Earth Day is an international celebration begun in 1970 and championed by former Wisconsin Senator Gaylord Nelson. It grew out of the environmental movement of the 1960s and was given impetus by the Santa Barbara oil blowout in 1969. Ever since that headline-making catastrophe, coastal Californians have paid close attention to offshore drilling and other matters affecting marine ecology. For example, in the 1980s, then-Laguna Beach City Councilperson Robert Gentry was a leader in the countywide effort to keep oilrigs from dotting our city’s coastal waters.
That was then. What about now? While Earth Day 2014, on April 22, has come and gone, a series of events that focused on our town’s seaward orientation occurred this month.
For large numbers of Lagunans, the nexus of town, ocean, and Earth Day began with the MacGillivray Freeman Films special IMAX 3D showing of “Journey to the South Pacific,” at the Irvine Spectrum on April 2. My wife and I and the other many Lagunans in attendance were treated to a signature MFF work of cinematic and storytelling artistry. “Journey to the South Pacific,” narrated by Academy Award winner Kate Blanchett, linked the experiences of youngsters growing up in the lush islands of West Papua with the challenge of saving marine habitats from overfishing. One could not view the film without thinking about our (north) side of the Pacific, and how Laguna’s coast has benefited from the rebounding kelp and other aquatic life due to the implementation of the Marine Life Protection Act. You do not want to miss this first-rate film produced by MFF of Laguna Beach.
On Saturday, April 19, we Indy writers gathered at photographer Mark Chamberlain’s BC Space Gallery at 235 Forest Ave. to “match faces with bylines,” enjoy a potluck extravaganza of dishes and wines, and view stunning black and white photographs documenting the perils especially to our coast (but also elsewhere) posed by nuclear power plants. Naturally, the plant at San Onofre received prominent photographic attention, accompanied by highly informative captions related to the problems there. I mentioned to Mark that I had testified at a packed forum in San Clemente back in the 1980s, along with Jeannie Bernstein and a number of other Lagunans, to the effect that the troublesome facility should be closed. Had I thought of it last Saturday night, I would have proposed an Earth Day toast to the ongoing decommissioning of San Onofre.
A third and perhaps final Earth Day-related event linking Laguna to the sea is the fifth annual Kelpfest last Saturday, April 26, at Main Beach. This has always been a big draw in terms of attendees, student exhibits, music, arts and crafts, games, face painting, and more. Sponsoring organizations include: Laguna Bluebelt, Whole Foods, South Laguna Civic Association, Laguna Ocean Foundation, and GreenGro Technologies. Each of the past Kelpfests have been held on or around Earth Day, always reminding Lagunans that King Neptune reigns over our coastal enclave.
Whether we participate in any of the above events, we can observe Earth Day throughout April and the rest of the year by picking up trash on our beaches. In just an hour, we can accomplish something practical and important for our marine environment and community.
Tom Osborne is a past recipient of Laguna Beach’s Environmental Award for chairing the work group that wrote the city’s Climate Protection Action Plan. His recent book, “Pacific Eldorado: A History of Greater California” earned praise in the spring issue of Boom: A Journal of California.