I am going to make a political plea to all California rock lovers: Contact your state assemblyperson to oppose Senate Bill 624. It would remove serpentine (serpentinite to geologists) as the California state rock. That’s bad enough, because serpentine rock is one of our most distinctive stones, responsible for soils and habitats with hundreds of unusual plant species. Oakland has a prime example at Serpentine Prairie, up in Redwood Regional Park.
Worse, it would remove the whole section of the state code about the state rock. California was the first state to enact a state rock, in 1965, and today 25 states have one. The bill’s proponents don’t even want an alternative rock, although we have several wonderful choices besides serpentine.
But the real purpose of the bill is its preamble, in which “The Legislature finds and declares [that] Serpentine contains the deadly mineral chrysotile asbestos, a known carcinogen, exposure to which increases the risk of the cancer mesothelioma.” But serpentine is not deadly—mesothelioma is caused by years of constant, heavy exposure to powdered asbestos minerals in the air. In a word, mesothelioma is an industrial disease, not an environmental one. And the minerals that are implicated by rigorously controlled medical studies do not include chrysotile (see comment #5). So this law would turn a falsehood into an official legislative finding. It would force the Oakland Museum to change its exhibits. It would close all the state’s serpentine lands. It would affect property values in the Oakland Hills, like the Crestmont neighborhood.
It would force portions of Joaquin Miller Park, part of Oakland’s cultural heritage, to be covered up or fenced off.
And it would prevent works of art like this suiseki stone, by Henry Van der Voort, from being exhibited in the Garden Center by the Northern California Suiseki Society. Do you think my predictions are silly? My response: With these legislators and today’s litigators?
I’m not alone. My most visible ally is Garry Hayes, a college professor in Modesto and past president of the National Association of Geology Teachers.
The bill is supposed to come up before the Assembly on August 2. Time is short, and our representatives think that this is a noncontroversial bill. Educate yourself and speak out.