J500 Media and the Environment


About Me: Holly Eitel by hollyee

Sitting atop Kingsbury Grade, I squint as the sun burns off the morning haze across the Carson Valley in Nevada. On the other side of my condo, I look across the Lake Tahoe Basin to Mount Tallac in California. Its glacier “X” has been welcoming visitors since the first Indian tribes. I have been coming to Lake Tahoe since I was a child who loved anything outdoors. In college, I skied the slopes of the area’s great mountains, hiked into Desolation Wilderness, swam in Lake Tahoe’s crystal waters and marveled at sheer beauty of it all. On this trip to Tahoe, I am planning my own sustainability education program for my 12-year-old in hopes that she will be able to enjoy this beautiful place with her children.

 My love of Lake Tahoe defines the reason I am taking this class. From my view at 7,520 feet, the Carson Valley looks much like it did when the first settlers crossed the plains on their way to California. Closer inspection shows the grids of modern farming and the irrigation channels where streams have been redirected. Clusters of houses dot the highways. From high above, there appears to be little impact from modern life. However, these communities in the Carson Valley live in the rain shadow of the Sierra Nevada Mountains. Water is fast becoming the controlling factor in its growth.

On the other side of the ridge, the view of Lake Tahoe belies the controversy that has brewed here since I was a child. You can’t see the struggle between two states. The water doesn’t know part of it belongs to California and part to Nevada. The bald eagles that migrate through don’t see political distinctions, just areas that are habitable and those that aren’t.

There are more than a dozen government agencies that have been working in Tahoe on a plan to “save the lake.” It was environmentalists at my alma mater (University of California, Davis) who first called the world’s attention to the fading clarity in Lake Tahoe back in the 1970s. After millions of dollars and thousands of man-hours, many of the same problems still exist. More than a million people a year visit Lake Tahoe. It would make sense that a lot of people care about the lake. Perhaps what is missing is simple steps people can take to make a difference.

I have spent the first 15 years of my career in healthcare communications. What I learned is that before you can get someone to take action, you have to convince them 1) they should care and 2) they can easily make a difference. I hope to find ways to take what I have learned in healthcare and apply it to the environment.

When I am not in Tahoe (most of the time), I live in Shawnee with my daughter and two dogs. We try to reduce our environmental footprint and at least be conscious of our choices. Awareness is the first step toward making change.
Holly Eitel

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