Environmental Regulations – Part 2

The 70s , 80s and 90s in Santa Cruz County were a time of growing environmental awareness and action.

By the time Measure C was passed in 1990 (see Do Regulations Curtail Environmental Destruction?), the 1978 Growth Management Referendum (Measure J) had been on the books for 18 years. Now ensconced in County Code Title 17 – Community Development, “to provide for the enactment of a growth management system to regulate the character, location, amount, and timing of future development so as to achieve the stated policies.

17.01.030 Policies

  • (A) Preserve Agricultural Lands. It shall be the policy of Santa Cruz County that prime agricultural lands and lands which are economically productive when used for agriculture shall be preserved for agricultural use.
  • (B)  Distinguish “Urban” and “Rural” Areas. It shall be the policy of Santa Cruz County to preserve a distinction between areas in the County which are “urban,” and areas which are “rural.” Divisions of land in rural areas shall be discouraged, and new residential developments shall be encouraged to locate in urban areas.
  • (C)  Urban Area Protection. It shall be the policy of Santa Cruz County to ensure that new development in the unincorporated “urban” areas does not proceed without the provision of adequate services which will enhance the quality of life for current and future residents of these urban areas; the County Capital Improvement Plan shall reflect this commitment.
  • (D)  Annual Population Growth Limit. It shall be the policy of Santa Cruz County to set an annual population growth for this County which shall limit growth to that amount which represents Santa Cruz County’s fair share of each year’s Statewide population growth.
  • (E)  Housing for Persons with Average Incomes. It shall be the policy of Santa Cruz County that at least 15 percent of those housing units newly constructed for sale or rental each year shall be capable of purchase or rental by persons with average or below average incomes.
  • (F)  Resource Protection. It shall be the policy of Santa Cruz County to prevent the division or other development of lands which contain timber resources, mineral resources, and wildlife habitat or other natural resources, except when any such development is conditioned so as to prevent the loss of or damage to such resources.

Without Measure J, Santa Cruz County would now be suffering from much greater population growth, loss of natural habitat, open space and agricultural lands, which would have resulted in even greater exploitation of natural resources and loss of natural habitat than we see today.

As one might expect, Measure J, Measure C and subsequent County Code and General Plan regulations and policies have not been appreciated by those to whom business, economic growth and development are of highest concern.

The County Planning Department is placed squarely in the middle of two competing ideologies: conservation of natural resources and environmental protection vs. economic development and funding for county social services.

In response to pressure from economic growth and development interests, Planning Department procedures and policies are now being “simplified” and “modernized,” that is, watered down and made less publicly visible, to accommodate a streamlined development application and review process. What once was a robust, locally managed and explicitly regulated environmental review process, has become an internal subjective review of compliance with the California Environmental Quality Act (CEQA), subject, when necessary, to an EIR conducted by external contractors.

While Measure J has resulted in positive restraints on growth and development in the County, these constraints are rapidly eroding in the face of development pressures. With each new project that sticks its nose under the tent of the Planning Department review process, habitat and natural resources are lost, the natural world is diminished and non-human life is further brought under the dominion of the human world.

Do Regulations Curtail Environmental Destruction?

Here in Santa Cruz County, we have codified our relationship with Nature in the County’s General Plan and County Code. These documents are intended to guide county government projects, plans and procedures toward protection and conservation of natural areas, open spaces and natural habitats and to conserve natural resources.

Measure C – Decade of the Environment

Measure C was adopted by the voters of Santa Cruz County on June 5, 1990, as an ongoing ten-year program that designated the 1990’s as the “Decade of the Environment.” Measure C served as a guide to Santa Cruz County government in carrying out actions to help protect and restore the local environment, and to confront, on a local level, those environmental crises that are global in scope. Chapter 16.90 of the County Code, which provides for implementation of Measure C, directs County government to work toward accomplishing the following:

    • To provide for efficient use of renewable energy and recycled resources;
    • To protect biological diversity and human health, through the protection and restoration of the environment;
    • To encourage agricultural practices which are protective of the natural environment and human health;
    • To promote and encourage economic development strategies in Santa Cruz County which are consistent with both environmental protection and restoration, and which will help create a local economy based on the use of renewable resources;
    • To ensure that future growth and development in Santa Cruz County adheres to the natural limits and carrying capacity of the Santa Cruz County environment; and
    • To take local actions which can help reverse, reduce, and eliminate practices which are contributing to global environmental crises.

Measure C also established a series of eleven principles and policies to guide local government efforts related to: offshore oil drilling; global warming and renewable energy resources; protection of the ozone layer; forest protection and restoration; greenbelt protection and preservation; recycling; toxic and radioactive materials; endangered species and biological diversity; development of a sustainable local economy; future growth and development; and education and outreach.

As requested by the Board of Supervisors, the Planning Department prepared an annual report on the Measure C “Decade of the Environment” Program, which identified new initiatives throughout County government that have been undertaken to further program objectives related to energy conservation and environmental protection, as described in County Code Chapter 16.90.

Chapter 16.92.010 of Santa Cruz County Code – Environmental Principles and Policies to Guide County Government extended Measure C from 2000 to 2009, stating the following purpose:

To urge all the elected officials who represent the people of Santa Cruz County, at the city, State and Federal levels of government, to take any and all actions in their power which can assist in the protection and restoration of the environment of Santa Cruz County, and which can help reverse, reduce and eliminate those actions and practices which are contributing to environmental crises which are global in scope.”

Measure C also served as the policy basis for the 1994 Santa Cruz County General Plan, especially Chapters 2, 5 and 7.

General Plan Chapter 2 – Land Use “… to guide the future physical development of the County of Santa Cruz and to address the historic, current and future distribution, location, density and intensity of all land uses in the unincorporated portion of the County.

General Plan Chapter 5 – Conservation and Open Space consists of a conservation element “for the conservation, development, and utilization of natural resources,” and an open space element covering “any parcel or area of land or water which is essentially unimproved and devoted to an open-space use…”

General Plan Chapter 7 – Parks, Recreation and Public Facilities “… designates parks and other facilities … water quality and quantity issues, energy and other resource topics.”

These regulations are pretty clear on paper, or even on a computer screen, aren’t they?  Unfortunately, Measure C was never extend beyond 2009, and knowledge of its existence has dwindled to nothingness.

Do these regulations effectively curtail destruction of natural resources and natural habitats in Santa Cruz County?

Just like any other government, our local government is dominated by Supervisors, Commissioners and staff who have little, if any, environmental awareness, training or experience. Their focus and concerns are directed toward the needs and desires of human residents of the county, especially those humans who vote and contribute to political campaigns. We are constantly frustrated, Jean and I, by the seeming inability of government officials to understand how necessary it is to protect and preserve non-human species and their habitats, even though their own regulations direct them to do so.

It is up to us, the politically and environmentally aware citizens of this county, to bring these regulations to the attention of county and municipal decision-makers at every opportunity. We do this by being knowledgeable about county and municipal governments, by staying involved in the political process, through websites, emails, phone calls, letters to the editor, standing up at public meetings, meeting one-on-one with public officials, meeting with our neighbors and fellow travelers to spread the word, raise awareness and encourage political activism.

“Never doubt that a small group of thoughtful, committed citizens can change the world; indeed, it’s the only thing that ever has.”
​                                       Margaret Mead

Brave New World Revisited – Revisited

BNWRIn 1931, Aldous Huxley published Brave New World, the dystopian novel of an over-populated world dominated by a highly organized state that uses genetic engineering, hypnopaedia, promotion of sexual promiscuity, hallucinogenic drugs and organized entertainment to control and subdue the general population.

In 1948, George Orwell published 1984, the dystopian novel of a Communist inspired totalitarian oligarchy in England that uses information control, fear mongering, intimidation, and total surveillance to control and subdue the general population.

In 1958, Aldous Huxley published Brave New World Revisited, comparing Brave New World and 1984 with each other, and with events and trends from 1948 to 1958.

Let’s compare Orwell’s observations of the social world of 1958 with the world we see around us today some 35 years later.

Part 1 – Over-Population

In 1931, global population was just over 2 billion people. By 1948, population had risen to only 2.5 billion, and to 2.9 billion ten years later in 1958. Today, world population is 7.7 billion and increasing by 1.07% per year. The rate of world population increase peaked at 1.85% in 1987 and has been decreasing since then. Though the rate of increase is decreasing, world population is still growing by some 80,000,000 people per year.

In Brave New World Revisited, Huxley points out that death control has been systematically provided by benevolent societies through increased sanitation and medical intervention, while birth control requires the cooperation of all citizens, and is limited by cultural (mostly religious) sanctions.

In Brave New World, birth control is achieved through state control and management of human breeding, restricting the global human population to around 2 billion people. In this fictional world society, the human population does not threaten natural areas with excess resource exploitation, allowing some areas to return to wild states.

Huxley concludes that, in the real world, absent any form of effective birth control, “... that problem will render insoluble all our other problems. Worse still, it will create conditions in which individual freedom and the social decencies of the democratic way of life will become impossible, almost unthinkable.

We see today the outcome of Huxley’s darkest vision: democracy on the block, up for sale to the highest bidder, homeless camps in every city where the mentally handicapped and drug addicted citizens are turned loose among the populace, to support themselves and their habits through petty thievery, murder and general social disruption. Meanwhile, the over-organized and bureaucratized social agencies and local governments tie their own hands with “progressive” rules and regulations that defy any sane and effective solutions to these ubiquitous social ills.

Our Huxleyan problems are compounded by Orwellian despotic and imperialist governments, fomenting invasion and war in sovereign nations that have the misfortune of harboring large oil deposits beneath their sands, while at home graft, corruption, and malfeasance have become the norm and go unpunished, at least for those dispossessed of economic and political influence.

Huxley concludes his chapter on Over-Population with a warning:

But liberty, as we all know, cannot flourish in a county that is permanently on a war footing, or even a near-war footing. Permanent crisis justifies permanent control of everybody and everything by the agencies of the central government. And permanent crisis is what we have to expect in a world in which over-population is producing a state of things, in which dictatorship … becomes almost inevitable.

Sound familiar?

“O brave new world, That has such people in it!”

 

 

via The Global Growth of U.S. Special Operations Forces

Unless they end in disaster, most missions remain in the shadows, unknown to all but a few Americans. And yet last year alone, U.S. commandos deployed to 149 countries — about 75% of the nations on the planet.

As I’m reading Chalmers’ Johnson’s penultimate book, Nemesis: The Last Days of the American Republic, a sobering read, I’ve become more aware of signs of the movement of the United States government towards a global empire, albeit a rapidly declining global empire, such as the cited article above.

The inevitable comparison to the decline and fall of the Roman Empire leaps immediately to mind, along with most every other empire that has existed on this benighted and abused planet we humans overinhabit. But that’s just a literary allusion. The US Empire is real, it originates in the government that professes to represent me and my interests, and I, whether I agree with it or not, bear a modicum of responsibility for its actions.

I don’t know what to do about this. After 40+ years of environmental and political activism, I’m pretty discouraged with the prospects of being able to influence the course of action of the United States government, let alone the government of any other country. Even at the local level, I see city and county government increasingly in thrall to development interests (aka money) at the expense of the constituent residents of these jurisdictions. There is a strong tendency for local government to meet with development interests (aka “stakeholders”) and formulate policies and projects behind closed doors, then turn to the Economic Development Department to lobby the citizenry to accept the governments foregone conclusions and plans.

The is democracy turned on its head. The only meaningful response is increased citizen participation in local decision making, demanding that government respond to residents needs and desires, before those of development and business interests.

The problem is that few citizens are willing to engage in local politics other than a periodic trip to the polling booth, or increasingly, a trip to the post office with a mailed-in ballot.

Voting for candidates in a representative government is not democracy. Voting is the failure of democracy, rule by the people. Our representative republican government was chosen specifically to rule out democracy, viewing the citizenry as the unwashed masses who are incapable of conducting the affairs of government, which should be reserved for property owners, aka the rich elite minority. Thus, our system of government has evolved from “one man, one vote, to “one dollar (or more), one vote.”

If we are to learn anything from the history of empire in human affairs, it is this: all empires have fallen to excessive militarism and imperialism, substituting democratic decision making with authoritarian, centralized military/industrial oligarchies, necessitating propaganda and information control to keep the rabble in line.

This is where we are today, in a global militaristic culture in which imperialism has replaced statecraft, and the governed, that’s us, are viewed as infinitely pliable puppets whose only role in government is to supply the manufactured consent required to maintain the illusion of democracy.

I haven’t yet decided which path I’ll follow in the few years I have left to roam this planet: either dig a hole and pull in the dirt over me, or dedicate the rest of my life to working locally to demand involvement in local decision-making and support popular assemblies as a legitimate form of local government.

So far, day to day, the latter continues to win out.

The Price of Democracy

“It is the common fate of the indolent to see their rights become a prey to the active. The condition upon which God hath given liberty to man is eternal vigilance; which condition if he break, servitude is at once the consequence of his crime and the punishment of his guilt.” – John Philpot Curran: Speech upon the Right of Election for Lord Mayor of Dublin, 1790. (Speeches. Dublin, 1808.) as quoted in Bartlett’s Familiar Quotations

This quotation is especially pertinent to local city and county government these days. I’ve noticed that more and more of our local government business is being planned and decided behind closed doors, to be trotted out before the public for us to rubber stamp their predetermined plans.

I’m thinking particularly of city and county plans for massive new developments in the so-called “Transportation Corridors” projects, and the Downtown Library cum parking garage fiasco here in Santa Cruz. These projects would drastically change the ambience of Santa Cruz City and County, and would, not coincidentally, benefit local contractors and developers.

I’ve also seen an increase in “Ad-Hoc” subcommittees in local government, the meetings of which are excluded from public attendance, except when citizens have loudly and publicly insisted that they be open to public observation.

The price of democracy is indeed eternal vigilance, whether Thomas Jefferson really said that or not.

 

Stepping back from the precipice

DSCN4407

Over recent years, Climate Change (aka Global Warming or Anthropogenic Climate Change) has taken over as the driving influence of local, regional, state, national and international governments and social organizations.

We are constantly bombarded by dire warnings of imminent doom resulting from our profligate CO2 emissions causing increasing climate change and all of its alarming effects on human civilization and the natural world.

And yet, strangely, nothing changes. The number of cars on the streets and highways continues to increase. Highways are jammed. Garages remained stuffed to the ceilings with stuff, purchased in shopping sprees of lemmingly dimensions. Two and three cars wait patiently in the driveway and parked on streets for the daily trip to the 7-11. Electricity consumption increases at the demand of proliferating electronic devices and their ubiquitous charging stations. TeeVees must be bigger and bigger, demanding more and more energy 24 hours a day.

If climate change is such a big deal, why aren’t we drastically changing our societies to do something about it? Why are we increasing our impacts on our planet instead of reducing them?

For that matter, what specifically can those who are concerned about the impacts of human consumption and development do to drastically reduce or even stop them? How can we change human civilization, cultures and societies, such that humans live in balance with natural geophysical cycles?

These are deep, big picture questions that I’ve never seen fully addressed in any forum or by any agency. George Monbiot, in his continuing series on restoring democracy has come the closest to examining the deep societal, governmental and economic factors that contribute to the increasing impacts of human societies on the natural world.

Judging by today’s headlines, no one is paying attention.

There are ways forward, backward or maybe sideways that could forestall the inevitable outcome of the present course of human growth and development.

In future posts, I’ll explore this vexing conundrum of our present unsustainable civilization, and the necessary reforms, and revolutionary changes required to step back from the precipice, turn around and take a step forward.

Are Both Trump and Sanders Falling for a Dirty Trick from Clinton? Washington’s Blog

Trump-protest

Source: Are Both Trump and Sanders Falling for a Dirty Trick from Clinton? Washington’s Blog

I must admit the whole Trump phenomenon is a puzzlement.

I’ve come to think of bizarre political activity as the norm in these days of changing times, but this year is beyond the pale. I’m appalled that such an elitist blowhard such as Donald Trump would attract such a following, and now the piling on of violent protests and anti-protesters at Trump rallies adds even more inexplicability to the continuing political circus.

I’ve been reading through the series of books produced by Carl Bernstein and Bob Woodward about the Watergate break-in and subsequent revelations of political dirty tricks in the Nixon re-election campaign and others. Yes, I was aware of the events leading up to Nixon’s resignation, as they happened, but reading the sordid details has been quite a revelation. It also gives me a perspective on the political scene today.

It was interesting to learn in this Washington’s Blog post that Roger Stone, a principal in Nixon’s dirty tricks machine, was instrumental in Trump’s campaign, at least until August of 2015, at which time he left the Trump organization for parts unknown.

Or did he?

One of the characteristics of political dirty tricks, or “rat-fucking” as Donald Segretti called it, is things are never what they seem. It may be true that Roger Stone “resigned” from Trump’s campaign, but that does not mean that he is no longer active in manipulating it. For Trump, Hillary or Bernie. Stone has demonstrated that he has no loyalties or compunctions when it comes to political machination. All is grist for the political mill. Pay no attention to the man behind the curtain. It’s not the player, it’s the results that count.

So what is the result? Hillary is a size 12 shoe-in. Bernie is out in the cold. Trump is left to contemplate a spoiler role.

Cui bono?