A United Nations panel just released information yesterday that predicted that up to 300,000 deaths will be suffered due to global warming this year, with steady increases in the years to come.
I was going to simply point up that global warming and other environmental degradation and encroachment is degrading the wild places throughout Southern California and in many other areas of the state. The only “safe” areas are those that are so inaccessible that the odds of sufficient people getting into them or moving near them remain low. However, climate change impacts even the most remote wilderness areas.
However, another thought came to mind as I was looking at my pictures of the beautiful riparian woodland. I have been in nature since I was a small child, and I grew up in a rural area. In fact, I grew up near the Santa Ana riverbed when there was a Santa Ana river. The River is only a river and fishable above the Seven Oaks dam now. With memories of how large and wild the river was when I was a child, the endless stretch of dry riverbed and the vast moonscape of tract homes, whose owners probably do not even realize were built in the floodplain of what once was a mighty river, I think that this is one of the greatest losses of Southern California ecology – a fait d’accompli by the late 1960’s and early 1970’s. The other great water tragedy of California is the Owens River Valley on the eastern side of the Sierras. Travelers pass through the valley on their way north on the 395 to Mammoth. I know: I’ve done it many times. Once, the Owens River Valley was green and beautiful, with farmland and many natural resources, including Owens Lake (now, I believe, the site of Darwin, CA and one of the most polluted moonscapes on earth due to natural minerals blown into the air in the dusty, bone-dry and windy climate).
So, I have two messages to communicate, I think, about this situation of environmental degradation, learned from my own environment in one of nature’s most-blessed, beautiful and amenable areas – California. First, there can be hope, and people can make positive change. While most people are unaware of how wild nature contributes to the most basic components of their daily quality of life, such as air, decent climate, and water, and truly do not comprehend what they’re looking at when they look across their tract home’s lawn at the vast, rocky Santa Ana riverbed, or drive up the 395 and see the “unusual” moonscape of Mono Lake or the rest of the bone-dry Owens Valley, they can all look out of their windows and see the extensive mountain ranges throughout Southern California. Today, one can see the San Bernardino mountains (including “Grayback”) from my home at the Los Angeles shore (Playa del Rey – approximately 85 miles away).
I did not need an article or study to tell me what my eyes and lungs know to be true. Southern California, formerly vying with Mexico City and other extremely polluted urban areas around the world, with dozens of “smog days” prohibiting exercise or P.E. at school when I was growing up, with horrible visibility of only a mile or two – as if it was heavily fogged, only it wasn’t, it was smog – is now a very clean air environment.
So, this is an older postcard that I’m going to estimate is from the late 1960’s – with a pretty darn close view to that which I “enjoyed” from my dad’s house. That’s not a bad old postcard. It was hazy like that on the best of days and the “brownish” cloudy areas are a very good representation of the 1960’s/70’s smog.
Here is a fairly current picture of downtown Los Angeles taken from the south, looking north toward the San Gabriel mountains. The red arrow (click to enlarge) indicates where I work.
So, the other part of my message is this: if Los Angeles, one of the smoggiest, dirtiest, most degraded places ever, could take its environment from the slurge seen above to the beauty seen here to the right in just 30 years, I think it’s not only mandatory, but possible and doable that the entire world can stop global warming, save our wild environments, and in the process, not just save lives – but preserve quality of life. People here in the L.A. Basin may be unaware of the beautiful wild areas only a short distance away (see mountain area, approximately 30 miles from downtown L.A.). In the other direction and to the west, is Malibu and the Santa Monica mountains, a completely different environment. But their lungs and hearts are benefiting from the hard work of many, many people over many years to make that dream of clean, clear air a reality. And I understand that President Obama recently decided to adopt the methods and standards used to produce the above result on a national scale. Others in less-populated areas may not comprehend the importance of clean air and water; but, for example, to my friends from the South – I have one word: “kudzu.” If you make a mistake – clean it up. It’s yet another of those important rules of life we all learned in kindergarden.