Posted on | September 3, 2010 | 9 Comments
Few of us come so near greatness as to be crushed by a defeat. This week, after 22 years with Heal the Bay, the man synonymous in Los Angeles with the health of our ocean and beaches was crushed. Moreover, he was flattened while the nation was watching. Until the wee hours of August 31st, it seemed as if Mark Gold, president of Heal the Bay, had led California, and hence the country, in a ban of the single-use plastic bags handed out in stores. Then the state senate rejected the ban, 21-14.
On the morning of September 1st, as news organizations reported how plastics industry lobbyists stopped the first bag ban in the nation, Gold’s blog “Spouting Off” was surprisingly empty. Over at Heal the Bay, the Action Alert asking Californians to call their senators to support AB 1998 still sat on the website.
Where was Mark? Aside from taking calls from reporters such as Steve Lopez, he was penning what eventually did come up on Spouting Off, “State Senate: Industry Bagmen,” a response whose coolest moment may have been the suggestion that we send Senators Aanestad, Ashburn, Calderon, Codgill, Correa, Denham, Ducheny, Dutton, Emerson, Florez, Harman, Hollingsworth, Huff, Negrete McLeod, Price, Romero, Runner, Walters, Wolk, Wright and Wyland our plastic bags.
A politician might have held fire, but Mark is an ecologist with a doctorate in environmental science who believes that the ever-mounting menace of marine debris is perhaps the one straightforward issue that every Californian, even state senators, should be able to understand. That is a reasonable belief and his defeat leaves California in a sordid light. As disgraced former assemblyman Fabian Núñez entered lobbying hard for the plastics industry, it became as simple and dark a story as the father of a murderer beat down the initiative of the son of a probation officer.
Mark’s defeat was a defeat for every Californian who goes to the beach, who cares about the Pacific, or who benefits from tax dollars of the millions to come to our state because of its spectacular coastline. (Note to Aanestad through Wyland, they don’t come looking for dead seals beached in a tangle of plastic.)
While in the woulda, coulda and shoulda department, Mark’s campaign might have benefited from fewer movie stars and more grocers who saw the sense in what he was saying and supported his bill, AB 1998 still should have passed. Mark still should have been carried off on the arms of Rosario Dawson and Amy Smart and run through many chic and fabulous places. As for those who suggest that Heal the Bay is somehow too Santa Monica, too glamorous, answer this: Who exactly needs clean beaches the most? Working class Californians who can’t afford to go elsewhere, or movie stars?
Before suggesting that Heal the Bay is somehow Warner Bros. by the beach, cynics who play the race or class card should try keeping up with Mark Gold as he hashes over the gritty on Total Maximum Daily Loads of pollutants that enter our storm drains, or goes head to head against utilities over power plant cooling systems. None of that is on the menu at Spago.
Mark Gold didn’t fail. California failed Mark and its own best interests. AB 1998 failed because we Californians failed to sufficiently impress on our senators that they had to pass it or they were fired. This fight isn’t over and when it is won, it will be a victory for all of us, not least Mark Gold.