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Giving the Gift of Nature

Observations from the Edge
Robert T. Nanninga
North County Times
December 20, 1999


Christmas is the time of giving, for the most part this generosity is reserved to shortsighted consumer goods, and luxury items. Underneath millions of Christmas trees presents are placed, wrapped in paper that also comes from trees, these gifts are meant to represent love for family and friends. But to what end? If the truth be told, the majority of items given this year will eventually end up in a landfill. For that reason, and that reason alone, Christmas is the quintessential American holiday.

Let's be perfectly honest, with all consumer propaganda aside, every toy given this year is done so at the expense of the environment. Barbie is made of plastic in third world countries, the production of which dumps all sorts of toxins into the atmosphere. So not only are loving parents giving their daughters a doll designed to promote ongoing retail sales, they are also giving their daughters the not so welcome gifts of air and water pollution, declining biodiversity, and an uncertain future.

Under the Christmas tree little boys will find what? Toy guns, video games that feature virtual bloodshed, and like their sisters, all sorts of plastic items that are played with for a short time, and then forgotten as new toys come to market. Adults too can expect to find a myriad of senseless consumer goods. Mom will receive high priced perfume, small kitchen appliances, and yet another bathrobe. Dad, on the other hand, will more than likely get the latest offering from Black and Decker, something for the car, and shirts that differ little from the ones he received last year. The one thing all of these products have in common is, like the society that produces them, is a lack of environmental sustainability.

Wishing to move beyond the false comfort of instantaneous gratification, it is my desire to offer a few alternatives that will nurture family and friends long after Barbie has completed her tour from garage sale, to thrift store, and finally the local landfill. Currently there are opportunities for concerned individuals to give the gift of future well-being, not only to their children, but to their grandchildren, and great grandchildren as well.

The Nature Conservancy of California is in the process of raising funds to purchase the 5,400 acre Santa Ysabel Ranch in Eastern San Diego County. Less than an hour from Coastal North County, this area features rolling grasslands, majestic oaks, giant sycamores and a perennial stream that eventually becomes the San Dieguito river. Santa Ysabel Ranch is home to a host of globally unique species. Threatened species that would be safeguarded by protecting Santa Ysabel ranch include Engelmann Oak, Black Oak, Valley Needlegrass, Southwestern Willow Flycatcher, Burrowing Owl, and the California Red-legged Frog. To contribute to the preservation of Santa Ysabel Ranch please call the Nature Conservancy at 949-263-0933.

Closer to home, the Canyons Network is trying desperately to protect San Marcos Creek and Box Canyon in Carlsbad, from blasting and development. The pool at Box Canyon, a beautiful remnant of a California that once was, is slated for elimination because Bank of America, the current land owner, sees this natural gift as nothing more than a liability. To contribute to, or volunteer with the Canyons Network, interested parties should call 760-436-8596.

Giving the gift of nature might not be as glamorous as a mountain of gifts beneath a dead tree. It is however, one that will continue giving long after the more traditional gifts are discarded.

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