Quality of life is an elusive thing. Although hard to define, most people know when they have achieved it, and fight like hell to preserve it when it is threatened.
Problem is, everyone defines quality of life differently. For me an abundance of oaks, blue skies and a reliable water source are required, for others it's sea walls, sport stadiums, and shopping malls. Quality of life could also refer to excellent schools, honest government, and ecological sustainability. For many, quality of life equates with expanding Interstate 5 to fourteen lanes to justify the construction of more million-dollar McMansions.
It's all a matter of priorities.
As the holidays pass, surrounded with family and friends, perhaps the best gift given would be one of introspection. As a community of coastal residents, we owe it to ourselves to clearly consider what qualifies as quality, and can it be maintained.
With each passing year, the things that made California California are being replaced with the malls and monuments of corporate uniformity. Populations once sustainable, and considerably lower, long ago breached the levees of sustainability, even as numbers continue to increase.
Quality of life, once considered the holy grail of American well being, has morphed into a battleground of competing interests. When settlers first came to the San Diequito region, food for them and theirs, forage for domestic animals, and a warm place to sleep at night qualified for quality. In 21st century California, quality of life now requires the Army Corp of Engineers and significant amount of public tax dollars.
As the battle heats up between environmentalists and private property owners over private seawalls and public beaches, ecological considerations will be discounted in favor of economic self interest on the part of property owners unfortunate enough to own a home on eroding bluffs.
Quality of life maybe relative to where and how you live, but certain universalities exist. A safe and healthy environment is a must. Compassion and community are also high on the list. Rich or poor, educated or not, Christian, Muslim, black, white, gay, straight or totally beyond labels, we all require food, water, and a safe haven not regularly ravaged by violence or the elements.
Once upon a time, a green well-manicured lawn signified a life of quality and abundance. However, that was before water became scarce and herbicides and pesticides Now that green lawn is viewed as an ecological drain on limited resources, and a threat to coastal biology. Automobiles, another symbol of a life of quality and comfortable accomplishment, now are seen as gas guzzling, climate changing tools of destruction.
In Oceanside, some equate the preservation of a third rate municipal airport as a quality of life issue, while others advocate for the redevelopment of the airport property. Some Oceanside residents have called for coyote eradication in defense of their quality of life. Others are calling for yet another Wal-Mart. The point is we all use different measures to define quality of life.
Recently the voters of Encinitas ignored well-financed claims of economic doom and gloom to preserve agriculture land in what was once the Poinsettia capital of corporate America and the western world. To them, quality of life was not served by the construction of 101 single-family hotels. Residents fed up with traffic gridlock and municipal mendacity simply said no to a development scheme that threatened their collective well-being.
Not long ago Quality of life was something most Californians took for granted. Over most of our history, the California dream promised a life of easy abundance and ideal living conditions. Such naiveté is now as rare as wildlife in Carlsbad, or an honest man in government. The California dream is now a nightmare of over population, unsustainable development, epic commutes, unemployment, water shortages, and growing unrest.
As a life of quality of life becomes increasingly difficult to obtain and maintain, in the face of global climate change and economic hardships, coastal San Diego county can expect an increased level of civic participation and in your face activism, as people begin to fight to protect what they have worked so hard to achieve.
Prop A was a wake up call. Corporate idealism is no longer a panacea for what is ailing the collective consciousness of North County. Things are tough, and getting tougher. The last thing we need to do is compound the problems we face with more development that is unsustainable, ill-advised, and myopic in nature.
Quality of life is worth fighting for.