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Observations from the Edge
Robert T. Nanninga
North County Times
June 12, 2000


It only took one episode, and I was hooked. Joining I assume millions of other Americans, I am now totally addicted to the prime-time social Darwinism of the Survivor, on CBS. More compelling than the senseless greed of "Who Wants to be a Millionaire?," Survivor actually forces people to depend on each other, while competing for the cash prize. "Stranded", these 21st century castaways, have already voted the "Howells" off the Island. Gladiators ala Gilligan.

What draws me to Survivor is watching these people deal with nature in a profound way. This may be television, but those folks are actually exposed to the elements. I'm hoping these they settle in and get comfortable. Proving to America, such is still possible.

This television show might be just what the eco-tourism industry needs. Wanting to actually get away from it all, one could imagine tourists avoiding lavish resorts and cities, in favor of isolated vacation destinations. Designed to challenge the human animal.

Here in San Diego county we can convert existing golf courses into primitive resorts, and charge wealthy visitors for the privilege of hunting rabbits and grinding acorns. La Costa alone could expand to encompass Box Canyon, there by saving it from development, and passing the inherent risk on to thrill seeking tourists. This, of course would mean re-establishing native species as to temp hungry visitors. Imagine a lawyer from Chicago trying to chase down a mule deer through sage-scrub and prickly pear, or a Vermont housewife trying to choke down cat-tail root soup. That's entertainment.

Sarcasm aside, this attempt at humor is merely an attempt to demonstrate another argument in favor of environmental restoration. Preserving the environment has infinite possibilities, one of which is tourism aimed at environmental experiences. There is a reason surfing is so popular, something for which coastal North County should be very thankful.

Inland, places such as San Ysabel, Cuyamaca, and the Anza Borrego desert offer incredible eco-tourism opportunities in which people could lose themselves in nature. Off the road, off the grid and out of reach, is becoming a more desirable, as it becomes harder to achieve. Stripping off the vestments of civilization has a very liberating affect, and as suburbia becomes more wired, and Big Brother increasingly omnipresent, people will pay up the wazoo just for a moment away from mediated culture. Providing them the opportunity, is a win-win situation.

Perhaps this is wishful thinking, but who is to say a revolution in environmental ethics is not possible. I believe it is. Why not, thirty years ago clean air and drinkable water was taking on luxury status, as it has in most of the developing world. Without the fundamental shift in consciousness evidenced by the passing of the first Clean Air act in 1963, Los Angeles, and most of Southern California, would now rival Mexico City as the most polluted place on the planet.

Environmental restoration is possible here in Southern California. It won't be easy. It won't come without sacrifice, and will require a profound shift towards biocentric altruism. How do I know it is possible? Time and time again, when asked, Americans have shown they have the right stuff when meet with a daunting challenge. The contestants on Pulau Tiga are proof of that.

So far the San Diego tribe is holding it's own in the survival game, the questions is how long will it be before we vote ourselves off of the planet. If everyone insists on becoming a millionaire we'll face that tribal council long before we expect it.

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