There are issues concerning an airport at El Toro that all citizens of Orange County and even Southern California should consider. There are both economic and ethical aspects that must be discussed and confronted before this project should be allowed to go forward.
To begin with, we must confront a very important question. Why do we want to become like Los Angeles? We must realize that if an airport develops at El Toro, we will become, in time, a new Los Angeles. Itís true that imitation is the highest form of flattery, but do we really want to imitate (or make worse than we have now) smog, pollution, overcrowding and even worse, congestion on the freeways? Thousands of us moved to Orange County to get away from the problems of places like New York and Los Angeles. Too many are living in denial and saying, "that would never happen here." When you pump 30,000 lbs. of new pollution into Orange County every day and you have 747 jets flying over thousands of homes every two minutes, 24 hours a day and you bottleneck the freeways so that people simply sit in their cars, you duplicate places like Los Angeles. If this airport is allowed to materialize, like Los Angeles, we will have an increase in the number of asthma cases among children, lung cancer cases will rise, large residential areas will become places no one wants to live in because of the air traffic and crime and other problems will arise.
There is still even a greater problem. It is the way in which we are developing our moral and ethical decision making process. In too many places, we are making decisions by analyzing the "Risk Benefit Ratio" and not by what is wrong or right for our neighbor. For example, a manufacturer might decide to fix a defective and unsafe product on the basis of how many lawsuits the company can withstand. When you couple that approach with the idea that in this modern time we can do anything, we can make almost anything work (organ transplants and cloning). We end up believing that all decisions can be made in this way. We say to ourselves, "So what if ten or twenty thousand people are displaced and have to move because of an airport? So what if pollution affects our health because the odds are that it will not affect me? Thatís part of doing business." When we make decisions in this way, we deny ourselves any human concern for others or even ourselves. The gasoline for this moral decision making engine, of course, is money. The end result is we make decisions that effect the lives of thousands in a very cold and calculating manner. We should then not be surprised that our children adopt the same process in their decision making process. They think to themselves "how many times can I have sex with or without a condom before I get pregnant or contract a disease?" In other words, what is the acceptable risk? They are doing just what the adults are doing. When you combine a "Risk Benefit Ratio" and money to our decision making process, you end up with a very uncaring and hard hearted result. The problem is "what goes around, comes around" to bite me in the end. We end up with a society that does not care very much about human beings. That lack of care can be found in the battles in our homes and the road rage on the freeway to the random acts of violence we are now seeing even in our schools. We have functioned so long with weighing everything in the light of acceptable risk and being motivated to do so by money that we think that all decisions can be made this way. Moreover, we never see the connection between this philosophy and how it effects our children and their moral development. This is not how our country became the great nation that it is. We became great because we honored God, worked hard and respected our neighbors.
Some would argue that this is a democracy and that the "majority rules." Our country has had a sad history of saying that truth is found in the rule of the majority. Some have used such language to support all sorts of prejudice and oppression. Many have used majority rule to argue that some should sit in the back of the bus or that others should not be allowed to use a bathroom. Those who would try to make that point, forget that we in the United State of America are a constitutional democracy. That means the majority cannot oppress a minority. Just because a group of people should lose a popular vote, does not mean they should have their rights to "life, liberty and the pursuit of happiness" infringed. The majority should always remember that if the government can force me to accept certain conditions that I do not want (like an airport), then they can force you to live with something you do not want.
How then should ethics and morality effect public policy? It seems to me that the historic Judeo Christian ethic of loving your neighbor as yourself should apply. Jesus said that all of the commandments could be summed up in the words, "love your neighbor as you love yourself." If we want to return to a more civil society, we must return to ideals that are eternal. In this debate, there is good empirical evidence to indicate that an airport at El Toro is destructive to the health and welfare of those affected. When we return to the ethical decision making processes that emphasize love and compassion, we have to question whether this should go forward. If you are honest, you would have to admit that you would not want airplanes flying over your home. You would not increase air pollution and crime in your own neighborhood. So how can we force that on others in the name of progress. At least, when the government takes your home through eminent domain, they give you fare market value for the home. With an airport at El Toro, thousands in the flight path will find that they will lose 20% equity in their homes. At some point, we have to stop and say that if I would not want it to happen to me, I cannot allow it to happen to others. That is only moral and ethical. That is only being a good neighbor.
The Reverend John R. Steward
A Pastor of the Evangelical Lutheran Church in America