From the Publishers
Life is like a balloon ...
by Carolyn Chase
or is it a piñata?
o new readers of SDET, I hope each edition stands on
its own in delivering issues of relevance and ways to get involved. But
long term SDET readers may have noticed that in the last issue, and then
this one, there has been a notable drop in the coverage of politics and
related land use and endangered species concerns such as Multiple Habitat
Planning programs and governmental resource protections.
This is not because the political threats to our quality
of life have lessened. It's more because many of the issues, and the environmentalists
who participate with these issues, have confused this editor so much or
simply left me in the dark. I can't in good conscience share with y'all
what you could be doing to make a difference at this point. And if I can't
figure it out, I surely can't explain it to anyone else. Have you ever felt
yourself in this position? It's like, geez, won't somebody please get it
together so we can get more people involved to help?
Unfortunately, what I've learned is that most activists,
government staff and elected officials are not oriented toward getting more
people to help. Really. They seem so consumed with deploying their personal
power inside the system that little time is left for working with the public.
It seems, as far as they are concerned, the fewer people in the process
the better. More people means more work for them and less influence. Instead
of seeing new people as a source of power and creativity, new people coming
into the process are most often considered an intrusion. Or, as never being
able to know enough about the program for their opinion to matter.
The education, if it's to happen at all, is set up to
be one-way: from the experts to the people or between experts, with very
little time for the public to ask questions. This is big shame, and the
reason why the environmental movement in general is not able to flex more
political muscle. Even in my position ­p; with experience volunteering
and supporting local environmental groups ­p; I have a hard time finding
out about key meetings or being informed of the outcomes. This makes it
hard to report.
But I haven't given up. I continue to attend the meetings
I manage to find out about and review the documents I manage to get a hold
of. At some point, I will disgorge a great article about endangered species,
the process, the laws and politics.
In the meantime here are a few short things you should be aware of:
I have joined with a group of community members and
conservation activists to start a new Political Action Committee (PAC) to
better organize people and build political power. We are oriented toward
bringing new people into the political process, and teaching ourselves how
to express the political will of those committed to long term sustainability
and quality of life as our bioregion grows. We are currently working on
our constitution. If you would like to participate in any way, either call
or send me email.
- The City of San Diego runs a 24-hour "MSCP (Multiple Species
Conservation Program) infoline" at 570-1099 which lists upcoming public
meetings and contact information.
- I am having great success with a computer email list covering these issues. To be added to this list, send a message to .
- ·I am also happy to fax action alerts. FAX me a request to 272-2933.
In closing, I'd like to share a couple of things I have
learned in the last couple of month's worth of meetings about local conservation
Business is organized, "the people" are not, and the environmentalists
are not very well organized. A small group of dedicated activists, many
of them volunteers, try to keep up with full-paid lobbyists hired by the
building industry and property interests. Even when we have a victory at
the local level, the developers are already lobbying to have it undone or
compromised at the state and federal level. And vice-versa.
This process demonstrates what one great guy at the
City explained to me as the "politics as balloon" metaphor: "Politics
is like a balloon. You push in one place and it pops up someplace else."
This idea has helped me understand how politics is played off among and
between the federal, state and local jurisdictions.
But an equally valuable model was suggested by a friend
of mine who is also trying to figure out to work the system to protect quality
of life. "Isn't it more like a piñata?" she asked. "Let's
see. You beat it long enough and candy falls out. If you swing and miss,
you get nothing, and look stupid in the attempt. You're blindfolded as you
make your attempt, so you really can't see what's really going on - which
is someone else manipulating the piñata to make if even more difficult
to get the candy." Hmmmm. Fits quite well, I'd say.
Anyone who'd like to link up with those of us swiping
at the piñata of politics, let me know! Some of us are getting quite
good and are having fun at the same time.