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Finally, Enlightenment Over Water Conservation

By Billy Fried
By Billy Fried

Just when you thought Orange County was a hopeless backwater of evangelicals and climate deniers, His Holiness the 14th Dalai Lama recently blessed us with his 80th birthday celebration and Global Compassion Conference. The noise that normally emanates from OC is almost all Tea Party Christian – think Trinity Broadcasting, Saddleback Church and onetime TV wonder, the Crystal Cathedral.

But the Dalai Lama’s trusted aid and American attaché, Lama Tenzin Dhonden, selected OC over other more cosmopolitan candidates like New York City, where he complained, “People walk fast. Not enough time to think.” Unlike California, where “people like to find out what really happens in the world, what is truth about.” Probably because we’re stuck in so much traffic! Take that, New York Times! A big win for Anaheim Mayor Tom Tait and UC Irvine, where the three-day event was held.

And why not? Check out OC now – a smorgasbord of cultures, a polyglot of Vietnamese in Fountain Valley, Arabs in Anaheim, Persians in Irvine, and Latinos and Asians everywhere else (except on the coast – where the white folks live); the perfect convergence of cultures to receive the Dalai Lama’s universal message of compassion. Perhaps we could now assume our rightful place alongside Assisi, Mecca, Jerusalem and Varanasi as spiritual centers of enlightenment.

His Holiness had that famous beatific radiance and spoke of happiness, saying everyone has a right to pursue it. He spoke of compassion, and how it accrues from wisdom and the need for people to think of how they want to see the world in 200-300 years. But more than visualize, he wants them to act, intoning that time is of the essence. Action was the theme. Because as fellow panelist and Nobel Peace Prize winning activist Jodie Williams said, “if you are silent you are complicit because if you don’t use your voice someone else will.” They weren’t just speaking of compassion, but of galvanizing action at a grass roots level to save the planet.

And then a day later Newport Beach City Councilman Scott Peotter set our county back a decade or two by emailing something to the effect that “being gay is sinful and those who marry could incur divine wrath.” This caused Kevin O’Grady, executive director of the LGBT Center of Orange County, to lash out, “When I share some of the things we hear being said in Orange County, my counterpart in Los Angeles asks what country I’m living in. Orange County is a long way behind the rest of the country.”

Seriously, Kev? Can you imagine a councilperson uttering anything close to that in our little beach hamlet? We’d put that turd on the first light rail out of town, if only we had one. For now we’ll have to settle for a slow ride out the single lane of Laguna Canyon Road, hopefully with no power lines so he doesn’t burn in hell on the way. But I digress.

What was truly notable in the Dalai Lama’s residence was that so little of the dialogue was spent on spirituality. Half of of the summit was devoted to climate change. We now count the Pope, the Dalai Lama and even the former Jesuit Jerry Brown as proselytizers on the global stage. The true merging of faith and science.

So yes, we’ve got to do our part locally. And on Tuesday Mayor Can Do and his Merry Council took a big step in the right direction. They heard staff’s report on drought management. The written report led with this: “California is in a severe drought. Based on climate data and projections we expect more frequent and more severe droughts than we have ever had before.” Pretty explicit stuff.

The suggested remedies were to put restrictions on pools, encourage the conversion of lawns to drought tolerant landscapes, as well as the installation of grey water systems. All helpful, but essentially table legs that sustainable cities have embraced for years. Nothing dramatic there.

But then Mayor Whalen called for an immediate and urgent summit between the city and all the area water authorities and stakeholders, not to theorize on concepts far in the future that will never get done, but to have discussions specifically focused on projects eligible for state funding right now. And remember, he’s a pragmatic municipal bonds expert who knows where the bucks are buried. Thus we could actually see recycled (purple) pipes running to Laguna from Newport Coast, or from our wastewater treatment plant in Aliso. The technology is there to recycle wastewater instead of expending it into the ocean. These are the bold reclamation projects we need to sustain us through the drought. Hopefully in a place the mayor recently dubbed the “City of No,” we can all come together on this one and say yes. And reinforce the Dalai Lama’s choice of Orange County as a land of enlightenment.

Billy Fried its on the boards of Transition Laguna and the Laguna Beach Community Clinic. He hosts “Laguna Talks” on Thursday nights on KX93.5, and can be reached at [email protected].

 

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