The Killing of Carmel Mountain
Originally published in CounterPunch.
By Susan Davis
Professor of Communications at UC San Diego
Cooked up in 1991 by George Bush and Pete Wilson of California, then seized on by Al Gore and Bruce Babbitt, a crafty ploy called the Multi-Species Conservation Plan has become the weapon of choice of real estate developers to nullify the Endangered Species Act and destroy the choicest remnants of natural habitat that still survive in America today. It will be coming soon to an ecosystem near you. Here's what happened in its first big test run in San Diego County.*
Every day hundreds of hikers and joggers sweat their way uphill to the red cliff tops at San Diego's Torrey Pines State Park, whence a view of the Pacific ocean, maybe a glimpse of a migrating grey whale, the scent of black sage. Keep your eyes on the western horizon and try not to glance back to the view eastward over Los Penasquitos estuary and Interstate Five.
At the intersection of the San Diego Freeway and Routes 805 and 56 the California Department of Transportation is building one of the largest interchanges in Southern California, presumptively in the entire world: a convulsion of concrete and asphalt that in just a few years will knit together twenty north-south lanes. Rising above this "merge" is Carmel Mountain (so named for the convent founded by Irish nuns back in the 1890s), a series of tilted mesas once covered with some of Southern California's last remaining coastal sage scrub and maritime chaparral. Under the freeways is the upper end of the delicate Penasquitos estuary, one of California's last unpaved wetlands.
In any silhouette familiar to all the previous inhabitants of the region, Carmel Mountain has ceased to exist. The mesa has been scraped and graded, its canyons filled in and paved, its cliffs and ridges re-contoured into strangely symmetrical waves. Millions of tons of its soft, sandy shoulders are being sliced off and hauled away. The landform looks like a giant green cake that's been attacked with a serrated knife. On its newly shaved surfaces, shallow steps are cut to keep soil from washing or blowing away. The steps are then sprayed with green dye and ground cover seeds. The result is a low, sandy pyramid that stretches for several sad miles. The pyramid's sides have been planted with stucco cubes holding insurance, HMO, and real estate offices. Its flat top is spread thick with ocean view estates, many priced “from the low $1,000,000s".Read more
Stakeholder or Citizen; Collaborator or Resister?
In this story about forest protection -http://www.eastcountymagazine.org/fighting-forest-descanso-resident-duncan-mcfetridge#comment-30401- a commenter was puzzled about my silence on what he deemed was the greatest threat to the San Diego backcountry: mega-renewable energy projects. The commenter was wrong on two counts: 1) Wrong that renewable energy is “the greatest threat that the area faces” and 2) wrong that CNFF and Sofar have been silent about the wind energy debacle.
Allow me to explain. Any activist group that truthfully takes up good city building and environmental protection in San Diego, the endangered species capital of North America, and tries to scale the Mordorian cliffs of political desolation that tower over the region will be faced each day with a Sisyphean task (http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Sisyphus) of unending labor with the Promethean (http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Prometheus) result of having your guts eternally ripped out.
Why do it? Why not save your guts, collaborate, get a little mitigation and go along with the “authorities”; in other words, why not sit on a fence and be silent?
Truth is that in San Diego we live in the equivalent of occupied territory in which public agencies are steeped in complacency or corruption and where politicians are owned by the special interests dominated by the development industry. It is those very same interests that control the resources that are needed by the sprawl growth industry to spread their tentacles over the land: The energy, the roads, the water, the land and most importantly the propaganda media machine that in a real community should be regarded as public resources to be conserved and distributed in accordance with the public good are instead treated as commodities to be bought and sold in the market place. In San Diego we have the politics of a marketplace not a community. The land of happy talk and sprawl.
Thus the Occupiers can glibly and arrogantly run a bill board: “The Great Outdoors. Now For Sale.”