Stanford Social Innovation Review has published an excerpt from Strategic Corporate Conservation Planning, which details the efforts of companies, governments, and communities to remediate polluted lands.
When Steve Shestag was growing up in the Simi Hills of southern California in the 1970s and ’80s, he knew about the Santa Susana Field Laboratory (SSFL). He knew that it was a polluted place where fuels that sent rockets to the moon were developed and tested. Now, more than thirty years later, Steve works for the Boeing Company, one of the parties responsible for cleaning up SSFL, and has discovered a deeper legacy at the site that is the very definition of a silver lining. In a twist of fate, the damage done to the site saved the historical and environmental assets from destruction by making the land unavailable to developers during the building boom that saw the suburbs of Los Angeles sprawl over the hills and valleys of Ventura County throughout the 1980s and ’90s.
Today, SSFL is a place out of time. It has an incredible density of archaeological artefacts, with one of the best-preserved, most unmolested collections of pictographs in the country. The results of archaeological studies suggest that it was once a place of ritual for local tribes to gather on the winter solstice, when sunlight flows through a slit in the rock to illuminate a pictograph. In addition, SSFL provides the last corridor for wildlife movement that connects the Santa Monica Mountains, to the south, to the Sierra Madre ranges of the Los Padres National Forest, to the north—a critical connection in a fragmented and increasingly fire-prone landscape. Once a place where fuels were tested and nuclear power was developed, SSFL is now home to an incredible array of both plant and animal species, including local populations that are under pressure, elsewhere, from development and human activity. What initially harmed SSFL now helps preserve it.