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The Alphabet Series 2000: I is for Ignore and Ignorance

Observations from the Edge
Robert T. Nanninga
Coast News
May 17, 2000


"You scream, I need, and the supply's already there. But if you don't know what the fruit looks like, you could starve to death in a garden." — Leandris

I is a great letter for the Alphabet Series because it presents so many possibilities. It could stand for irrigation, invasive, insecurity, irresponsibility, industry, or my favorite I word; indigenous. But as I tried to find a hook for each of these topics they all came back to ignorance.

The Oxford Dictionary defines ignorance as a want of knowledge, and ignorant as being destitute of knowledge. The question is, how do you tell the difference between individuals who lack knowledge, and those who avoid it like the plague. Coastal North County has plenty of both, tragically it is the latter leading the former, bring us to the point of bottled water and brown surf. When it comes to environmental sustainability, ignorance is no longer a defense.

As an example; for years now we have known that fossil fuels are rendering planet earth inhospitable to human life. Feigning ignorance, officials, with all the answers they need to make responsible decisions, call for more studies. Thus allowing them to continue profiting from pollution. I seriously doubt anyone crawling through the 5/805 merge is ignorant to the personal price they pay for that luxury. Only a village idiot could be ignorant to the hole in the ozone layer and the building Greenhouse Effect. This is the information age folks, and an individual has to go a long way to avoid the biological truths we are confronted with.

Another example of feigned ignorance is SANDAG's on-going growth studies. Nothing more than a statistical justification of their development agenda, population predictions ignore the fact that municipalities are struggling to meet the needs of existing residents. Without a tight population cap, coastal residents will gain a first hand knowledge of what it's like to live in the third world. Far from ignorant, SANDAG ignores nature in favor of numbers.

Worse than feigning ignorance is feigning knowledge. When the Oceanside Harbor and Camp Pendleton jetties were constructed, the Army Corp. of Engineers were not about to admit they had no clue as to the long term effects of those projects. The engineers believed their lack of biological understanding would be compensated by the money generated by these efforts. Ignorance of coastal processes, on the part of those responsible for the jetties in Oceanside, is the reason homes are falling into the ocean in Leucadia and Del Mar. The fact that people in still buy homes on failing bluffs can not be attributed to ignorance. Denial is closer to the point. Sea walls are ignorance and denial rolled together.

Ironically humans profess to be the intelligent species, yet we continue to exhibit a psychological stupidity that borders on sociopathic. You would think with all the institutions for higher learning human beings would study something other than self destruction. We call pre-industrial people primitive believing their knowledge base to be inferior to ours, yet it is those cultures who live in balance with the environment. Far from ignorant, tribal man could forecast rain without weather satellites, catch fish without drift nets, and find shelter with out destroying the environment in the process. Intimate knowledge of their environment made people expert wildlife biologists and botanists at an early age. Today, American children learn all their survival skills from video games and Jerry Springer. Talk about ignorant.

Coastal North County has more than enough business and recreation opportunities to keep a limited population, and their future offspring, content. Building more homes only digs us deeper into environmental debt. More cars means more pollution. More people means less animals in which to share our existence, more crap in the ocean. What we lack is an understanding of how ignoring biological constraints creates the environmental quagmire currently sucking the health and prosperity out of the region. We also lack the knowledge to move beyond the search and destroy mentality laying waste to our biotic community.

If knowledge is power, why then are we so helpless in the face of environmental breakdown. City councils continue to act as if nothing is wrong. A soccer complex here, a hotel there, and a Golf Course for good measure. All are just panaceas designed to obscure the fact that environmental ignorance has been institutionalized. Habitat destruction is now expected, if not required by law. This serves to keep the growth machine humming and the populace ignorant to the fact that the garden we call home is dying, and our elected officials were schooled at the Jim Jones school of governance. Kool-aid anyone?

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