According to Harvard scientist, Dr. Edward O. Wilson, expert on why species go extinct, the sobering fact is that we are in an extinction crisis, human activity having put us in the midst of a biological catastrophe. Dr. Wilson also says, “Each endangered species has a name and a million year history, they are our companions in the biosphere, they are part of our existence, part of us. It is important to make endangered species a vivid presence in the lives of regular people, to make it clear that they also have a place in the world.”
After much reflection and prayer, I decided upon a symbolic nonviolent action, to show my opposition to Malibu’s largest development to date, in the Civic Center area, Malibu’s historical wetland floodplain. I knew I was taking a risk, but I had to act. I decided on the element “water” from Malibu’s own wetlands at Civic Center Way.
As I was filling my 40-gallon bucket with the nutrient rich soil and water from Egret Pond, I thought about exactly what a wetland does for our community. The wetlands act as a natural filter system, they serve as a nursery for fish, provide a refuge for birds, soak up rainwater, purify the air, they are habitat, providing food and homes to 55 percent of California’s endangered and threatened species. Ninety-five percent of the historical wetlands in Southern California have been lost.
Saturday, 11-14-98, was the first day of an exhibition of a model to show the public Malibu Bay Company’s idea for this sensitive habitat; shopping center, townhouses, offices, parking lots and to appease the environmentalist their drainage ditch will be made into a “water element” and plenty of trees will be planted.
Enacting what might happen in a flood I poured my bucket of water on the model, and although I was immediately asked to leave, I stayed and was exposed to the wrath of some of my neighbors. The police were called to the scene. They told me if I did not apologize and pay for the damage I caused I was facing the possibility of being taken down town to jail for several nights, misdemeanor vandalism charges, being sued in small claims court and to top it off, the possibility of being exiled, for life, from the Ralphs/Hughes Shopping Center.
Wanting to make a strong statement for preserving this endangered habitat, I told the officers I would not apologize, nor would I pay. I would be responsible for my actions and accept the consequences.
“The renewal of society will come when we can imagine it differently, and when we are ready like artists, to take on the actual work of creating new forms.” — M.C. Richards.
All of life is sacred and connected. I pray we can leave something for future generations.
“While there is a remnant, however small, who cares intensely for the quality of the community’s life, there’s is hope.” — William Sloan Coffin.