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During the peak of COVID, beach campers and birds shared space. Photo by Chris Ahrens
Columns Waterspot

Waterspot: What I’ve learned from the pandemic

Stuck in traffic, I glance at the California Highway sign ironically boasting, “Keeping San Diego moving.”

The notice was an anticipated response to the widening of the freeway (again), a project estimated to take several years, or just enough time before we have to widen the road again.

Just when the powers that be announced we were about to move into a green new future, some bureaucrats came along and poured more cement onto the problem.

It’s a simple equation — the highway gets wider, and living space for humans and wildlife gets smaller.

Like some of you who will admit it, I rode on a non-polluting monorail at Disneyland back in 1958! Monorails were supposed to be the future and I have never received a reasonable response as to why such an efficient, quiet, clean mode of transportation does not now run directly down I-5 and El Camino Real from San Diego to Eureka.

Could it be that the ghost of those entities who bought and buried the largest mass transit system in the world, the Pacific Electric Railway (naughty, naughty Standard Oil and Firestone Tires) are still at work to keep us hooked on fossil fuels.

Not that I am anti-transportation or automobiles. I love those big, loud, art deco masterpieces whose peak occurred in the early ’60s when a Cadillac’s wingspan could block traffic for miles.

The new cars are more practical, less stylish, and, for the most part, boring, and while they reduce carbon, they require cement or asphalt to go anywhere.

And, I hate to break it to you, but your Prius, for all the good it may do, will never be a classic.

Sorry, I think I just took a long left turn from the main point of this article. Okay, I’m back and will now tie this story into its title.

It’s been over a year since El Camino Real went silent and the only sounds to be heard from my house, which is a few hundred yards away, were those of songbirds and crickets who had moved back into the neighborhood.

The beaches were no different with more seabirds on the beach than even the oldest of old-timers could ever remember. The golf course next door became a luxury condominium inhabited by bullfrogs, turtles and egrets that reclaimed the land they had once dominated.

Driving to downtown San Diego on Sunday had not been this enjoyable since the early ’70s “gas crisis” kept the majority of the population at home on the Lord’s Day.

Of course I am glad that we are making progress against the dreaded C-19 and that small businesses are again open. Like most of you, I am no fan of particle masks or distancing from loved ones.

Still, wouldn’t it be nice if all our communal suffering were good for something?

If we took a day or two off from driving and running back and forth and gave nature a break and returned a percentage of what we have stolen over the past few centuries?

Why not give it a try? We have nothing to lose but the dull hum spewing from our mighty mind machines.

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