Opinion: Green Light

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KelpFest 2023: Laguna and the Sea 

By Tom Osborne

Children were there. Lots of them. Three-year-old Lily spent time at the Laguna Bluebelt booth marveling at the ocean decor and especially the suspended large fabricated blue fish that swirled in Pacific breezes. Sixteen other environmental groups operated booths at this annual event held on Saturday, June 3, on the cobblestones at Main Beach.

The Laguna Ocean Foundation (LOF) organized this year’s KelpFest, which drew families of locals and out of towners. At the adjoining booth, operated by the Laguna chapter of Citizens’ Climate Lobby, children played with an Ocean Animals Dig Kit featuring seashell-shaped crafts. Mary Clifford, Suzi McDuffie and Deb Young oversaw this project for the youngsters. Having fun while learning about the centrality of kelp in our Pacific ecosystem was the focus of the KelpFest program.  

The weather could not have been better. The mantle of marine layer gray clouds that had blanketed our skies for weeks finally lifted; blue skies and a sparkling ocean came into view for all to behold. Instrumental and vocal music with a beach vibe was supplied by my friend Tom Joliet and the Seaview Serenaders. Councilmembers George Weiss, Mark Orgill and Bob Whalen attended, walking and talking with the public. Summer has arrived in Laguna! 

I talked briefly with LOF Vice Chair of the Board of Directors Ed Almanza to gain a sense of how that organization’s estuary restoration project at Aliso Creek was coming along. When I see plein air paintings and old photographs of the estuary that once was there (before becoming a parking lot), I’m reminded of why I so badly want to see this project succeed. Readers, please contact our City Council members and advocate for the restoration of our former estuary at that site. 

As time permitted, members of our CCL chapter talked to adult attendees about climate change and its impacts on our coast, including sea level rise, coastal erosion of cliffs and warming ocean water and its harmful effects on kelp beds and marine habitats. Concern about these impacts ranged basically from moderate levels to alarm. A young couple from Irvine wanted to “shut down polluting factories” and provide “more public transport” to reduce carbon emissions in general and rely on more nuclear energy. Lindsey, a young woman with a degree in environmental science and living in San Diego, said she wanted to join CCL and lobby for putting a price on carbon to dramatically reduce planet-warming emissions. I told her that 3,500 of America’s leading economists, including 28 economics Nobelists, attested to that solution in a Wall Street Journal ad appearing on Jan. 19, 2019. Olivia, an attendee from Irvine and a biomaterial scientist by profession, agreed, saying, “putting a price on carbon makes sense.” She added: “The climate now is not normal. Wildfires and longer and stronger heat waves are resulting from our carbon emissions.” A young man and woman, who described themselves as Christian conservatives and just that day announced their engagement, said they were moving to Texas where they would work hard “to care for and save the Earth.” They were especially concerned about plastic pollution and what they saw as “the exploitation, bordering on slavery, of overseas workers who manufactured solar panels.”  

Perhaps my most memorable conversation was with Cheryl, a psychotherapist. “People are concerned about climate change. They’re fearful about their children’s futures. We live in a society that’s so busy and promotes success above all else…We live like we’re not connected to the Earth and each other. We need to slow down and get out in nature.”  

All of us at KelpFest 2023 were doing just that: getting out in nature on a picture-perfect Laguna day. To me, this was just one more instance of what I think defines Laguna above all else, our town’s bond with the sea.  

Tom Osborne is an environmental historian who is writing a book on California’s leadership in protecting nature and advocating for the sustainable use of resources. He and his wife, Ginger, co-lead the Laguna chapter of Citizens’ Climate Lobby. [email protected].

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