Not everyone loves the green life, but that doesn't mean they can't live lightly on the planet

Monday, August 12, 2013
Carole Mintzer Angeles Chapter Chair

Every summer I join my family for a week of fishing and relaxation along a lake shore in northern Michigan. It’s always a pleasant time, much of it spent sitting in the shade of a big pine tree talking and catching up after a year apart.  

But it also reminds me that they don’t share my passion for protecting the environment and trying to adopt a sustainable lifestyle – in fact, they see it as a tad weird. They tell me they can’t remember to take reusable bags to the store; it’s not practical to dry clothes on a line; composting takes too much effort; there’s plenty of oil in the ground so they don’t really need to conserve gas; all this stuff about carbon emissions and climate change is just a bunch of alarmist rhetoric.  Sigh…

I try not to preach to my family – I know they have very different views on environmental stewardship.  But I do cheer them on when they adopt a change that is beneficial, even if environmental action is not their driving force.  

For example, my niece bought a Honda Insight this year, primarily because it made economic sense for her, not because she thinks using less gas is a good thing. Another niece takes public transportation mostly because it beats driving a car around a big city.  My brother put up solar panels at his house to save money on his electric bill.  My nephew, a truck driver, is opposed to the Keystone pipeline because he has seen the effects of the oil spill in Michigan.  He doesn’t care about global warming or climate change, but he hates to see natural areas harmed.

My point is that if we really want to make a difference, we have to talk to people outside our bubble of environmentalism in terms they care about and in ways that don’t raise their hackles.  

There’s a big difference between sharing ideas and preaching, between setting examples and demanding that everyone follow suit.Is it really necessary for people to be alarmed about climate change in order for them to change how they get around, or consume less energy? Or is it enough for them to take positive action because it’s more convenient and saves them money? People may start taking their own bags to the store when plastic bags are banned, but not many are motivated by thinking about the infinite life of plastic.

I don’t have the answers, but these are things I think about after a week with my family – real folk – who aren’t part of my choir of environmental activists and never will be. But that doesn’t mean we can’t keep talking to one another.

Carole Mintzer is chair of the Angeles Chapter's Executive Committee.


Dear Carole,
Thank you for taking the time to read my situation. I am a resident of (an HOA in SoCal). It is on approx. 1.5 acres. In June of 2012 I planted 8 dwarf fruit trees on my property. Approximately 1 month later I received a legal letter from (the HOA) attorney that I had planted the trees in a open space restrictions. she sent me the declaration and a rough diagram as to what and where the offense(s) were. However,the declaration has a caveat in it that reads : a homeowner may request a variance and submit it to the board. I did that. Nothing was said until a year later that the board denied my request, and I was given 30 days to remove my dwarf fruit trees and if I didn't : they will pursue all legal remedies to remove them. no explanation was given as to why my dwarf trees were denied, just an ultimatum. I believe the exception of consideration of the rule would be for this exact situation! Planting dwarf fruit trees for fresh fruit (organic) with a water conserving drip system, I cleared this small area(approx. 20'x30') to plant the trees and I removed weeds(potential fire hazard) lowered my carbon footprint and beautified the area. I have had erosion and slippage on my property and initially planted the trees to hold and stabilize the hillside. All of this information has been given to the Atty and the board. I have since researched my rights and found that it is a requirement for the Board to be fair ,reasonable and expeditious in their pursuit, and that they must give me an explanation as to why I was denied. They have not done this. I also requested a boundary line survey as to where I may relocate the trees on my property, (as opposed to killing my trees) and replanting them. The supplied map is inadequate and may lead to further disputes unless the areas are exactly located. Also I'm actually researching and have quotes of putting a solar system on my home, (further lowering my carbon footprint) However I'm afraid the board will file charges against me for that also. I care about my environment and I work to have a environmentally friendly area. I have requested the Board and any other concerned parties come to the property for a internal dispute resolution to view and discuss their concerns.BTW the trees have no effect on any neighbor for height ,view, etc. What I'm requesting from you is any legal rights and or ideas you and the sierra club can offer me to help me save my trees and lower my carbon footprint. On a personal note, I feel I'm being treated unfairly by HOA and the board.
thank you for your help in advance.
Art Benner

Editor's Note: The message above has been edited to remove the HOA name and address and attorney name and phone number.

The Sierra Club Angeles Chapter and its volunteer activists do not enter into disputes between residents living on and/or owning neighboring properties in California.  We care about trees, but you need to get your own lawyer.  

Good luck! 

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