My letter to the community …

Screen Shot 2015-04-03 at 12.33.28 AM

So, with the drought rearing its ugly head at its, eh, ugliest, and people here in Orange County seemingly indifferent, I’ve decided on a course of action. Step 1: Write a letter to everyone who lives in my community (about 250 houses) and spell out the problem.

I’ve pasted the letter below, but I truly want your advice. Is the tone too harsh? Too soft? If it belittling? Fair? I want to call people to action, not insult and turn them off.

Any insights truly appreciated.

— Jeff


Dear Neighbors:

My name is Jeff Pearlman. I live here. I have a wife, two kids and a dog, Norma. You’ve possibly seen me walking the ol’ cockapoo either early in the morning or late at night. I’m a tall guy with a goatee and flip-flops. I absolutely love this community.

Anyhow, I’m writing you this letter because, a couple of months back, my children were studying Dr. Martin Luther King, Jr. in school, and many of our conversations concerned stepping up and making a difference when not enough people are stepping up and making a difference. It inspired me.

We, the people of this community, need to step up.

We, the people of this community, need to make a difference.

In case you’re either unaware or disinterested, California is quickly running out of water. This isn’t an exaggerated state of emergency, or some left-leaning or right-leaning political movement. This isn’t yet another feel-free-to-ignore drought warning, or a problem easily fixed with [FILL IN THE BLANK] solution. No, we are in big friggin’ trouble, and if you don’t believe me, well, Google “drought” and “California.” According to NASA’s senior water scientist, California has enough stored reservoir water for one year. Yes, one. The snowpack in the Tuolumne River Basin in California’s Sierra Nevada (a major source of our water) contains 40 percent of what it did in 2014—and that was the second driest year in recorded history. We, as a state, need 11 trillion gallons of water to return to normalcy.

So here’s why I’m writing: Every singly day, as I walk or drive through our streets, I see water running down the sidewalks. I see sprinklers blasting; people washing their cars and boats. We’re collectively meeting our negative geographic reputation (living behind the Orange Curtain; naïve and indifferent to problems outside the cocoon; spoiled and entitled) and it’s heartbreaking. This is a crisis. A real, legitimate crisis that calls for sacrifice and a willingness to think outside of one’s self. At this rate, our state will run out of water, and there’s no quick fix or easy solution. You will look back at the time you fired off your sprinkler three or four times per week and think, “What in the world was I doing?”

It is, I say again, time to step up.

There are 1,001 viable ways to reduce water usage, from limiting showers (and shower times) to halving sprinkler output (and days) to replacing water-hungry plants with succulents to—and this is admittedly a big one, but an important one—replacing your lawn with either fake grass (which we have, and is absolutely wonderful) or a desert-themed landscape (increasingly popular, inexpensive and easy to maintain). I know … I know—it’s annoying. And a pain. And inconvenient. But it’s also extraordinarily important, and vital to the future of our beloved state. We, as a community, need to stop pretending we live behind a Plexiglass bubble. We don’t.

Anyhow, I’m just a sports journalist. But I’m passionate, and I’d be happy to discuss this with anyone/everyone. As a father, I consider this of tremendous importance, and I hope you join my efforts to save water.

Thank you.


Jeff Pearlman

10 thoughts on “My letter to the community …”

  1. Looks fine to me, the only place I wonder about is when you say “friggin” and you do a mini rant. Maybe the rant is necessary to get the point across, I don’t know. Good luck, don’t be disappointed when it gets ignored by many.

  2. I get your concern. I really do. But I don’t see this letter doing anything other than irking your neighbors, who may resent it even more coming from a newbie to the area. The amount of water that will be saved if every one of them stops watering, car washing, bathing and flushing is a drop in the proverbial ocean. Someone else will just use it instead. Most likely the farmers. It might be really hard to do, but might I suggest finding another cause to throw your energy into, something where you can actually make a difference. Something smaller scale, perhaps. There must be something else bugging you that you can actually help change. Either that, or build a tree fort for your kids.

  3. I wanted to echo the point that James Bailey made about a letter like this coming from someone new to the area. It doesn’t make your points wrong, but I think it will almost certainly turn a lot of people off from the start – “This guy just moved here and he thinks we need to be told how to live our lives?”

  4. I might have glanced over it & missed it, but I don’t see anywhere in there where he states he’s new to the area. Surely a few neighbors know him & know he’s pretty new, but the majority of people in that distribution area probably just think he’s another regular neighbor.

  5. Jeff,
    I think your are shooting yourself in the foot with your opening two paragraphs. First paragraph introduces you as family man, second introduces your inspiration as your children and Martin Luther King’s legacy. This is going to sound like a generic politician trying to introduce himself in the most non-objectionable way, and many will just toss the letter.
    Maybe better to start the letter clearing ASKING for suggestion “what can we do conserve water” in the neighborhood? Then maybe give some examples of projects that the community can take together.
    Also, I wouldn’t refer to your webpage on the signature, but give an email address.
    Totally respect your goals here. Hope you can help you new home state at little!

  6. Way too long. Way too many points. Too preachy.

    Is your goal to vent or is your goal to actually change behaviors? If its the former, then send it as is. If its the latter, then…yeah…this isn’t going to do it.

    If you want your neighbors to actually stop watering their lawns so much and actually stop washing their cars and boats, then you have to reduce the number of points to just that. This, after all, is really your only possible successful outcome.

    If you are telling people to replace their lawns or reduce their shower time, they will laugh you off as a nutcase. You cannot reasonably expect anything different.

    And I wouldn’t like the inference that I’m a bubble-living, drought-ignoring, news-not-watching, self-absorbed idiot. Even if its true. So, are you going to feel better by telling everybody that or are you actually trying to get them on your side? It cannot be both.

  7. all good points but you will be dismissed/ignored.
    people don’t make those kinds of changes in their daily routine until they are absolutely forced to.
    they should, but they don’t.

  8. While I will give you credit for toning down the preachiness quite a bit from previous posts you’ve made on this topic, I advise you to just STOP. Stop with this slacker-style of change. It is so easy to poke holes through this lazy attempt by someone who has been living in California for what, 6-8 months? The drought has been going on for years, but it didn’t seem to concern you when you decided to move your family here. What I suggest you do is, first, do the best you can to conserve, because that is what you really have control over. Second, do some research on concrete steps people can take to conserve. You mentioned a couple, greywater irrigation is another (I’m looking into this now in Long Beach). Also study what they did in Australia to survive a 12 year drought. The blue print is right there. There are people working on these solutions. Find them and give them a little notoriety on your blog. Talk about these ideas to your neighbors face to face. Tell them what you’re doing and how it really isn’t that hard. Hopefully, they’ll make some changes and they will tell their friends. But, please, stop with the passive-aggressive shaming.

  9. Interesting how most of the responses are, at best, meh, and the others are essentially mind your own business. At least, that’s what it seemed to me. Also, apparently you have no right to address the situation because you’re “new” to the area. Hey, at least you care more than most of the self-absorbed locals. Full disclosure: I lived in SoCal for 29 years. Does that disqualify me, too? The area I live in now is also in its fourth year of drought.

  10. Jeff I admire what you are trying to do, bit I have to say by ‘telling’ your neighbours what to do you are going to get nothing! And you are taking the easy way out…send a letter and everyone will do as asked? If I were you and wanted to tackle this very important issue…I would be asking the neighbours to get together over a BBQ or Coffee or a Beer and discuss what you can do as a community…you may get no-one, you may get one person…you may also surprise yourself with what you can do as a collective. I do guarantee that this letter will only generate negativity. Gof for it though, you be the one to lead change. We have had to do this for 15 years in Australia and now we have zero water restrictions, but habits have changed to the point where we use 50% of the water we did back then…it can be done!

Leave a Reply