Oh, I Left My Heart in San Diego County

May Great Story by Fanny Yang, Bay Area Climate Fellow

My partner and I went snorkeling for the first time during Memorial Day Weekend and I’m not sure how, but spending almost every day in the ocean reminded me how much I had, in the past, valued the existence of a perfectly, beautiful, ocean landscape and the marine ecosystems that came with it. In the small and compact town of Avalon, located on the southeastern side of Santa Catalina Island, I fell in love with the clear, pristine water, and the colorful marine animals in it. Despite the numerous snorkeling mishaps with my mask either constantly slipping heavily down my head, or fogging up so that I couldn’t see in front of me, I came away besotted and determined to revisit the island in the future and to be in the presence of the bright orange Garibaldi fish and dark green sea basses again. We spent 2 out of the 3 days there literally swimming with the fishes, stalking them in their sea kelp homes, and creating “feeding frenzies” by accidentally dropping excessive amounts of food into the water.

On the 4th and 5th day of our trip, we spent the remainder of it in San Diego County, specifically in Carlsbad, revisiting my partner’s childhood memories. It was driving between LA County, where his grandma lived, and San Diego County, where I really saw the difference between the Bay Area and Southern California. San Diego County was warm, even on the most overcast of days, its beaches teemed with people surfing and families enjoying the warm soft sand. By the ocean, the houses and landscapes were rich, modern, relaxed. The streets were littered with joggers, open restaurants, and cars. Oh, there were a lot of cars. On the last day, as we drove out of LA County, the traffic and winding roads caught up with us. It was like being in San Francisco, but with meaner and rougher drivers weaving left and right in the early morning rush. By the time afternoon rolled around, all the exhaust from the cars formed a thick blanket of smog above our heads. Luckily, we escaped it rather quickly and sped home on I-5.

Now only weeks after the trip, I’m already itching to return to the sunny oceans and to the possibility of making a difference in San Diego instead of the Bay Area. The Bay Area has become saturated with environmental leaders, leaving the rest of the state barren. Entering into a region where styrofoam take out boxes and cups were still being used, where plastic bags were given out for free, where there is no efficient mode of public transit, made me realize that although California is at the forefront of environmental leadership, there is still much to do in terms of communicating environmental messages with individual cities and regions.