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When Vanity Fair goes green, you know the environmental movement has reached a milestone. And since it appears that the mainstream media is mostly interested in celebrities who profess their greenness while sipping matte while wearing organic couture, there is not much room for old school environmentalists to strut their stuff. Suddenly patchouli-smelling, Birkenstock wearing, bearded tree-huggers have morphed into hyper-sleek film icons.

Amazing. Never thought it would happen. Thank god it did.

Luckily San Diego has two green gurus in our midst — doing all they can for Spaceship Earth and showing us the way to environmental enlightenment.

Back in the 80s, you could always count on sometime San Diego mayoral candidate and OB People’s Food Co-op kahuna, Jim Bell, to show up with his slide show on sustainability and super cool ideas on smart cities, energy conservation and why green was our future. Who would have known that it would take an ex-Austrian bodybuilder turned politician like Arnold

to take the message Jim has evangelized for more than 25 years into the mainstream. But unlike Arnold, Jim lives the life of frugality. There are no Harleys, mansions or cigar tents for Jim. He outranks every Hollywood green celebrity combined — even with Tobey Maguire and his rental hybrid thrown in. Here’s what Jim says about saving the planet:

We are astronauts on Spaceship Earth. Our life-support system is based on solar-powered recycling n the Sun provides the energy to recycle and renew the air we breathe, the water we drink, and the food we eat, and everything we want or care about. Our planet’s life support system is fundamental to everything we are and will ever be. It is the foundation of all history, culture, art, science, religion, and even the very process of consciousness becoming.

If our human family doesn’t develop life support sustaining ways to live and make a living n and do it soon n our planet’s life support system will collapse with much suffering and regret along the way. We can completely avoid this calamity. We can create economies and ways of life that are fair, just, respectful, humane, prosperous, and completely life support sustaining. All that’s required is that enough of us work together to make it happen. When good people come together, the only limit is our imagination and consciousness. And ultimately there is no limit to that.

Down in Imperial Beach, Dr. Mike McCoy, or Doc McCoy as he is affectionately known around town, is an old school conservationist in the tradition of John Muir, Aldo Leopold and David Brower. A Colorado native and hardcore former climber, Mike ran cross-country for the University of Colorado and then received his DVM from Colorado State. Back in 1963 at the age of 21, Mike climbed Mt. McKinley with a group of friends, then the youngest group to do so. Mike has run a small animal veterinary clinic in Imperial Beach for more than 30 years. He has traded climbing for runs in the Tijuana Sloughs, counting bighorn out in Borrego and his annual summer pilgrimage with his wife Patricia (a rock solid conservationist in her own right — a former Coastal Commissioner and the founding president of Wildcoast) to his cabin in the Colorado Rockies.

Mike lives in a simple house near the beach. He grows his own vegetables, recycles everything and rides his touring bike with red panniers everywhere. Mike has been green for so long, that he was super pre-cutting edge even when people like Dick Cheney thought that saving the environment was barely a personal virtue. Most importantly, Mike has spent his life selflessly and tirelessly protecting the open space of South County. If it weren’t for Mike there wouldn’t be a Tijuana Estuary Refuge, South San Diego Wildlife Refuge or any effort to preserve the wild lands of the U.S.-Mexico border. For his efforts the California Coastal Commission, Sierra Club, and San Diego Audubon have all honored Mike. In 1990 he received the Teddy Roosevelt Conservation Award from President Bush.

I am honored to have launched my career in conservation at the age of 15 under Mike’s mentorship. That was back when former IB mayor and current king of the North County hodads Brian Bilbray

wanted to turn the Tijuana Estuary into Marina del Rey. Here is Mike is his own words talking about his lifelong career protecting wild places:

The event that inspired me made me very angry and set me on the road to stopping environmental destruction where I could, occurred when I was about seven.  The city of Boulder, Colorado was building a reservoir. They were putting in a pipeline from the reservoir to the city. They drove the line right through a fresh water marsh where I used to go to play and watch red winged black birds, marsh hawks, dragonflies and numerous other species. They were all friends of mine or at least I thought so. One day the surveyors came and put in grade stakes with ribbons. This was followed by a team of powder monkeys who dynamited the marsh destroying it forever. I will never forget that event.  That set me on the road to protecting the environment.

At the age of 10 I was quite concerned about ORV’s going into the backcountry where I grew up in Colorado. I went with some older boys to block the road so no vehicles could pass. We had a heavy-duty truck jack and used this to dislodge boulders above the road. We were quite successful and made passage near impossible. All in all I think the community was quite pleased with our work. Eventually the area was declared The Indian Peaks Wilderness Area, which banned vehicular traffic forever … I want to make it very clear that all our successes in environmental protection are not because of anything that I did alone … Without a support network there would be no success story to tell. We all depend on each other and this is becoming more apparent all the time. The attitudes, beliefs, values and dedication of the people I have worked with are of the highest order.

So on this Friday before Earth Day, here’s to Jim and Mike and the rest of the people who spend their lives dedicated to protecting the wild places that make our lives worth living for. They are San Diego’s true eco-heroes and green gurus.

See you at Earth Fair in Balboa Park on Sunday.


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