Documentary provides history for coast lovers

There were many development pressure that lead to public outrage fueling Prop. 20. The rapidly expanding post-WWII California population had created a land-rush on coastal property —Malibu’s wall-to-wall beach houses that eliminate beach access for miles; high density Redondo Beach’s condos and apartments; and high rise beach hotels, which, if duplicated repeatedly, would have created another Miami Beach.

Then came the January 1969 Santa Barbara oil blowout, the result of cost-cutting by Union Oil. Countless birds and sea mammals suffered agonizing death as the thick black crude oil blackened the beaches for months.

The story of what happened is the story we tell in the documentary, with interviews of those who made that history happen.

This has been a difficult year for coastal advocates with the deaths of Peter Douglas, the Coastal Commission’s executive director for 26 years, and Naomi Schwartz, a Santa Barbara housewife who later become Coastal Commission chair. We’re seeing the end of an era. Yes, life goes on but will coastal activism on any scale similar to what we have seen over the past 50 years continue?

Development forces will always test our resolve. And while Californians consistently poll in favor of coastal protection, more must realize that any specific organization’s work to preserve a particular beach or advocate for wildlife will not happen without visible support, i.e., the people who write letters and show up at hearings. Those warm bodies will soon have to be from younger generations.

How can the average individual serve the coast? First, remember, as Peter Douglas often said, “the coast is never saved. It’s always being saved.” For all who wish to see our shores retain the beauty and accessibility they have today, the baseline of community responsibility is to stay informed, communicate with elected officials, and donate as possible to coastal protection organizations … because the coast is California.

Earth Alert’s Heroes of the Coast – the Documentary will preview in Ventura on March 1 in a free public presentation at the E.P. Foster Library on Main St. at 7 p.m.

The hour-long documentary tells the story of 50 years of California coastal protection activism and legislation, with emphasis on the events leading up to the passage in 1972 of Proposition 20. Prop 20 created the California Coastal Commission (CCC). Feb. 1 was the 40th anniversary of when the CCC first began operating as a state agency.

Janet Bridgers
Earth Alert

Paying it forward

The recent Power to Speak  article “Who’s Teaching Whom?” (1/31) beautifully told the story of a tutor and her student forging ahead, each learning from the other. The Oxnard Library Literacy Outreach Program thanks Jan Schulman and all of the tutors who support adults as they pursue English literacy and educational advancement. Like Jan, each person who works alongside an adult comes away with a unique story to tell. 

Years ago, my student was  Pei. Between lessons in English vocabulary and grammar, he told me about his life in China before coming to America. Pei was a child when China’s Cultural Revolution was instituted. It ultimately resulted in the death of half a million people due to torture, execution and suicide. His eldest brother had, fortunately, already completed university study in Beijing, later becoming a renowned medical researcher. Pei’s life took a very different course when, at age 16, he was forced to travel by train, far from his family home, into the Chinese countryside to work on a farm. There were many difficult stories of the past shared, but also new stories created during our time together. I witnessed both the struggle of an American immigrant and the realization of the American dream. We celebrated Pei’s U.S. citizenship in 2005.

Adults who are interested in learning more about volunteer tutoring are invited to attend an information session on March 11, 6-7 p.m.; or March 13, 9-10 a.m. at the Oxnard Main Library in Meeting Room A.  For more information, please call 385-7536.

Deborah Fox
Oxnard Library
Literacy Coordinator

Progress in the Ventura River bed

Thanks for investigating and reporting on what is actually going on up at the abandoned USA oil refinery. I cycle by it regularly and have been curious as to what’s been happening and why. Hopefully, the folks that are cleaning up the site are also going to clear the arundo next to the Ventura Riverbed. There are still homeless in there, as your article relates. I heard them yelling at each other when I cycled by the other day. Interestingly (and surprisingly), there seem to be a couple of positive things going on in the riverbed. The Hillside Conservancy has done some arundo clearing and homeless debris removal between Main Street and the freeway overpass, as has the RV park. Also, the Hillside Conservancy has been clearing arundo from the riverbed just below Foster Park. I told Derek about a bunch of homeless crap that was scattered in the area below the Brooks Institute, and the next time I cycled by it was gone. I am assuming he and his Hillside crew cleaned the area up. Then there is the recent closing of MultiChem, which is up near the abandoned oil refinery. I could never understand how the county/city could have let toxic chemicals be stored next to the riverbed in the first place. 

You have to give credit to the environmental agencies for forcing most of this work to be done. Apparently, the threat of fines of $25,000+/day has gotten the city, county and property owners’ attention and has been the impetus for clearing out the homeless and cleaning up after them plus the clearing of the invasive arundo. I am told that the arundo absorbs 50 percent of the water in the river, which is certainly not a good thing. I understand that more than 300,000 pounds of homeless crap has been removed from the Ventura Riverbed to date. Hopefully, that has made a substantial dent in the problem. It certainly has to make for a better river. Of course, dislocating the homeless has its consequences, especially when they end up back in Ventura proper or end up migrating to the Santa Clara Riverbed to pollute that riverbed. And, of course, if the city and county don’t patrol the riverbed, the homeless will be back. I have noticed several already returning. The city says it has a plan. I see it more as a reaction to dealing with the consequences of the environmental agencies forcing a cleanup. And part of the law of unintended consequences is that we have these dislocated homeless/vagrants/transients roaming our neighborhoods, rooting through our trash for recyclables and potentially stealing anything that isn’t tied down.  As I have stated before these are individuals I don’t want in our neighborhood — 28 percent have been incarcerated in the last year, 25 percent have a drug/alcohol dependency and 25 percent have mental issues. Ventura has the highest property crime rate per capita in the county plus we have the highest number of homeless. I can’t help but feel there is a correlation.

Murray Robertson
A Very Concerned Ventura Resident

Renewable vs. finite resources

Australia has something to teach us. A new study by the financial research firm Bloomberg New Energy Finance says Australian wind energy is now substantially cheaper than coal or gas, so much so that lending institutions are reluctant to finance new coal plants because they look to be bad investments. Even factoring in fossil fuel’s carbon tax, wind energy is still cheaper than coal or gas.  

By 2020, Australian solar power is expected to undercut coal and gas prices as well. Parenthetically, neither these renewables nor conventional energy sources receive subsidies.

Even here in the U.S, by 2016 renewable wind will close in on coal, the cheapest and also the dirtiest fuel, at $97/MWh compared to $94 for coal. The perception that fossil fuels are cheap and renewables expensive is increasingly out of date.

Considering fossil fuels’ external costs, such as those to our health, our climate and environment, they are overwhelmingly a very bad bargain. While there is value added in their extraction, there is, dollar for dollar, more value subtracted in other areas of our economy, e.g., healthcare, weather disaster relief, etc., as well as in our quality of life.

Our fossil fuel industries have done a good job of persuading the public to policies against our best interest. Among other flawed notions, we are told that already-wealthy and well-established industries deserve taxpayer subsidies and that the public will benefit from this. Or that a carbon tax would be bad for economic growth rather than encouraging growth in another direction, that of cleaner and more renewable energy sources. Australia’s example points in a wiser, a saner direction, one with a future.  

We are running behind Australia and other nations in our attachment to last century’s fuel. We need to catch up if we are to remain a world leader.

(Please check into Thom Hartmann’s Truthout article “A New Manhattan Project” for further explication and sources.)

Margaret Morris


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