Most of us are outraged about an increasing number of issues. However, inaction only feeds outrage. It doesn’t fix anything. Inaction is, literally, killing … killing us with contaminants. The trajectory created by the growing number of extinctions is pointed straight at Homo sapiens. This isn’t just happening elsewhere. It is happening here. San Diego has the highest extinction rate of anywhere in the continental United States. Yes, San Diego.

San Diego’s canyons, estuaries and beaches put us in direct contact with natural resources that are our life support. These natural resources took millions of years to adapt to our unique climate. They are non-duplicable and precious. They are also inseparable from our physical survival. They nurture n or could nurture if they were healthy — fresh air, clean water, soil stability, food supplies and the microorganisms that contribute to disease resistance. Most of them are public property, which makes them public responsibility. That means you. That means me.

I’m but one of thousands of passionate San Diegans who have jumped in, in defense of San Diego’s natural assets. I’m lucky to live in Golden Hill, which stands apart as a community that invites and even demands activism. Most people here are very political and very resourceful. I simply joined a diverse herd that was already stampeding in defense of our little neighborhood wild land. We were parents, scientists, landscape architects, naturalists, engineers, teachers, politicians, et al. None among us pondered “what to do.” Communicating instantly resulted in both fun and ideas. Between us, we did everything except hesitate. We wrote, we appeared, we protested, we faxed, we telephoned, we petitioned. We met to talk, laugh and work in the canyon. We got children outside and in the dirt. However, our most important work was asking questions and sharing information.

We began by stating our position: Destroying vestigial natural areas is inherently wrong. The more questions we asked, the more scientific and political support for our position we perceived and acted upon. (Such catalytic results must be true of any righteous cause.) Answers to our questions were the springboard for sharing, for educating both ourselves and those whose positions we needed to overcome. 

Our work is far from over. San Diego’s coastal canyons are increasingly in jeopardy. Government negligence and priorities are working against healthy natural systems. All manner of concrete separates water from land. Hillsides and creekbeds are eroding. High-impact infrastructure displaces habitat. Roads, bridges and storm-water contraptions are planned through natural areas. Devastating brush “management” on canyon slopes proxies for true fire safety. Meanwhile, highly flammable invasive vegetation proliferates unaddressed.

Our government is spending our tax dollars to destroy our health, safety and sustainability…while we futz at our email or spend money we don’t have at the mall. Correcting this isn’t someone else’s responsibility. No! Conserving and rebuilding healthy watersheds through community involvement is a task for lifetimes and multitudes. Grab a shovel! Call San Diego Canyonlands. Join the Audubon Society, the California Native Plant Society, San Diego Coastkeeper, or the Sierra Club.

Democracy is not a passive state. Our leaders need direction. They need help. They need their feet held to the fire.

— TERSHIA D’ELGIN

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