On a recent fun trip to Palm Springs in California for their film festival I couldn’t help but be disconcerted by all the contradictions around me. I get a kick out of the kitschy, excessive side of these desert communities and the Palm Springs film festival is world class.
California is in the grip of a seemingly endless drought though and the rivers and aquifers that are usually replenished by mountain snows haven’t flowed for a number of years…the occasional violent storms just wash away soil and can’t penetrate the solid, dried out earth. And wildfires roar through more frequently than ever.
Yet here in these desert communities with the highest concentration of rich people and golf courses in the United States, the gated communities are as green as a rain forest.
Looking out from the San Jacinto mountains you can see what was once a small oasis in the Colorado desert, stretching green for miles around as the ever depleting Colorado River is piped in to keep the lawns watered. What is wrong with this picture?
For some relief from the glitz of the Coachella valley towns we hiked in the Joshua Tree National Park in the nearby Navajo Desert.
This is a 500,000 square acres of desert beauty that has remained relatively unchanged for many thousands of years. Here too you can see the effect of the drought as mountain streams have dried up and no longer run. It’s the perfect place to contemplate the contradictions all around us.
So as the moon shines down over a Palm Springs golf course on a winter dawn we’re still left to wonder…what film am I seeing at 1.30?
Not quite but thanks for the visit.
It’s quite a contradiction. Your post is very thought provoking and rightly so. It can’t be that money can buy water only for the creation of some man-made landscapes.
Thanks for your comments and they do say that the next wars will be fought over water.
We blunder on, regardless of nature! Such striking images! Green is an overrated colour in my book.
Thank you and agree about green.
Thanks Sheryl – seems it’s getting scarcer too.
What a thought-provoking post about a complex issue! Water is such a valuable and scarce resource.
Great exposure in your photos.
A zen type garden would be a good option.
Lawns are just a lot of work.
Letting the grass grow long is natures way.
Where the rain fall is adequate.
Thanks Jack – good thoughts. And apparently the desert has a spectacular, short lived bloom after a rain…if it comes.
Yard Gravel for lawns are quite beautiful. I should know… our yard does not have grass and is full of gravel and beautiful rocks we collect as we are rock hounds. In the community that I live in (Arizona)… many of our green areas are left to go dormant in the winter. Plus our community embraces beautiful desert landscaping!
Thanks for commenting. With so many more environmentally friendly options like you describe its such a shame to see the water wasted.
Very dry and wry thoughts. Such a shame that all that money is not used more imaginatively. This year I tore up my front lawn, such as it was, and planted wildflowers. And what fun to be at the film festival.
I’m following your lead and will further drought proof and naturalise my garden. To be fair there are some lovely examples of this in the desert too. The film fest was great fun😃
Yes, there will be some stunning examples of good garden practice.
Beautiful images and very thought provoking post. Enjoy the film!
Thank you and I did enjoy it – about the amazing Brazilian photographer Sebastiao Salgado!
I had the same feeling when I visited Palm Springs way back in the last Millennium. I was staying in a five star hotel with a world class golf course greener than the Royal Parks of London. I had a fabulous time but I thought the entire concept was bonkers 😀
Bonkers is a perfect word!
I couldn’t agree more with your post – how jarring the extravagant lush green appears set within the desert. What’s wrong with golfers adapting their game to play on a desert course? My mother learnt to play golf on a desert course in Kuwait in the 1960s.
There’s a campaign here in the UK to move away from fine lawns to wildflower meadows and naturalistic drought-resistant plantings – with finite resources we all need to learn to change our expectations.
I think they are slowly coming to the realization that the courses have to change – but slowly and reluctantly. Interesting about your mother and the desert course in Kuwait in the 60’s – wonder if she would have been able to play there today?
Not today – they now use thousands of gallons of desalinated water to create the standard green sward – 😦
These shots remind me of a trip to Portugal some years ago when we saw lush expanses of golf course surrounded by dusty, arid hills. It is indeed unsustainable, and made me notice too how even in rainy Britain, golf courses alter the landscape. But the film festival sounds fun. I hope you packed lots in: I’m sure you did!
The film festival is a blast both in terms of escaping a Canadian winter for a while and the quality of movies…we are already making plans to return next year. As with Toronto’s film festival you also meet the most interesting characters in line.
I’ve been wondering for years just how long the insanity of cities in the desert with golf and pools will be sustainable. Just one more example of a finite resource being squandered.
We do seem to be great squanderers don’t we? Thanks for the comment.
Ironically, it was the advent of televised golf that led to the desire for beautiful lawns. Before Arnold Palmer showed up on the little screen, Americans didn’t really have “lawns”. But in the 50’s that changed and everybody wanted a lawn free of weeds and bugs. Ugh. BTW, I loved going to the Toronto Film Festival a few years back…part of Smithsonian trip which gave my sister and me VIP tix…such fun!
So interesting…Thanks for adding that info on lawns and golf. And yes the other problem with the water in Palm Springs (which they recommend you don’t drink) is that the run off from the chemicals on all these golf courses. The TIFF is pretty impressive and I always go to some showings…VIP tickets would be very special.
So what film did you see in the end?
Fittingly it was ‘Salt of the Earth’ about Brazilian photographer Sebastiao Salgado!
The drought in California is very worrying and it alarms me that the wealthy are watering their lawns. It symbolizes so much of what is wrong in the world today.
I loved the picture from the Joshua Tree National Park. It looks like an amazing place to hike.
I agree about the baffling decisions in today’s world…but whoever decided to designate Joshua Tree National Park as protected (it seems to have been Roosevelt pushed by a woman activist named Minerva Hoyt) did something right.
I’ve been hearing a lot lately about how women have often been the driving force behind many visionary changes.
Sadly, they never get credit for it. It appears women have been content to see the positive change happen rather than getting recognition for it.
That has usually been my experience with women I’ve worked with – they’re content with getting results and don’t need to talk themselves up. Glad to report that there is a large mountain within the park named after Minerva Hoyt!
It’s very disturbing to see all that unnecessary green in a desert landscape. All that misplaced wealth.
So unnecessary when there are viable options. Nice to hear from you.
Excellent points, gracefully made.
Thank you for noticing.
It’s a great film festival…of course the Toronto International Film Festival is pretty terrific too!
Yes, it is an eye-opener. Not one that gets much attention, unfortunately.
It’s very troubling and there are poorer communities in the state that are having their water trucked in because their wells have run dry.