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Sounding off

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

irreplaceable elements.

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: