Roger von Butow
“Find your place on the planet, dig in, and take responsibility from
-- Gary Snyder
Sitio, for the Yaqui Indians of Sonora, Mexico is a personal power
spot, a physically invigorating site.
Ever notice that you feel stronger and think more clearly in your
favorite chair? Truly welcomed, you are Home, with a capital H.
Like a cosmic battery-charging unit, your spirit intuits this zone,
seemingly circumventing your brain. When you arrive somewhere new, don’t
you find yourself restless while you actively seek this location?
You know it on a level that is biologically primordial, as if encoded
in your DNA. There is an attendant surge of energy, palpable and real.
Laguna Beach is such a place, indelibly encrypted for the lucky ones
who live here, and offers a taste or glimpse to visitors who leave their
cities to forage in our environs. It is extremely doubtful that many of
us drive to Fontana to walk the streets and inhale (cough-cough) the
Caught between the former hillside beach community atmosphere, typical
of a bygone era, and the advent of business district
renewal/redevelopment (a la Huntington Beach), we are in jeopardy of
losing this sitio, through ignorance and abuse of our own natural
Even the older buildings, reasonable candidates for retrofitting,
ensure a sense of history and continuity.
The hills, rocks, trees, canyons, cactus, coves, ocean and uniquely
configured beach strands are the true art in public places.
A cultured person would never dream of destroying the Mona Lisa or the
Sistine Chapel. Don’t the flora and fauna that surround us, these “crowns
of creation,” deserve the same reverence and respect?
The diminishing wildlife population that migrates through our
backyards cannot be duplicated elsewhere.
We, as stewards or custodians of these habitats, are not always
mindful of this. Like fish, we swim about without reflecting upon the
very water that surrounds and sustains us. We should be purchasing every
square inch of open space for these original denizens, these
We should dedicate ourselves to larger marine preserves.
This heritage of wealth cannot be regenerated if we continue to
destroy it, and we are charged with the grievous responsibility of
guarding this precious gem of coastal cities.
As Pulitzer Prize winner Wallace Stegner uttered, “We don’t tame
nature ... We kill it.”
As environmental entropy overtakes us, as our sewer and storm drain
systems become antiquated beyond functional capabilities, this is no
longer a safe, healthy and pristine community. In a sense, we put off
servicing our ecological vehicle, failed to maintain it via preventative
maintenance, and now this family car is beginning to disintegrate. We are
slowly breaking apart, and the center is not going to hold. Our
challenge is to restore, preserve and protect by putting our money where
our bragging mouths are: Environmental protection, like a democracy, is
neither cheap nor a spectator sport.
Unfortunately, we have become impatiently reactive, fixing and
repairing only what breaks. We need to prioritize massive replacement,
funding projects that have could pull us back from this calamitous
The accountable party and arguably proud native is the taxpayer seen
in the mirror each morning. You.
Blame is useless on a sinking ship. Your city needs your assistance,
your financial and moral support to assure that future generations will
inherit the best of who we are, where we are and what we are about.
Humans arm themselves and die to defend that which they love.
Fortunately, you’ll only need a pen, a checkbook and a realization
that you’ve rediscovered Home.
* Roger von Butow is the Founder of the Clean Water Now! Coalition,
and Co-Founder of the South Orange County Watershed Conservancy. E-mail: