Weekly column by Sharon Byrne
Recent news stories tout local environmental advocacy successes with the Channelkeeper lawsuit, the plastic bag ban, National Surfing Day, and the defeat of Measure Y. I applaud efforts to preserve and protect the environment. The astonishing meteorological scale of air pollution generated in Bejing and the Pacific Garbage Patch come to mind as major environmental hazards that we as a planet need to take responsibility for and do something about. However, as the saying goes, think globally, act locally. So with that in mind, I do rather wish some of that wonderful environmental advocacy energy could be spent on some problems that don’t seem to be on the movement’s radar at present:
- Pot smoking on State St and in public areas. We all think cigarette smoking is bad, and we have an ordinance that bans smoking within 20 ft of building entrances. For some reason, marijuana gets a pass from the disdain shown to tobacco. The goth-yoaches on State blow it right into your face. There’s a coolness factor that accompanies pot these days, probably because pro-marijuana advocates paint it as ‘green’ and ‘organic’. But seriously, no one wants to breathe anyone else’s smoke, whatever the source. So just ban it already.
- On the subject of marijuana, what about a movement to save the back-country? Every year, Sheriff Brown gears up the helicopter, drops deputies into the back-country in our mountains, and rips out enormous marijuana grows operated by drug cartels. The cartels set up camps, dump trash and human waste, and divert mountain creeks to provide water to the grow. Pesticides have been found in grow sites that have been banned in the US for decades. Sheriffs also find guns, and occasionally a dead body. Hikers and backpackers have stumbled into grows, and one local couple was chased at gunpoint. The La Brea fire that burned over 80,000 acres in 2009 was traced to a campfire in a suspected cartel grow of 30,000 marijuana plants. When did we decide it was ok to turn over our mountain forests to drug cartels with nary a whimper? Why can’t environmentalists make it a huge cause to preserve and protect our backcountry from cartel grows? Seems like a slam dunk…
- Fix the stench emanating from the bird refuge. People report smelling it from the freeway to the Riviera to Milpas St. Crawfish are reported to be making some kind of mass exodus, though it’s not known whether this is an annual crawfish shindig tied to mating patterns, or a serious environmental warning sign. Widespread ammonia fumes just can’t be a good thing. And isn’t the refuge awfully close to the ocean? Why take the city to court over sewage spills from the sewer system, but not focus any attention on this problem? And, don’t just sue the city. Organize some kind of clean-up day and raise a bunch of money to fix this problem.
- Ban spray paint can sales. Wikipedia (questionable as a scholarly source, but provides citations to credible sources) says that “spray paint has many negative environmental effects. The paint contains toxic chemicals, and the can uses chlorofluorocarbons or volatile hydrocarbon gases to spray the paint unto a surface.” Environmentally bad, and it’s the weapon of choice for graffiti vandals. Removing graffiti requires donning rubber gloves and goggles because the removal chemicals are harsh. Good enough for me – just ban the darned spray paint cans. This one could be really easy, as it’s hard to visualize an opposition camp rushing to defend the merits of spray paint cans…
- Seriously enforce public urination and defecation, and clean out every encampment in every creek bed. That’s got to be an environmental hazard. Everything you dump on the street flows into the storm drains, and those flow to the ocean. Encampments at the creeks produce litter and human waste that wash down to the ocean with rain. We killed Measure Y, which would have cleaned the homeless encampment out of that creek. So are we just going to celebrate the defeat of another developer, and ignore the condition of the creek? Clean it up! Then do some cool ad campaign that tells everyone not to mess with the creek, or in it.
Maybe these causes aren’t as glamorous as suing the city and taking symbolic stances on the horrors of a plastic bag making it into our ocean and being swallowed by a random sea turtle. But sea turtles (random or not) deserve protection from human waste and whatever’s brewing in the bird refuge, too.
If the environmental movement would take up the banner on these causes, they’d go a long way to making a truly solid difference with preserving and protecting our local environment and natural beauty.
Surely the birthplace of Earth Day would step up to the task.