Do humans really need access to every place on Earth?

There is a wonderful op-ed in the LA Times that Nadine Clark sent me last night. It is written by a Pulitzer prize winning author. She asks the question — Do humans really need access to every place on earth? She asks this after we lost 150’ of highway into the ocean. She uses Heath Johnston’s now famous photograph to headline this op-ed piece. It is short, but a fine piece of writing.

“Sometimes I wonder if people even belong in the world’s most fragile and beautiful places. The other day, my cousin, who lives in St. Louis, told me we should leave California — that I should be wary of the fires, the earthquakes, the mudslides. He told me that living in the state is becoming too risky because of overpopulation and climate change. And then I went out and looked at the glen above our house, at the deer trotting through, pausing to glance at me, at the ground squirrels, the sparrows, and the hawks floating on the breeze.

Why don’t I leave? What am I waiting for? Well, the daffodils that are blooming and the lupine soon to come. I have never lived anywhere like this.”

She lives on the Monterey Peninsula, I would guess from her writing. You can find the rest of her op-ed piece here:

29 thoughts on “Do humans really need access to every place on Earth?

  1. It’s a thought-crime to wonder whether people should lose their Highway 1

  2. A thoughtful piece containing many sentiments that I also hold. Yet it’s flowery description of the area and the sense of adventure it lends to driving Highway 1 seems to serve as at least as much of an enticement, an invitation, as it is a caution.

  3. A good, poetic-like read (except trees don’t usually lean into the wind).
    The truth is, articles- even this one- will encourage more visitors to see Big Sur for themselves.
    Maybe not what Jane intended, but she probably got a small stipend.
    (I get pessimistic sometimes.)

  4. Big Sur – Hwy 1 – A slice of Heaven on Earth! Maybe God is trying to tell us that we are ruining Heaven!

  5. Amazed on a daily basis the push of tourism to Big Sur. It’s small and remote. Its beautiful but won’t be pristine for long. I know tourism is important to their survival but when you have tens of thousands of tourists that will do anything to get there pooping on the roadside enough is enough. BBQs at any turn out that will fit a car. Ruination is how I describe it.

  6. Thank you goddess mother Nature.Big Sur needs a break from everyone who does not respects her. Sometimes it makes life a little harder but in the same breath life slows down and you can breath again..

  7. I am reminded, of the use of wild animals for the use of Circus’s. The Circus industry claims, that they use the ‘Wild’ animals for the purpose of enlightening the public, to the value of these wild animal’s, whilst it is truly killing more of them than we know, & if not physically, certainly killing &/or diminishing their Spirit’s, & natural way of living in Nature. We know, that we have for way too long, put the satisfaction of our selve’s first, before the precious animal’s, & before Mother Nature.

    I do understand astrologically, that we are in a time of great transition, where our way’s of operandi will be changing, & greatly, as the collective consciousness only grows.
    And, Thank Goodness!

  8. I too thought it was very well written when I first read it, and I still do. But I also have to agree with Wally’N’Cats. Thank you for being pessimistic and pointing this out to all of us folks in Big Sur!! Poetic License?

  9. Forgive me, but when I read articles like this, or the many comments on this blog that pretend to stand up for the natural beauty of Big Sur, all I see is hypocrisy. Such a huge spotlight, often aimed by Big Sur residents, is put on the visitors and their impact… which let’s be honest, is usually no more than the eyesore of their existence. Most visitors just drive, park at some pullouts, take some selfies, and go home. Yet every one of them is looked at in disgust for being there. Many other visitors, like myself, explore the beaches, hills and backcountry and are inspired to protect the land. To truly protect it.

    And what do we want to protect it from? From the “nature caretakers” that falsely preach in comments about natural beauty and the destruction of visitors, all the while they build homes on ridge tops and bulldoze roads to them (and then demand that those roads be closed to the public), and barbwire around acre after acre and then let hundreds of cows trample all of it, or that buy up the most pristine beachfront cliffs and cover them with entire neighborhoods of fancy houses. When I walk the low tide, or run the ridges, I don’t see visitors trashing the landscape, I see private homes and roads where otherwise true wilderness would be.

    Humans absolutely do belong in the most beautiful corners of the earth. It is in our deepest being to explore and appreciate this amazing planet. And if you got out into the truly remote and pristine places then this would not even be a question. What the earth doesn’t need is to cater to wealthy private citizens who have no intention of maintaining wilderness and who only want to keep the land for themselves. So I say let’s keep (and fix) Highway One, put in some bathrooms, maintain the trail networks… and then start the discussion about the impact that private residences are having on the beauty of Big Sur and the Santa Lucia!

  10. Not all who live in Big Sur own property in Big Sur. Not all visitors that visit Big Sur trash Big Sur. But that small minority that do trash Big Sur and other areas of the world, those impacts are all felt and seen by all residents and visitors alike. Privately owned property within Big Sur is no different than privately owned property anywhere else in the United States. Than there’s the Fact that these private properties are not publicly owned, so therefore not maintained by any city or county. How would you feel if someone came to your place of residence and set up camp, built illegal campfires and left trash and human waste for you to clean up? Please read our Big Sur Land Use Plan and educate yourself on why Big Sur looks as beautiful as it does! Anyone can run or hike on any public property as long as they don’t trespass over private property to get to it … same with going to the beach!
    PS I’m love those cows at the beach and so do so many others, visitors and residents alike … beats beached whales, colorful umbrellas and trash flying about!

  11. Hear, hear, Stone Ridge! I try to come to Big Sur for one long weekend a year. There are certainly tourists who damage the environment and don’t contribute to the economy, but it seems like the locals all paint us with the same brush. Of course the folks who already “own” a piece of Big Sur (how can you “own” nature that “shouldn’t have humans” to start with?) would love to be rid of us – aside from the business owners who depend on tourist business, of course. To me, it’s one more example of the “f— you, I got mine” mentality of the heirs of such property and the uber-rich who can afford to buy in at this point.

    Big Sur should have been turned into a state or national park back in the 1980s, which would afford it some measure of protection, and might at least provide the legal framework for the sort of limits of access that residents so desperately claim to want; however, it was the residents of the time that so strongly resisted such efforts and likely had a big hand in putting the kibosh on any such efforts.

    To me, the true solution of managing humans’ impact on the environment would be to turn the most threatened parts of the Big Sur coast into a national park; let those who “own” a piece live out their years in comfort, and upon their passing, their properties would pass into federal hands, and allowed to return to their natural state. Their heirs could be compensated to some degree; perhaps what their ancestors originally paid for their properties, adjusted for inflation, plus 10% or so. After all, “property is theft,” anyway; they should be lucky to be compensated at all, considering the land was stolen from the tribes who called this land home before the white man came.

  12. True, and it’s worth noting that we all, wherever we live in this country, occupy stolen lands. And that some form of beauty that the locals strive to preserve in Big Sur existed everywhere, from New York City to Los Angeles. Every building, every fence anywhere is an outrage. It’s also worth noting that without the efforts of locals, the Big Sur coast would have long ago become lined with flashy motels, fast food joints and off-shore oil rigs.

  13. All point’s made above, are valid. The main issue, as we understand, is the ‘over-run’ of tourism, & how ti curtail it. Working together, we will correct this issue. Naming the problem is the 1st Step, & will lead us to the fix. I still like the idea, of a ‘one-direction’ traffic light, as the wait for so many cars to leave, before the other direction can go in, will deter even myself from visiting, as often as I do. ☮

  14. Or we just reduce the daytime speed limit. Idling cars at some fanciful “one way light” is horrible for the environment. Also, I like any and all ideas,but you have to look at legal precident. The easiest way to do things with the least amount of cost or impact.
    Reduction in daytime speed limit to 25 from 8 am till dark( winter time ,earlier darkness,less affect to locals)
    Simple,cost effective,little legislative action needed.
    People use thier phones for travel times and this would cut in half the number of thru cars Sf to La. Just based on the time of travel.

  15. I surely don’t appreciate, your describing my intention to be of assistance, “as fanciful!” You clearly assume, & wrongly in my experience, that people would not have the smart’s to turn off their engines, until their turn to go thru. This is a No-brainer honestly, but not to someone choosing to be Judgmental!

  16. Just looking for realistic ideas that are well thought out . Yes it’s a no brainier to turn cars off at idle. Is that the reality, people using common sense? No,otherwise we would not be having these conversations. Untill we stop nitpicking each other and stop the divisive hatred, there will never be solutions. So,let’s expolore this idea of a one way stop light. How many vehicles would be “Allowed into big sur” at any given moment? Where would this traffic que up at? Would there be a parking lot and lottery or fist come first serve? Would residents and locals have a special pass to not have to wait in que?Bathrooms or a visitor center for while you wait? And would the wait time not be just about the same if we kept the free flow of traffic going,but at a safer and more tourist friendly speed limit? How much would the que location cost to build,maintain. And how long would this all take to implement?
    Changing the speed limit requires little ,and seems to provide alot.

  17. Also anyone can call my ideas anything they want. Crazy,sane,logical,illogical.this or that and I will not take it personally. I encourage anyone and everyone to submit ideas, break the silo of thought. We need a diverse input from all walks of life to come up with solutions outside of the box that has shown itself to be ineffective.

  18. Luv this idea of a National Park! People would have to wait in their car’s, or turn & leave, if they did not want to wait, to get in. I recall recently, when Yosemite had limited the number of cars into the Park, & even closed campgrounds, due to the excessive tourism & trampling of the land.

  19. The idea of a National Park was brought up in the early 80’s and fought tooth & nail by residents and businesses alike. It may solve one problem but create a whole slew of new ones. The federal government is not known for being a good steward and then it would be subjected to the whims and fancies of which ever party was in charge. Not a good idea if you look a bit deeper.

  20. Ok. Let’s explore that idea. My main concern being time to implementation.
    Is a good read to start.
    The last national park made is in new Mexico. It took 17 years to create.
    It takes an act of congress to create a national park.
    Seems like we could be waiting a while for planning,reviews and the implementation could take decades.
    Caltran and the governor could change the speed limit, with little legislative actions,cost.
    And people like yourself who are county locals could still visit as often as you choose and not be turned off or away from by a wait or huge fees that national parks charge(you claimed in an earlier comment that you would not visit as much, needless sacrifice.)

  21. Just found online (Visit Sedona), what the communiity of Sedona, AZ did, in 2019, to manage the tourism in their beautiful town. I lived & visited there for many years, & perhaps, their solutions may help to create solutions here.

  22. Luv, that simply reducing the speed limit could do it. It is certainly worth a try, given it’s simplicity, & low cost to implement. And re my earlier comment, on not wanting to wait in a long line to get into Big Sur, I actually never visit Big Sur, for the past 20+ year’s, unless early in the week, thereby avoiding any wait. 😊

  23. Your a smart lady. I only go to town a few times a year myself and try to make it during the week,in by 5amBreakfast and sunrise at lulu’s griddle in the middle , hit the stores and back to the kingdom by a little afternoon.
    Reduction in speed limit, and enforcement of existing parking regulations(no parking on the shoulders,only at pullouts,cars left over four hours towed) I feel would have immediate impacts. On both overuse and public safety.

    Now we just need some leadership to present these ideas we all too.
    Someone accountable and honorable to lead us into the future.

    Anybody have any idea who that might be?
    Mary adams? Jimmy? Gavin? Or more local maybe marcus foster. #marcusForMayor

  24. Maybe consider, & know it’s extreme, no more parking at pull~outs. This would help to prevent loitering, littering, & your basic trampling of nature, all a problem.

  25. How bout Dave Potter, not sure tho, he may be limited to Carmel. Too much politic’s with Panetta & Newsome, in my humble opinion!

    I was thinking more on the, No more parking at pull-out’s, & the bridge came to mind, where some of the most disgusting loitering, littering, & trampling occurs. Seems to me, we are fortunate enough, just having the opportunity to drive along this gorgeous Big Sur coastline!

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