There is perhaps no smugger environmentalist than one who resides in San Francisco.
The city is home to the Sierra Club, Save the Redwoods League and boosts some of the country’s strongest concentrations of membership in more radical movements such as People for the Ethical Treatment of Animals as well as Earth First!
San Francisco intellectuals are noted for attacking Central Valley farmers, Sierra lumbermen and Los Angeles for environmental crimes.
The most enduring symbol of hatred for the San Francisco environmental crowd is dams. They represent everything supposedly evil about modern-day California. They contend the huge concrete structures destroy wild rivers, flood pristine canyons and spur urban growth where it shouldn’t occur.
The San Francisco crowd’s favorite whipping boy is Los Angeles. They detest what Los Angeles has done in the name of water development, specifically with the Owens Valley and Mono Lake. The devastation caused by diverting large amounts of water from the eastern Sierra watershed starting in the 1920s to satisfy LA’s ever growing thirst is routinely described as one of the “biggest environmental disasters of the 20th century.”
It’s a shame San Franciscan environmentalists are such hypocrites. If it wasn’t for the wanton destruction of Hetch Hetchy Valley, San Francisco wouldn’t have had the cheap water needed to grow into a cosmopolitan city at the tip of a peninsula without the local water to support 900,000 residents.
That same exact criticism is leveled at Los Angeles by the Sierra Club crowd. The City of Angeles should never have been allowed to spring up on land that didn’t have reliable sources of local water to support its growth. The importation of cheap water at the expense of the provinces in the distant Sierra was the only way L.A. could grow.
San Francisco should know. They beat L.A. to the punch. The city destroyed Hetch Hetchy Valley — a place the environmentalists’ icon John Muir described as second only to Yosemite Valley in beauty — long before the Los Angeles Water Department started stealing water rights in the Owens Valley.
The political maneuvering San Francisco did in Congress to build a dam in a national park in the 1910s was as underhanded as the well-documented deceit that took place in the Owens Valley.
To add insult to injury, San Francisco pays pennies on the dollar for the cost other municipalities pay for water collected and stored in other dams on federal property. The city’s prosperity is essentially subsidized by the rest of the country.
The holier-than-thou stance of most San Francisco environmentalists is a bit too much to stomach given The City destroyed a pristine Sierra canyon to help fuel its prosperity.
San Francisco traces its tremendous growth from an outpost 167 years ago to one of the most cosmopolitan cities the world has ever known to the Gold Rush.
The Gold Rush brought “environmental havoc” to California.
We know this because Earth First! as well as the Sierra Club constantly remind the rest of us — particularly those in the Central Valley — that we are destroying the planet by accommodating urban growth as well as how we are toiling the soil to produce food.
Sierra and North Coast timber interests are routinely slammed for desecrating forests. It is nothing compared to the wholesale cutting that was done to produce lumber for San Francisco. Nor does it begin to compare with the massive amount of earth displaced by gold seekers who essentially shipped their wealth back to San Francisco.
Environmentalists are absolutely right that we have to balance growth and various practices needed to support civilization such as farming and mining against the need to protect as well as preserve nature.
They are wrong not to hold San Francisco and its suburbs to the same high standards.
It took Central Valley counties two decades to get the Federal Environmental Protection Agency to concede what everyone this side of the Altamont Pass and Carquinez Strait already knew — the San Francisco Bay Area is responsible for a large chunk of our air pollution.
The ocean breezes clear the auto-generated smog as well as pollution from factories into the 360-mile long Central Valley basin where it is trapped by mountains on all sides.
The San Francisco Bay Area was finally held to the same stringent factory output standards as the Central Valley.
Hetch Hetchy — which moves water to San Francisco via the original “tunnel” bypassing the Delta via the pipeline that runs from Yosemite National Park under Modesto and the valley floor to the Bay Area — doesn’t sacrifice an ounce of its water to help the Delta Smelt.
San Francisco shouldn’t be allowed to obtain highly subsidized Sierra water while being excused from any federal court order or bureaucratic edict requiring everyone else in California to sacrifice water to resolve the Delta-Bay quality issues.