Ballona Institute Publication 10 September 2018

Santa Monica Trees Lost and Biodiversity Loss 75 Years Ago:
Environmental History - Psychology - Ethics

Robert Jan van de Hoek, President
Ballona Institute
Los Angeles, California 90293
September 10, 2018

          Between Santa Monica sidewalks and streets, known as parkways, from 1944 to 1956, tree biodiversity declined by 30 species as documented and reported sadly by George Hastings in both of his self-published tree books of a decade apart in time. These two books provide an early urban baseline to show that Santa Monica was losing tree biodiversity, not as a result of climate change but instead as a consequence of habitat destruction by humans for home construction and commercial development.
          George Hastings essentially provided us with an early environmental assessment, also known as environmental history, environmental psychology and environmental ethics. George Hastings began this new urban vegetation research from his home on Nineteenth Street in Santa Monica after migration from New York upon his retirement as an educator and scientist. The Ballona Institute has copies of these two books in our archives, but the libraries of Santa Monica College and the City of Santa Monica have several copies of these books as well as UCLA.

          George Hastings listed the 30 species of lost trees of Santa Monica, on pages 8-9 of his 1956 book, with a brief preface: "The following trees listed in the first edition were not found in preparing the present one:"

Spanish Fir ..... Blueleaf Wattle..... Black Wattle..... Silver Wattle..... Pearl Acacia..... Screwpod Acacia..... Cherimoya...... Banksia........ Western Catalpa....... Coulteria...... Akee Tree...... Illyare....... White Ironbark...... Woollybut..... Desert Mallee..... Swamp Mahogany..... Coral Gum..... Punjab Fig...... Green Ash..... Honey Locust..... Curly Palm..... California Black Walnut..... Red Cedar..... Sausage Tree..... Palo Verde..... Umbu..... Douglas Fir..... Smooth Sumac..... Bottle Tree..... Common Bald Cypress

          The loss of George Hastings with his death in 1964, only 7 years after the second edition of his book left a void in knowledge, but only a decade later, circa 1970, Grace Heintz began her two decades of studying the trees of Santa Monica, giving us a third and fourth baseline in her 1976 and 1989 books respectively. The combined years of study of George Hastings and Grace Heintz spanned approximately 50 years, and now the torch has been passed onto me for the last 20 years and in their environmental spirit, I present one installment of my research and passion for trees in Santa Monica on the coast of Los Angeles County, California. The environment of Santa Monica is shown here to be in an early decline, roughly 75 years ago as measured by the biodiversity loss of trees. Both Grace Heintz and now my data show a continuing loss of biodiversity of tree species in Santa Monica. For example, both George and Grace included the California native Giant Sequoia tree in their combined 4 books, but a careful field inspection by me resulted in sadness, disappointment, fear and anger that the Giant Sequoia was lost in all their many locations including on the campus of Santa Monica College.
          My conclusion is that the natural and cultural environment continues to become more sterile each year in Santa Monica with the loss of abundance of unpruned big trees and species number as a measure of biodiversity, and yet the myth grows larger that Santa Monica is an environmental city, but clearly not sustainable with regard to tree biodiversity, as I have learned this past year at City Council and City Commission meetings.