CITY FOCUS:Earth Day founder honored

The skirl of a bagpipe, a ponderous drumbeat and about 30 celebrants escorted Earth Day founder John McConnell along Forest Avenue to City Hall Tuesday, where he was honored by the City Council.

Mayor Toni Iseman read a proclamation lauding McConnell’s efforts on behalf of religion, science and peace, and the creation of the international Earth Day, celebrated March 20 in Laguna. McConnell received a standing ovation from the council and the audience when he was introduced.

“My father, who was a minister, wrote a pamphlet on what life is about,” McConnell said. “As I grew up, he encouraged me to seek the answers for myself.

“Life is filled with great mysteries, but in the midst of the chaos of the cosmos, there is beauty, there is love.”


McConnell, who turned 92 on Thursday, recounted some of the adventures and people, including scientist Werner von Braun and former U.S. Attorney General Ramsey Clark, he had encountered in his long life.

He was up to 1963 when his wife tiptoed up to the microphone and whispered in his ear that it was time to finish. She summed up his message by urging support for earth stewardship.

McConnell supporter John Ellowitz called on the council to declare Laguna an Earth Trustee City, a flexible stewardship designed to fit differing communities.

“Every one of us has a role to play in building an earth trustee city,” city Environmental Committee Chair Greg O’Laughlin said. “I will be an earth trustee by helping regain Laguna’s reputation as an environmentally progressive city.”


O’Laughlin was followed to the microphone by committee members Tom Girvin, Lisa Marks, Steven Erger, Tom Osborne and Susan Wilson, who each pledged their personal actions to create a trustee city.

“I will do an energy audit of my home,” Marks said. “I will plant things I can eat and I will plant things for migrating birds.”

Osborne said he and his wife would use the city tram more often and switch to florescent bulbs to light their home.

“I will be walking more, bicycling more and driving less and encouraging others to do the same,” Wilson said.

The presentation concluded with the bestowal of awards to Laguna Beach High School senior Marshall Thomas and Laguna Ocean Foundation, also known as the Ocean Laguna Foundation.

Thomas, who was honored this year by the Patriots Day Parade Committee, is the president of the high school Surfriders Club. He tests water pollution, posts the results and recruits volunteers and trains them.

“I have said it before, if I live long enough I will see him President of the United States,” Iseman said.

Fred Sattler accepted the Laguna Ocean Foundation award on behalf of the membership.


The foundation grew out of recommendations written for the Vision 2030 Environmental Sub-Committee by Walker Reed.

“Fred had the dedication and the skills to put it all together,” said Read, a foundation board member.

The foundation was formed in 2003 and now has about 150 volunteers.

Committee award presentations began last year.

“These awards are so appropriate,” Iseman said, describing local glassblower John Barber’s starfish mounted on pedestals from O’Laughlin’s wood pile.

Extending the environmental prelude to the regular council agenda, Clean Water Now! founder Roger Butow announced a beach clean up from 9 a.m. to noon, Saturday. Headquarters will be at Main Beach. Volunteers are needed.

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