Kill Joshua trees for a desert solar project? Readers want none of it

by Admin
Kill Joshua trees for a desert solar project? Readers want none of it

It’s been a while since we’ve had such an outpouring for something that doesn’t have to do with Donald Trump: Dozens of readers wrote letters to the editor expressing dismay over the construction of a solar power project in the Mojave Desert — reported by The Times’ Melody Petersen — that requires the destruction of 3,500 Joshua trees.

This is understandable. Joshua trees mark the desert Southwest in a way that perhaps only the saguaro can match. Existing within a specific elevation window of the Mojave Desert — a window that’s closing because of climate change — the plants act as a kind of unmistakable natural border between metropolitan Los Angeles and the high desert. Who doesn’t take note of the first Joshua tree they see when driving out of L.A. on the Cajon Pass or the 14 Freeway?

But we’ve gone far enough down the climate change road that we must now consider trade-offs, and this is one of them. Humanity must cut its carbon emissions, solar energy helps us get there, and there are fewer better places to generate solar energy than the sun-drenched Mojave Desert. Readers pleading for the survival of Joshua trees suggest alternatives such as more urban rooftop solar and conservation.

This isn’t the first environmental trade-off made in the battle against climate change. My hope is that the Joshua tree doesn’t end up alongside the grizzly bear as iconic California species that have been killed off.


To the editor: The photo of a 150-to-200-year-old Joshua tree with your article on the Aratina Solar Project caused my throat to seize up.

Why aren’t the 180,000 homes in the coastal neighborhoods that will receive the power installing rooftop solar? I have rooftop solar, and it doesn’t detract from the beauty of my home. Why are threatened Joshua trees and endangered desert tortoises being sacrificed for homes so far away?

The well-being of citizens in Boron and adjacent small towns will also be sacrificed for the benefit of wealthier neighborhoods. Why is discovery of a toxic fungus in the soil being ignored?

This isn’t “saving the planet.” I believe in expanding renewable energy sources, but the quick fix — bulldoze, shred and clear a large section of land for households miles away — is lazy and thoughtless.

Rooftop solar is the answer.

Starflower Thomson, Joshua Tree, Calif.


To the editor: Most of us environmentally concerned people in the desert Southwest knew from the get-go that this “save the planet” ethos was only going to go as far as NIMBYism and corporate greed would let it.

An environmentalist in the Northeast who would be horrified at the removal of trees in a forest would not be so moved by mass destruction of cactus habitat in California’s desert.

An eco-concerned denizen of grizzly bear country is not going to become apoplectic about elimination of rattlesnake or tortoise habitat in Arizona.

Too many Americans view the desert as a wasteland. Why do you think they built and tested nukes in New Mexico?

Destruction of Joshua trees ostensibly to serve the greater good is immoral. It is a failure to recognize that the California Public Utilities Commission (CPUC) is not protecting the public, and that we have plenty of already developed (and therefore destroyed) habitats mainly in urban areas that are not being utilized for energy production.

We need to incentivize rooftop solar so homeowners and others can afford solar installation costs. Why, exactly, does the CPUC exist?

Denys Arcuri, Indio


To the editor: Joshua trees, indeed most trees, deserve saving. So do desert animals.

But let’s be clear: If we hope to slow, and eventually stop, global warming, we must stop burning fossil fuels and transition to clean, renewable energy generated by wind, water and the sun.

Building solar farms wherever we can is about saving humans, not killing trees or desert critters. The planet will survive global warming; human beings will not.

Fortunately, scientists at Stanford University have created renewable energy road maps for all 50 states and, to date, more than 150 other countries to guide the world in making the transition. It’s time to welcome clean energy infrastructure, not oppose it.

Cort Casady, Palos Verdes Peninsula


To the editor: I don’t think destroying a natural habitat to provide electricity to human beings is a good trade-off. Conservation could be another path forward.

The Joshua trees and the desert dwellers (including the human ones) have a right to exist too. Furthermore, as time goes on, we humans (8 billion of us) may end up missing what else this lovely planet of ours has to offer.

John Muir had so much to say about the importance of wilderness to the human soul. For instance:

“The battle we have fought, and are still fighting, for the forests is a part of the eternal conflict between right and wrong, and we cannot expect to see the end of it. … So we must count on watching and striving for these trees, and should always be glad to find anything so surely good and noble to strive for.”

Erica Hahn, Monrovia


To the editor: When you wander around Scotland and Germany, two of the least sunny locations on the planet, the ubiquity of rooftop solar installations is almost shocking. How is this possible?

They take climate mitigation personally. California obviously does not.

Here in sunny California, where there are thousands of acres of rooftops waiting to be solarized, private equity gets the go-ahead to destroy a pristine desert area with endangered plants and animals and only powerless poor people as neighbors.

A private equity-owned developer is about to build this massive solar facility to serve wealthy coastal areas, and we are letting that happen? What is the matter with this state?

Not one more massive solar project should be built until the solar potential of every single rooftop has been exhausted, right where the energy is needed.

Sara R. Nichols, Los Angeles


To the editor: As the late Huell Howser explained years ago, it’s not just the Joshua tree that is endangered, but the habitat it provides to the reptiles, insects, birds and small mammals of the desert.

Can’t another site be found for the proposed solar plant? We need clean energy, but it takes many years for Joshua trees to grow and proliferate.

If it were just a few trees, that might be acceptable — but destroying thousands seems like a crime.

Kathleen Trinity, Acton


To the editor: The members of Kern County’s Board of Supervisors should be ashamed of themselves and voted out of office for approving the profit-grabbing project that will destroy old-growth Joshua trees and protected wildlife habitat.

Who is the private equity firm building the plant to claim that the benefits outweigh this horrible desecration of our natural treasures? The fact it plans to shred trees on site to avoid visibility and backlash proves the nefarious nature of this project.

This type of development should not be part of California’s path to clean energy, and the project should be stopped immediately.

Peter Fennema, West Los Angeles

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