Wednesday, August 17, 2011

The Town I Live In: The Oil Field

When I was a kid growing up in Fullerton, I lived at 2017 Beechwood Drive, right behind State College Blvd.

For many years, there was a huge abandoned oil field right next to my house. I would play in that field, exploring, trying to shoot jackrabbits with my slingshot. Once I got two Russian hamsters at a garage sale and, when I realized that I did not like Russian hamsters (they bite), I set them free in the field.

Some time in the mid-90s, a massive gated housing development was built where that oil field was. I couldn’t play there anymore.

I have watched, over the last 25 years, as development companies (often subsidiaries of big oil companies) have bulldozed, graded, paved, and built cookie-cutter houses on nearly every inch of open space in Fullerton.

Usually, as part of their development agreement with the city council (who often take campaign contributions from developers), these big companies will build a small park here and there. How nice of them. The parks, to me, are like tragic little monuments of what used to be—open space.

From a bit of research and my own observations, I have learned that land use in Fullerton has gone something like this:

First, the native Americans lived here, in relative harmony with the land. Their impact was minimal.

Then, white settlers used the land for agriculture.

Then, oil companies used the land to drill oil.

Then, development companies built houses and shopping centers.

With the exception of the Native Americans, everyone who “owns” the land treats it like a whore, or a cash machine, whichever metaphor you prefer. The land is seen, through capitalist eyes, as a commodity to be exploited for maximum profit.

There is one last stretch of open space left in Fullerton—Coyote Hills, and City Council just voted to let another big developer build lots of houses on it. Thankfully, there is a group that is circulating a petition to let the citizens vote on this issue, rather than the City Council, most of whom took contributions from the company who wants to develop.

I would suggest that we listen to the Native Americans, because they seemed to take a more reverent view of the land, but there are no native Americans left here to listen to. We drove them off because they didn’t understand the concept of land ownership. They were so foolish.

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