– For BuzzFeed News –
In Central California, the lawn is in a state of existential crisis. For years, vibrant greenery landscaped most neighborhoods, even in the height of summer when temperatures reach 115 degrees. Between 2012-2015, a devastating drought assaulted the San Joaquin Valley, and the reluctant region was forced to change their lawn habits. But the greater question remains: is it responsible to even have lawns in a climate that is historically prone to drought?
Larry Santoyo, founder of the Permaculture Academy in Los Angeles, says that “the lawn is an unspoken badge of honor as a homeowner, so there’s a lot of attachment to it. But almost none of it is biological – it’s emotional.” Grow or Die attempts to understand that emotional attachment to these patches of grass that have become synonymous with American success. The photo essay explores the reactive trends to the drought, from ornamental lawn-painting and synthetic turf installations to desert-landscaping and community gardens.
With increasing rain levels in 2016, the State of California dropped its water conversation regulations, but will residents implement conservation even when it is not mandated by the state? Time will tell if the Valley will adapt or not, but one thing is certain: the drought may be over for now, but it will come back. Will California be ready when it does?