This land is your land, this land’s not my land

I have found the concept of localism intriguing for some time now. Having lived in various locales around the country, I’ve experienced different levels of native pride, from the “Born and Raised Here” bumper stickers to semi-violent barstool arguments.
During my commute to work today I spotted several out-of-town plates: Iowa, Kansas, Jersey, Illinois, Nebraska — all in a seven-mile stretch down the Coast Highway. A few non-native drivers had surfboards strapped to their roofs, windows down, scanning the surf for a decent break. I then noticed how crowded a particularly crappy break was. The kid from Kansas cut me off to nab the last parking spot.
Perhaps localism is born when folks reside in an awe-inspiring landscape, be it in the mountains or by the sea, and they are asked to make room for the new guy. Sharing is not always favorable, especially when it involves a thing of beauty. I certainly wouldn’t share my lady, for example, so locals shouldn’t be expected to share San Diego. Right?
Maybe locals can remember a time when they surfed an isolated break or skied a deserted slope; a time before the second or third mass exodus west, when they didn’t have to jockey for a spot in the lineup with a surfer from Kansas.
What exactly makes one a local? If you were born here, raised here and educated here, are you local? If your grandparent’s grandparents lived here, I would certainly argue yes, you are indeed a local. But from a historical context, the only true locals are of Native American descent.
Localism is more extreme in North County than most other spots I’ve called home. Colorado lands in a close second, a state that oddly enough is being bombarded with people from California.
There is something about this strip of land worth defending, it seems. Not that North County isn’t without its own fair share of problems: drought, overpopulation, crime, traffic, unemployed hippy kids camping out in trees, joggers in the bike lane. Nevertheless, we live in one of the greatest metropolitan areas in the country (a biased observation indeed, but I’m fairly confident places like Fargo, N.D., are not on pace with San Diego’s population growth, and there’s a reason why).
However, with a steady increase in population comes a seemingly disproportionate increase in development. You don’t have to be a local to get pissed about that one. If you’ve been in San Diego for a while, you’ve more than likely seen a few of your favorite undeveloped spots disappear, consumed by the massive influx of newcomers. It is precisely because of San Diego’s appeal that the city may meet its eventual demise.
I don’t blame anyone for longing to live west of the Rockies. This landscape fires you up and diminishes your ego; swallows you whole and inspires you. There’s an epic adventure around every corner. You could literally spend a lifetime exploring a small chunk of the western seaboard.
From an environmental perspective, we should all leave. The Colorado River is now an ill waterway, having been pumped and dammed and diverted for too many years. Doesn’t it say something about cities like Los Angeles, San Diego and Phoenix that rely on imported water to survive? Leaving is a hard sell for the millions of transplants turned locals who have built a foundation out west. It’s not going to happen.
In the meantime, keep in mind locals rule the turf around here. Well, kind of. Buy them a beer, ask about life before I-5, and for crying out loud, don’t root for your hometown team when they’re playing the Chargers.


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