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Meanwhile back at the environment.

Observations from the Edge
Robert T. Nanninga
Coast News
November 28, 2004


"When things become unhinged, wisdom and experience are a handicap in the discerning of things to come." — Eric Hoffer

I write this, six days before the most important election in the history of the United States. Regardless of the outcome, it is safe to say the corporate duopoly is still in power, and Iraq is still a bloodbath of global empire. Hopefully George W. Bush has been retired to the punch line of history, and rationality has been restored to oval office.

Faith based war mongering was never my cup of tea.

Unfortunately, the 2004 election was void of all but the most superficial of environmental posturing. On the national level John Kerry gave George W. a pass on his horrific environmental record. My biggest issue with John Kerry was his unwillingness to make the environment an issue. I voted for Nader. Here along the coast, the political circus included a cat, a clown, two aging divas, and a crowd of angry cliff dwellers. Leading the silly season was the hollow endorsements of a Sierra Club unwilling to speak for itself.

The question I would like to put forward is the proverbial "what next?" Ecologically speaking, there is considerable damage to be undone. Culturally speaking their needs to be a serious reassessment of priorities. Locally we need to start planning for what's next, because the paradigm of suburban sprawl has reached its apex, and population continues to increase. Environmental sustainability, if it is to be maintained, must be honestly addressed.

Mass Transit should be at the top of the regional agenda. Continued reliance on fossil fuels only prolongs the inevitable, as does further accommodation of millions of ozone depleting vehicles, and the cement and asphalt required to maintain their effectiveness. Carpool lanes, and occasional rail service are now an obstacle to future focused regional planning and wider freeways only make matters worse.

Two other issues that must be honestly addressed are population and housing density. During the past election a few candidates perfected the art of Nimby hand wringing, with the mantra "Development bad." What I can't figure out is where have they been for the past two decades. With state and regional (SANDAG) leaders calling for population increases and more development there is little a municipality can do other than make room for the huddled masses.

Excuse my pessimism. Growth happens, is happening, and will happen until the water runs out. Until that time, homes will be built, and once every piece of open ground contains a million dollar single-family hotel, then housing will begin to climb the walls. Mixed-use housing is in our future, three and four stories to begin with, higher once that wave of development has proved insufficient to meet the growing demands for affordable housing. Insane? Yes. Unsustainable? Yes. Inevitable? Absolutely.

High density planning will prove once and for all if smart growth is possible. Done right, a higher density of smaller living units, within pedestrian friendly, mixed-use communities could help absorb Southern California's growing population.

Another population related issue is human waste, and not the "landfill on top of an aquifer" sort of waste. I'm talking toilet to tide folks. Already people are surfing in sewage, and no amount of treatment can prevent the volume of crap flowing from our communities. San Diego County depends on the ocean-oriented tourism to maintain our economy, yet we continue to use the Pacific as a liquid landfill. Storm runoff further compounds the problem.

Wetland protection is also of vital importance. Coastal cities must join with the state and federal governments, whatever it takes to restore tidal flow to the coastal estuaries. Bridging transportation corridors over the "lagoons" is a good start. Transportation infrastructure work could coincide with another lofty goal, removing the sewer lines running between Solana Beach and Encinitas through the San Elijo Lagoon. Del Mar has it own issues with coastal wetland restoration, as does Oceanside and Carlsbad.

Renewable energy is issue that needs to be addressed by local planners solar electricity is a local resource that has yet to be harnessed in the name of regional self-sufficiency.

Preserving our coastal environment is a regional issue. It is time for the environmental sustainability to be considered a priority by regional planners and local officials. Development is a water issue, a sewer issue, a transportation issue, and an ecological issue. All of these "issues" are components of the uber issue, A.k.a, "the Quality of life" issue.

Without a healthy environment, a healthy economy becomes unsustainable, and our quality of life impossible to maintain.

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