Cheat-Seeking Missles

Tuesday, July 10, 2007

Germs, Guns, Steel And Autocrats

Well, San Luis Obispo it is. The long worked-for hearing is tomorrow and the long drive was last night and the long work session getting our presentation ready (that's my job) is today.

The hearing is not yet a sure bet. We have Commissioners on our side, but all in all, the California Coastal Commission staff is a very frustrating group to work with. In a nutshell, its staff rejected nearly all our good, well done, professional science and sided whole-hog with the opponents' pseudo-science, ignorance and deception.

Why? Because we were obnoxious and uncooperative?

No. Our mantra since day one was to win them over with good science and friendly cooperation.

Because the project we propose would destroy wetlands and mess up the coast?

No. The property is at the inland edge of the Coastal Zone, not on the coast, and we're preserving and restoring more wetlands than exist there, according to our scientists. It's just that the commission's staff, without authority of law, wants us to restore wetlands that nearby neighborhoods and flood control channels wiped out, most of them years before the Coastal Act went into effect -- wetlands that, if they indeed existed, would take up most of the little bean field, leaving a small corner for development.

We'll fight the good fight and maybe, miraculously, we'll come out with an approval that leaves enough land for my client to actually develop. As it is, the staff recommendation doesn't pencil out and can't be built.

And all because Eurasia runs east-west instead of north-south. Were it not for that phenomenon, which I learned last night while driving up here and listening to Germs, Guns and Steel, the Fate of Human Society by Jared Diamond, there would be no California Coastal Commission.

That twist of God's hand or fate (your choice; I know mine) allowed thought, invention, weapons, governance and germs to spread quickly through wind bands of compatible climate zones from Ireland to Japan, whereas in Africa and the Americas, bands of desert and jungle stopped progress in its track.

More important than human invention, Eurasia's axis was responsible for the development of truly great and powerful diseases, and resistance to them, so we could more easily conquer African and American civilizations and impose our own.

That lay of geography led to the rise of our type of civilization, our bureaucracies, our weapons, our dominance -- and it led to the California Coastal Commission, which wouldn't exist even still today if Eurasia didn't run east-west.

Oh, we'd probably stop bashing ourselves over the head with stones and start doing it with regulatory tomes eventually, but we wouldn't be there yet.

I'd trade where I am today for a simpler role in the bands or tribes that preceded this mess, but only through tomorrow. Once our hearing is over, I'd want to go back to all the niftyness Eurasia's orientation has brought us.

(Like, for example, the nifty gadgets the incredible family got me for Fathers Day. One was my own iPod, finally, into which I downloaded the book from iTunes. The other was the car player, which replaced my unused CD multi-disk player, and now plays my iPod content over the car's stereo system, with each former CD setting now an iPod setting.

(It's as if the Eurasians got busy in my glove box, defeated/infected the indigenous, backward American/African CD tribe and imposed something new and magnificent in its place.)

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