SoCal loses out to NoCal on green dollars
|February 4, 2012 - It's not fair, Steve Scauzillo and Brian Sheridan say. The northerners get more green funding. Where's justice?|
|THESE are fighting words.|
Brian Sheridan, the thoughtful development and marketing manager with the Council for Watershed Health in Los Angeles, did an admittedly non-scientific study of green cash - cash for environmental causes - in California.
As it turns out, more money goes to Northern California than to Southern California.
The discrepancy is huge - bigger than the gap between Romney and Gingrich delegates.
Last year, there were 113 foundations focused on environmental causes in San Francisco that awarded $8.3 million in grants. In the Los Angeles region, Sheridan counted 97 foundations focusing on environmental causes for about $3.6 million in grants.
Northern California gets more than twice as much green cash than Southern California. If you ran these numbers per capita, they would be even more unjust, since we all know there are a lot more people in Southern California. According to the U.S. Census, SoCal has about 23.4 million while Northern California has a population of 14.8 million.
More green funds for parks, river restoration, bike paths, hillside preservation, clean air, energy-efficient automobiles, etc. would benefit more people if these organizations would look south when opening their wallets.
Wow. I had no idea this divide existed.
I know about the coast-vs-inland bias. It would seem that if the count went further, we'd find more of Southern California's environmental organizations nearer to the coast than inland. And though Sheridan did not run these numbers with this factor in mind, I'm guessing he would find more green sticking to the coast than inland rivers and inland hillsides.
But let's stick to the facts.
"If you ask a lot of people in the nonprofit community, they'll tell you there is definitely a discrepancy North vs. South," Sheridan said. "There are a lot of reasons for this."
Well, that's what I wanted to know. Why is environmental funding another thing we can add to the list that Southern Californians and Northern Californians fight about?
Sheridan and the Council for Watershed Health began tackling the problem of not enough environmental funding flowing south on Tuesday, when they brought together 70 people from green nonprofits, governmental agencies and educational institutions to listen to a panel of funders talk about the how and why of getting a project grant.
At the table were Boeing and IBM and Power 106 and others, which all do a good job of handing out grant money to worthy green projects or organizing green events like bike rides and tree plantings. They gave out advice and the nonprofits took notes. It was a good marriage.
I participated in a panel of environmental writers, bloggers and TV journalists in talking about getting these worthy projects some publicity and educating the public about clean water, recycling, trees, mountains and what I like to call "restoration."
Sheridan asked some good questions and I made some new contacts, like Cathy Morrison, director of the new Pasadena Community Gardens, a group trying to bring more edible gardens to public spaces in Pasadena.
But for every fresh face I saw, there was the nagging question: Why is it harder for SoCal groups to get environmental grants than their Northern California cohorts, or almost any other part of the country?
Sheridan said it's part of the East Coast bias. More funders based in Boston and New York or D.C. like to give to San Francisco groups because they see the City by the Bay as more like their own cities and see Los Angeles as too western, beset with sprawl and smog.
Seems like those are the very reasons why we need more green money, not less.
It's true. People from the East Coast roll their eyes when they hear about restoring the L.A. River or the San Gabriel River, he said. Heck, I write about it and people here often do the same.
"It's all about perception," Sheridan said.
And local governments, local groups and just our 2 million San Gabriel Valley people must change that perception. Credit the Council for getting the ball rolling. But the first step is for these organizations to work together.
"In Southern California, as a group we have a stronger voice," Sheridan said.
Steve Scauzillo covers the environment and the communities along the Puente Hills. He's the current recipient of the Aldo Leopold Award for Distinguished Editorial Writing from The Wilderness Society. Follow him on Twitter @stevscaz/twitter.com or email him at email@example.com