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L.A.'s water rationing rules violating her basic beliefs.

Byline: Charlotte Laws

Does your Rain Bird no longer fly? Are your PVC pipes feeling neglected? Has your city hung your lawn out to dry and given your timer a timeout?

When I grew up in Atlanta, it was so rainy a fish could survive on land; but when I visited last year, I found strawlike lawns and a total watering ban. In Los Angeles, where I now reside, the city has implemented a partial ban - no more than two days per week for landscape sprinklers and no more than 15 minutes per watering station.

I understand the need to conserve and have always been a "waste not, water not" woman. However, when it comes to my yard, a middle ground is unachievable. My religion and moral value system require healthy greenery.

I live in Woodland Hills, the most sweltering part of L.A., where watering two days per week is as effective as healing third-degree burns with a Band-Aid.

My lot - which abuts undeveloped acreage - may appear fully suburbanized, but it serves as an oasis for rabbits, bees, skunks, raccoons, coyotes, gophers, snakes, bees, owls and birds of every kind. St. Francis of Assisi would not want for feathered friends.

I am not a Christian like Assisi. I practice Jainism, which is often described as the world's oldest living religion, originating in India around 500 BC. Adherents follow the principal of "ahimsa" or noninjury to all living beings. A Jain does her best to make sure no living being is injured by her action or inaction.

As a Jain, I have a duty to protect the life forms on my property, and any ordinance which interferes with the way I observe my religion is at odds with my First Amendment rights under the U.S. Constitution.

How interesting it would be for this water-related dispute to percolate into court as a church v. state case.

In 1993, Santeria adherents in Hialeah, Fla., won a "free exercise of religion" case. The Supreme Court ruled in favor of the religion and against a local ordinance that sought to ban animal sacrifice. Santeria - a religion with approximately 1 million followers in the U.S. - condones killing animals in ritual. Although the case had an unfortunate outcome for nonhuman victims, it illustrates the power of the First Amendment.

One must assume the Supreme Court would protect the critters in my yard under the same rationale used to deny them protection in Florida.

My moral values also dictate that I maintain a verdant yard. I hold that all living beings have interests, as evidenced by their efforts to flourish and survive, and to disregard these interests would be arrogant, self-serving and speciesist. Speciesism is a form of prejudice, much like racism or sexism, in which humans deem themselves superior to other species.

To adequately recognize the innate value of nonhumans and shake off speciesism, our democracy would need to be more like an omniocracy or government with representation and consideration for all living beings. An omniocratic system would, at the very least, be mindful of the needs of other species before intercepting their lifeline with an overly restrictive water ordinance.

As a vegan, I can maintain a lush, English garden at my home and still use less water than a meat-eater in a condo, a fact the ordinance fails to take into account. It takes 300 gallons per day to produce vegetarian food, while it takes 13 times more - 4,000 gallons - for a carnivore, the difference between night and day or a bathtub and a pool.

I hope you will conserve when you can, but don't let the water ordinance rain on your parade or kill your "living yard." Lots of creatures count on you.
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Title Annotation:Editorial
Publication:Daily News (Los Angeles, CA)
Article Type:Editorial
Date:Sep 2, 2009
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