Opinion Poll: Drought Measures

By Taylor Galla '18
Opinion Poll Columnist

Returning to campus this year, I knew most things were going to be the same: the dorms have the same old and comfortable feel, the Motley has the same zestful energy, and Balch still stands elegant and proud. However, I knew one thing about campus was going to have changed: the landscaping.

Photo courtesy of Scripps College News

Photo courtesy of Scripps College News

One of the biggest mysteries of the summer was what the landscaping on campus was going to look like coming back, as late last year there was buzz about significant changes that were going to happen due to the extreme drought. This is one of the worst droughts on record and has been in a state of emergency since Jan. 2015.  One of the most important and distinctive characteristics of Scripps is its beautiful campus, full of greenery and life that brightens the environment and contributes significantly to the pleasant campus culture. At least once each day last year I would be walking between classes and catch an incredible view of one of the lawns or a shadow of a tree and have a moment of appreciation for the place where I live. I, along with others, was worried that the changing environmental patterns of the past few years and the subsequent resource deficit was going to take that away. Once I returned to campus, however, I was pleasantly surprised to find that the beautiful environment had not changed-- the grass was a different shade of green and a couple lawns had been replaced with stones, but other than that I have not been visually missing anything. Due to how much the campus really matters in terms of Scripps’ campus environment, I wanted to ask the student body what their thoughts are on the recent changes. This is what I found.

My question for this issue’s poll was “What are your thoughts on the recent changes to campus in response to California’s severe drought?” The responses varied pretty significantly. With a total of 97 responses, the breakdown was as follows: 22 people (22.9%) chose “I am satisfied and I think they’re absolutely necessary,” 25 people (26%) chose “Although I acknowledge that the changes needed to happen, I am not as happy as I was about how it looks,” 3 people (3.1%) went with “I am disappointed in the amount of change and think we still need to do more in terms of landscaping and water usage for plants,” 34 people (35.4%) chose “I think beyond just changes in landscape Scripps needs to make substantial changes to its policies surrounding environmental conservation efforts,” and 12 people (12.5%) selected the “Other” option and gave their comments. While I appreciate each and every one of them, I do not have the space to discuss all of the comments-- however, most of them were recommendations (such as putting grey stones in place of dirt between GJW and Kimbo, reducing water levels in the toilets, and serving more environmentally-conscious food in Malott) for future improvements.

These responses did not surprise me, as I expected mixed feelings about the changes to campus. Although in the grand scheme of things very little is visually very different, it is difficult to adapt to environmental conditions that are largely out of our control, and to give up parts of campus that we all love. The grass is not as soft to lay on, there are not as many spots to lay out at the pool, and there are not as many sprawling lawns. But on the other hand, there are some areas in California that are completely out of water, including Merced, CA, Hanford, CA and Modesto, CA, and we all must do our part. Due to mass production of water-intensive products like beef and almonds that are distributed all over the country, as well as the decreased levels of rain over the past four years, California is now experiencing an emergency-level drought. It calls for sacrifices to be made, which is difficult for many. I think it’s important that Scripps students are willing to engage the issue and acknowledge that the campus environment that we are used to having is no longer reasonable, given what the state is experiencing. Although being surrounded by plenty of greenery, a full-size swimming pool, and the koi pond in Seal Court can make it easy to forget that California is in trouble and that all the resources we’re used to having are still accessible, this is not the case.

What I am proud of is that despite the bummer of having to give up parts of campus that contribute to making it the exceptionally beautiful place that it is, many students are still willing to do more. Many care about the environment as well as this campus, and want to come up with innovative ideas in order to find a solution for both. A big part of my attachment to this campus, as well as my identity as a Scripps student, is its beauty and the contrast between it and other campuses at the 5Cs. This is not to say that the other campuses are not beautiful, but there is something about the fact that Scripps’ campus almost feels like a garden-- full of growing life and beauty-- that separates it from the rest. Since our surroundings influence how we live and learn, and Scripps’ campus has been given numerous awards by the City of Claremont for its beauty, the campus is quite imperative to students’ lives here. While some things are being challenged by the shrinking resources, there is a way to enjoy most of the perks of this campus that we are used to having while also being responsible citizens and adapting to the shifting environmental climate. We do not have to lose our oasis-like identity as a campus in order to become environmentally friendly, and I think others are motivated to further these efforts. To become involved with these efforts- check out the Scripps Garden Club, Scripps Water Task Force, Scripps Climate Justice- and many other environmental clubs where your ideas could be heard and acted upon!

Additionally, I want to wholeheartedly appreciate all the efforts and dedication that the entire Grounds staff put into the changes to campus this summer and throughout the beginning of this school year. The new additions look very good and were responsible responses to the drought-- Thank you!