From the Publishers

Clean up your room!

by Chris Klein

s I watch the ongoing saga of how we manage our waste here in San Diego, the above parental admonishment keeps coming to mind.

When you're a kid, fun and quick gratification are the thing. Dessert first. When you're done playing, just walk away from the toys. Clothes drop where they come off. Mom and dad clean up, keep order, wipe your nose. The future (except, maybe, Christmas) doesn't exist. You don't want to be a grown-up - kids know grown-ups don't have any fun.

But you do grow up. You make plans, and future becomes as real as the present. Being responsible changes from something to be avoided to a pretty good idea, if you want to have a good life. You learn to take out the trash, put oil in the car, get a job. If you're lucky, you learn that when you make a mess - of any kind - the thing to do is to take responsibility and clean it up. It's what makes life work.

So, sometimes, it feels like kids are playing with the region's waste management policy. Two articles in last month's issue charted the ongoing saga of pollution on our beaches (I won't say what you've been swimming in, but they don't make beach-sized Pampers). This month, on page 6 we look at "The truth about curbside recycling." Suffice it to say, the Cities of San Diego and Bakersfield are the only two of the top 20 cities in California without uniform curbside recycling. Nice company, eh?

The kids think it's easier to just keep dumping our sewage on the beaches and recoverable resources in canyons. Indeed it is, for a kid. But if you have any concern for our future and quality of life, these are messes that need to be cleaned up.

The kids complain that they are too expensive to clean up, and, anyway, there's no "political will."

They can't find the money to clean up the mess. They do find money for a new showcase library. Money for a political convention. Money to make our shoreline the most attractive and inviting waste repository in the world. Pass the dessert, forget the vegetables.

Of course, a kid wouldn't use the term "political will." It would come out, "I don't wanna." Pardon me, but can you say "leadership"? Leadership isn't taking the latest poll and parroting back what the people expect to hear. It isn't bread and circuses. It's taking a stand and saying, "this is important, and here's why." It's creating a future that isn't going to happen the way things have been going. Being responsible. You know, like mom and dad.

To be fair, these messes - the sewer-in-the-storm drain, in particular - aren't uniquely the result of action or inaction by the current officeholders. Many years or decades of neglect and poor planning have led to the current state. They do have the unenviable job of trying to cope with the situation.

On the brighter side, there are signs that the kids are growing up (adolescence, maybe?). Last month, it was announced that the storm drain outlets on the beaches would be posted with signs warning of the health risks. The signs are up, and efforts continue to have them posted county-wide. Taking responsibility - a good sign. Thanks to Surfrider Foundation, Donna Frye and S.T.O.P (Surfers Tired of Pollution) and others for helping the kids with an object lesson.

Also last month, the Natural Resources and Culture Subcommittee of the City Council met to discuss the future of curbside recycling. The good news is, they didn't decide to kill the current limited program. The bad news is, they didn't decide to expand it, either. Further action has been put off until a future date. We'll let you know how the kids are doing.

For you Web surfers out there, San Diego Earth Times On-Line has a new address: Our Web site has all the stories of all the back issues of SDET, indexed by topic for easy access. We've also have our Calendar of Earth-Friendly Events, plus links to lots of other environmental sites. This month we're inagurating a new Marketplace section. So, come check us out and let us know what you think.

We also host the San Diego Earth Day Web site. It's languishing for want of a Web Master. If you would like to volunteer to help maintain the site, give me a call at 272-7423.

Have you replaced your incandescent light bulbs with the hi-efficiency flourescents? If not, you're wasting money. I replaced almost all of our bulbs three years ago, and knew that I was saving energy and probably a few bucks. The best part was, it seemed that the flourescents lasted forever - it was two years before I had to replace one.

Last month, as an exercise, I created a World Wide Web page that lets you easily calculate how much money you can save. What I discovered is that, for our home and office use, we were saving between $300 and $400 per year!

I'll finish making the Web page user-friendly and put it up on our Web site by December 15. Plug in your own usage and see what you can save; you may be surprised.