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Growing, growing, gone
Observations from the Edge
Robert T. Nanninga
November 17, 2008
Mayberry is dead. So too are the bucolic townships fabled in song and story, the quaint independent communities, isolated in space and time by geography and topography. Gone too are the fishing and farming villages of the not so long ago.
A jaded environmentalist, I speak from firsthand knowledge when I say: Yikes!
No amount of idealism, hand wringing, sermonizing, or wishful thinking will resurrect what once was. San Diego's North County is growing up and over what came before.
Saving the little open space that still remains, as unmolested habitat, while noble, will do little to mitigate the destruction of California's natural heritage. Too much has already been lost. Too much torn asunder for environmental restoration to be even remotely possible.
Buried beneath sprawling strip malls, big box retailers, senior care facilities, single family McMansions, road side franchises, and the ever present parking lot, coastal California was sacrificed to the gods of progress and the dervishes of development on the alter of consumption oriented capitalism.
No longer a collection of small coastal communities and inland agriculture, San Diego County is now a teeming megalopolis with millions of people living between Camp Pendleton and the border crossings at Otay and San Isidro. Freeways, highways and roadways connect everything to everything else, and communities are now basically indistinguishable.
Haunted by the ghosts of martyred nimbys, there are still a few attempting to save what has already been lost to unrelenting population growth and the mayhem of the insatiable market place. They too will soon pass into irrelevance as single story homes are replaced by mixed use commercial and multi-unit residential structures.
As population continues to grow so too will the housing structures needed to accommodate growing populations. One need only look to Manhattan to see the future of Southern California. Anyone who doubts this should spend some time reading the text of SB 375.
SB 375 requires planning organizations to include sustainable communities strategies in their regional transportation plans, for the purpose of reducing greenhouse gas emissions and the alignment of transportation and housing planning according to statewide needs.
Basically this means a state mandate will require cities to begin planning high density development along transportation corridors or loose control over local planning altogether.
It's clear 21st century environmentalism, as it is practiced in coastal San Diego County, will have to redirect its attention and energy away from the conservation, preservation, and restoration of natural habitats and toward environmental sustainability issues as they relate to managing and maintaining human populations, limited natural resources, and rapidly changing climatic conditions.
Without the ability to adapt to changing conditions evolution is impossible. Future focus is needed more than ever. So too are ecological restraint and environmental wisdom.
Communities unwilling or unable to see the future will be buried beneath it.