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Observations from the Edge
Robert T. Nanninga
North County Times
February 7, 2000


Sewage is no longer just the fodder for editorial pages, it is now front page news. Last week nearly 2 million gallons of raw sewage, in a 48 hour period, spewed into the Buena Vista Creek, 100,000 of which drained into the nearby lagoon. The first of two spills happened on the morning of January 29,and was the work of vandals. Rocks thrown into a sewer line caused a backup which dumped 115,000 gallons of sewage into the creek along College Boulevard. The second spill, which was considerably larger, dumped 1.7 million gallons into the creek on Monday morning. The cause of the pipe failure is still unknown.

Regardless of the cause, had the sewage infrastructure not been placed within striking range of this creek, and the native flora and fauna it supports, perhaps the impacts of this "spill" would have been isolated within the human community who created it. Here in paradise, most people think nirvana is just a flush away. It isn't. If Southern Californian's didn't have the luxury of dumping it's excrement into the nearby ocean, what we would do with the billions of gallons of excrement being created by the people who have flocked to the land of sprawl and crawl?

As the building industry continues on with business as usual, how much thought is being given to the amount of crap that will accompany the million new residents "predicted" by SANDAG. As it is, surfers risk their health every time they enter the ocean. How will regular beach closings affect tourism? How will the local Chamber of Commerce promote a coastal experience that includes staph infections? Will it take a sewage related fatality before we start to seriously address the sewage side of growth? These are questions that must be asked.

As residents, our quality of life is diminished with each new sewer hook-up. The pro-growthers say everyone has the right to live in Southern California if they choose. This maybe true, but it is important to draw distinctions between man's law and the law of nature. Man's law says that unlimited growth is good for man. Natural law holds that ecosystems can only support so many life forms. Nature also holds the balance between birth and death, food and famine, as regulators to keep environmental health in tact. Man's law for the most part is contrary to to the laws of nature.

The fecal matter of most mammals, say 99.9 percent, is recycled by natural processes, and serves as fertilizer as it helps to rebuild soil. Human waste on the other hand is rarely returned to the soil. Not only is this seen as distasteful, it is also impossible due to the layer of cement covering most of our communities. How's this for ironic, urinating or defecating in public is against he law, yet dumping billions of gallons of the sewage into the ocean is not.

According to researchers at the University of British Columbia humankind's "ecological footprint" is now 20% greater than the planet's carrying capacity. Southern California is the poster child of this reality. Living way beyond what the region can sustain, it is just a matter of time before it all comes crashing down around us. The question is, which one of the next million residents will be the straw that breaks the camel's back.

Throughout the world there are still cultures that limit their population according to what their habitat can support. Sadly, and to our peril, ours is not one of them.

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