By Jim Kempton
As the endless news cycle of television, media outlets and social media engulfs us every day, we are caught in a dilemma: ignore the information we are being bombarded with (and remain ignorant of the issues) or wade in deep and try to determine the critical concerns from the frivolous entertainments. Our attention span is our worst enemy—most coverage of any subject is only visible in the last seven to 14 days at best, then it’s on to the next “big thing.”
It may be our undoing: For the south coast tri-city residents, one would think the storage of lethal nuclear waste in our backyard and an eight-lane superhighway through the middle of our neighborhoods would be imperative emergency news topics. Yet the media, the citizens and the local municipalities seem to have contracted amnesia.
We are watching Southern California Edison put 3.55 million pounds of spent nuclear fuel rods in containers less than 100 yards from the cliffs at San Onofre State Beach—an area which just this last year lost as much as 10 yards of beach-front from erosion. The public was not informed enough despite the meetings that were held and less than a handful of news articles. The canisters are guaranteed to be safe for not more than 25 years (Edison’s estimate) before they might leak straight into one of Southern California’s premier surf and beach recreation parks visited by over a million people a year. No one will be able to tell if they might be leaking long before that because these toxic time bombs will be encased, covered and out of sight. It is literally a case of burying the evidence.
Then there is the Transportation Corridor Agencies (TCA), the administrators of The Toll Roads, another cryptic, quasi private-public entity that seems to simply wait out the next cycle of news each time it finds massive public opposition.
With thousands of new homes on the planning board for Mission Viejo, pressure for a toll road to accommodate development has once again put eight options on the table, three of which are toll roads that would be constructed through San Clemente. While the toll road execs masterfully disappear after each show of resistance, the Orange County press barely breaks a peep.
This is not a case of conspiracy—it is our own responsibility, and we forget it at our own peril. This is a case of special interests circumventing the will of the local electorate, and using the short spin cycle of news to constantly distract us from issues that will affect our life, liberty and pursuit of happiness in this golden triangle of coastal paradise for lifetimes to come.
Our inadvertent attention to a constant barrage of ever-changing news is endangering us by allowing the truth to be covered in dirt and concrete. We are simply burying the evidence in plain sight.
Jim Kempton is a resident of this coast since 1977. His new book First We Surf, Then We Eat, will be published in June. He hopes we can all “eat, surf and be merry” without concern “for tomorrow.”