Free the Beach

The struggle to preserve public access to the beach is spreading across the nation from California to Connecticut and from Florida to the Great Lakes. California’s beaches belong to all the people. The wealthy rich prick beachfront enclave of Malibu and media mogul David Geffen nevertheless filed suit to cut off the people’sright to reach the beach. A Newport Beach city councilmember opposes improvements to a public beach because “with grass we usually get Mexicans coming in there early in the morning and they claim it as theirs and it becomes their personal, private grounds all day.” People of color and low-income people suffer first and worst from the efforts to privatize public beaches. While eighty percent of the 34 million people of California live within an hour of the coast, disproportionately White and wealthy homeowners stand to benefit from the privatization of this public good, while communities of color and low-income communities are disproportionately denied the benefit of coastal access.

Beaches are not a luxury. Beaches are a public space that provide a different set of rhythms to renew public life. Beaches are a democratic commons that bring people together as equals. People swim and splash in the waves, “people watch,” surf, wile away the afternoon under an umbrella, scamper between tide pools, or gaze off into the sunset. Public access to the beach is integral to democracy and equality. Rio de Janeiro, like Los Angeles, is marked by some of the greatest disparities between wealth and poverty in the world. Yet Rio’s famous beaches are open to all, rich and poor, Black and White. The beach in Rio is the great equalizer. California’s world famous beaches must also remain public for all, not the exclusive province of the rich and famous. The Connecticut Supreme Court has recognized the First Amendment right of non-residents to use a public beach against efforts by the city of Greenwhich to restrict access to its residents. A New Jersey appellate court has recognized the right of public access to reach the beach at a private club under the public trust doctrine. A Michigan court, however, has recently limited public access to the beach along Lake Michigan. In Florida, 60% of the “public” beaches are now “private.”

In order to make a difference before it gets to late The center For the law and Public Justice along with the Surfrider foundation have put together a “Free the Beach” campaign. For more information go to http://www.surfrider.org/media5.asp

Patagonia Wetsuits

Not for the first time, Yvon Chouinard, founder of Patagonia graces the cover of business magazine. It’s hard to ignore a company that’s been around for 30 something years, gives away pots of money to rowdy environment activists, drops best selling lines for greener ones, yet still makes $270 million USD a year. We glean from the article that Patagonia are working on a new wetsuit design. A non-petroleum neoprene made from crushed limestone with “a lining of recycled polyester and, of all things, organic wool.” And according to the Fortune piece, ”90 percent warmer than other wetsuits, as well as stretchier, stronger and naturally odor resistant.” Chouinard is quoted “We’re getting [back] into the surf market, because it’s never going to snow again, and the waves are going to get bigger and bigger.” The neoprene outer is of 80% non-petroleum based ingredients. (Fortune Mag reckoned it was made with crushed limestone but the Patagonia site is coy on that aspect.) The inner lining is a chloride-free merino wool grid bonded to recycled polyester. Kneepads are PVC-free and are said to be more durable and grippier. Coming for both men and women in 2mm and 3mm versions, to span water temps from 48 to 65°F (9 to 18°C). Long and shortie styles, although limited availability just now.

On the greener of business he remarks, “I’m blown away by Wal-Mart. If Wal-Mart does one-tenth of what they say they’re going to do, it will be incredible. And hopefully America will get a government that we need rather than one we deserve, that will put pressure on business to clean up its act. But the most powerful pressure will come from the consumer. Oh, my God, it’s going to be really powerful.”

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