We’ve all heard the news. California is in a severe drought, the worst in recorded history and possibly in 500 years. As of the week of February 18th, 91 percent of the state was experiencing severe to exceptional drought, according to the U.S. Drought Monitor. California’s “Golden State” moniker is gaining new meaning as hundreds of thousands of acres of cropland go fallow and our state’s role as the nation’s breadbasket is threatened.
Couldn’t we just pick up the phone and “dial D for drought” to alert government agencies to do something about it? In the face of a problem of such epic proportions, can individual action really amount to anything meaningful?
This month’s show, Dial D for Drought: A Call for Water Awareness, explores two aspects of drought. On the one hand, Edith’s stark photoessay in black & white examines just how severe drought can get by exploring life in one of the world’s driest environments -- Death Valley, California. On the other hand, Jolly offers a hopeful, action-oriented message for each of us to become a water steward. His whimsical collection of images reveals six creative, sometimes surreal ways to capture rain. I don’t know if Jolly will admit this, but to me it certainly seems that the graphic quality behind these spare images is a nod to graphic designer Saul Bass -- who, incidentally, designed title sequences for several Hitchcock films including North by Northwest, Vertigo and Psycho. Of course, Mr. Hitchcock’s film titles provide inspiration for dearantler’s own show titles.
But I digress. So long as water flows out of the tap, drought feels like an abstract concept without any real consequences. This is not the case for thousands of California Great Central Valley farmers who rely on water deliveries through the California Water Project, and who were recently told they will receive none of the water they expected this year. This is also not the case for my deer relatives and all other animal and plant species in the wild lands of Southern California. While we’re all accustomed to long, dry periods, this one has knocked the wind out of us.
It’s too early to tell whether we are experiencing the cataclysmic tip of the climate change iceberg. But regardless, the way I see it the choice is fight or flight. We live in an interconnected planet, so flight doesn’t appear to be much of an option, and for a buck like me, emigrating away from home is not a viable way forward anyway (too many freeways to cross). That leaves one option: to cultivate higher awareness in ourselves in order to take responsible action.
For starters, I have found that humans have lost their connection to place. Most Angelinos don’t know where their water comes from and they don’t know that if they’re enjoying a tomato in winter, it’s probably shipped from Florida or from another country.
The good news is that it’s not hard to foster a sense of place. The next time it rains (and it will rain again), go out side and enjoy it. Watch how water flows and collects across roofs, streets and sidewalks, and think about what you’d like to do with that water rather than let it be whisked away unused. Is there a tree that would like to soak its feet in that rain? Is there a corner of your house or apartment building that could be home to a rain garden or barrel?
Water is the theme of Dial D for Drought, but there are ways of reconnecting to the land that don’t require you to wait for the next rain. Set aside a morning or afternoon to hike a trail that's new to you or that you haven't visited in some time and you’ll see some of the native plants and trees that have adapted to nature's cycles over thousands of years. Keep your eyes and ears open for a lizard scurrying in the undergrowth or a hawk calling from above. Or you may just run into me. Simply look for an eight-point rack and silk smoking jacket.
Dial D for Drought runs February 23 to March 23.
Join two contests this month
Being that we're in a drought, there's a feeling of scarcity in the air. To combat that feeling, we're offering not one but two contests this month!
Click here to submit your own water-themed haiku by March 7 for a chance to win a beautiful linocut original by Jolly titled Here Comes the Flood. A haiku is a 17-syllable poem divided into three lines (5 syllables, 7 syllables, 5 syllables). If you need a little help getting started, visit this page. A winner will be chosen by Dr. Jed Antler, and select haikus will be posted on this blog.
Details about contest #2 will be released halfway through the run of Dial D for Drought. Stay tuned!