by Liliana Valerio
Clear skies, the sun’s rays beaming, and the sight of birds in the trees along with the sound of a lawn mower, a typical morning in California. Sounds like a picture perfect day, unfortunately it is not the case for recent months, not with an ongoing drought that seems to not get any better. Such a natural disaster has prompted many changes throughout the state. Last year, in April, 2015, Governor Jerry Brown enacted Executive Order B-29-15 which directed the State Water Resources Control Board to implement mandatory water reductions throughout the state of California in efforts to reduce water usage by 25%. To make this possible, Brown also directed the replacement of 50million square feet of lawns throughout the state with drought tolerant plants, mulch and gravel.
Landscaped home using drought tolerant plants and gravel in Southern California. While the order has been effective in the past year and is beneficial in many respects, it has complicated the lives of many, especially those of Latino gardeners. According to pewhispanic.org, latinos make up about 38% of California’s population. Also, according to Fox News, “more than 73% of workers in the landscape industry in California are (Latino).” As the drought continues and residents either neglect their lawns or re-landscape their lawns by installing plants, mulch and gravel, which do not need much water, as a means to comply with Browns order, many gardeners have lost their jobs as residents do not need their services, leaving many with hopes that “El Nino” will be their savior to a certain extent.
Home with a neglected lawn as a result of water reductions and drought conditions in Southern California. No matter what the case it seems, many Latinos are being negatively affected by this irreversible natural disaster that is only being made worse by the demands of Governor Brown. Just one of California’s Latino gardeners being affected and forced to face the drought’s effects directly is Pedro Valerio, a Southern California resident who has been making a living and supporting for his family through the business of gardening for about twenty four years. With minimal knowledge on Governor Brown’s water mandate, Valerio started landscaping with drought tolerant plants in efforts to please his clients and avoid getting fired. However, with many people choosing to landscape using mulch and gravel, Valerio constantly worries and stresses about the possibility of losing his job entirely as clients will soon no longer need his services. If such a tragedy were to happen, Valerio says that he would find himself forced to do something else in order to make a living and continue supporting his family, or even go back to Mexico. As his clients reduce their use of water and his amount of work, Valerio spends much of his free time learning about drought tolerant plants, through videos on YouTube, visiting Southern California Nurseries and his brother in law who is a botanist at UC Davis, all the while hopelessly searching for new clients only to be turned down about 20% of the time as they too do not need gardening services for the same reasons. With the struggle to find new jobs and maintain his current clients, and the drought showing minimal signs of improvement, Valerio like many other gardeners finds himself counting on “El Nino” to make the conditions of the drought better as his struggles only get harder to deal with. Pedro Valerio’s case like many others demonstrates the gravity of the drought and the hardships it imposes on California’s working class of gardeners and their families.
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