Photo by Jack GouldIt might have been infuriating to witness Tom Wilson walking into the Jan. 22 meeting of the Sierra Club and telling a Unitarian Church full of environmentalists about his "passion" for the preservation of Orange County's dwindling natural space and indigenous species. Oh, he's passionate, all right. Wilson has spent his political life—first as mayor of Laguna Niguel, now as a member of the county Board of Supervisors—sniffing around the back pockets of land developers, voting in favor of their rapacious projects and then rationalizing the degradation of the air, land, water and wildlife.
But before anybody could get pissed, Wilson elaborated on his position.
"I believe it's essential to protect the flora and fauna," he said, smugly scanning the room he was schmoozing—until his face suddenly froze in seeming fear that he had made a mistake. "And the critters!" he added quickly. "Of course, we can't forget the critters."
Of course, wehadn't. But Wilson's passion for the environment is so contrived and his knowledge so elementary that he didn't even know that "fauna" means"critters." Flora and fauna are plants and animals.
Infuriating? Not judging by the sedate reaction of the Sierra Clubbers, who nodded in quiet deference as Wilson went on and on for about a half-hour—and then lobbed mostly softball questions at him during another half-hour of Q&A. The club had billed this as an opportunity to question the South County supervisor about pressing environmental issues.
But although Wilson bragged about his "unswerving and laser-like" Coastal Coalition, nobody asked him why the powerless advisory group is mostly stacked with developers, the few environmentalists seemingly included for decoration. There was no mention of the law the Coastal Coalition almost pushed through the state Legislature that would have curbed the environmental enforcement powers of many government agencies.
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After Wilson raved about his new, "enhanced" planning process (called SCORE: South County Outreach Review Effort), nobody questioned whether the supposedly increased public input will really alter the Rancho Mission Viejo Co.'s intention to strip-mine 14,000 more homes into the flora and fauna—and critters—he claims to be so passionate about.
When Wilson mentioned his "one little difference of opinion" with the environmentalists in the room—his support for the proposed 16-mile toll road that would not only roar through open land, but also a state park (San Onofre) and California's only pristine stream south of Malibu (San Mateo Creek)—most of them cut him some slack, balancing that against his opposition to the El Toro International Airport.
By the time it was over, anybody who really cared about the environment had long since let go of any anger with Wilson, whose half-baked presentation was by turns embarrassing and laughable.
But the Sierra Club members and their hour of politely passive-to-the-point-of-catatonia "defense" of the environment? Now thatwas infuriating. Unless they missed Wilson's "flora and fauna—and critters" faux pas. Come to think of it, not one of them pointed it out.