whatever — it’s still a place that was never intended to house millions of people. Yes, some things would help, but they’re never going to be enough.

    • skr
    • 16th November 2016

    There is nowhere on the planet that was “intended” for anything.

    • skr
    • 16th November 2016

    The built environment obviously exempted.

    • Ivette Soler
    • 16th November 2016

    Hi Meg, as SKR points out, no place is able to sustain the kind of population our large cities do without dancing on the edge of a razor. Chicago, NYC, Austin, Miami … these cities and others long ago outgrew any reasonable level of balance and harmony. I don’t really find pointing out obvious facts like that useful, because what are we going to do? Start a process of emptying cities to a more sustainable level? Redistribute the population across the country to smaller cities? Obviously not. Thinkers and policy makers need to come up with actual solutions for the problems of these overbuilt cities, and all too often all we get are patches and quick fixes to placate the loud voices, and things go on as usual. LA is currently expanding at an accelerated pace, which I find astounding. If people were making policy that made sense, there would be no more building in areas affected by drought, especially areas where water needs to be piped in from hundreds of miles away. But our economy depends on endless growth, so of course this will not happen. We will continue to have policies that favor development and impact residents the hardest. When disasters happen, they address the worst of it and everything else sorts itself out. Not the best way to run a society, in my opinion. Since this is the structure we live in, what can we do to make it function in a more optimal way? I am not one for calling for turning back time. We are where we are, in the situation we find ourselves. We need to MacGyver ways to make more sustainable lives work in our cities

    • Michael Arnold
    • 16th November 2016

    What do you mean there is no water? You’re sitting next to the single largest body of water on the planet, the Pacific Ocean. Salt water can be desalinated and used for drinking water. Sure, there is the sticker price to be considered, it is substantial, it would cost tens of billions to build and operate. Dubai does it, and they almost rely on it 100% because their climate is far more severe than California’s SW sector. It’s time for Cali to join the big leagues an pony up for decades of squandering several states water. The cost it would have been to build that kind of facility, is much cheaper than the damage Cali has cost the whole region. Dubai had visionaries for their water, they’ve already socked away enough reserve water to last past 2020, what has Cali done lately? Squandered everyone’s water and your money, all for nothing.

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