Every time I walk down Sueno, no matter what I was thinking about before, I start viciously fantasizing about yelling at kids to get off my lawn … I mean streets. You might not have noticed this, but look down next time you’re walking around I.V. See those gritty, vaguely rectangular potholes? See all 15 of them (I’ve counted) on a single block of Sueno? These are not just potholes. These are what happen when you burn couches. Permanent damage to the best student neighborhood in California. Gravelly hazards for skateboarders. As an unincorporated place, we don’t get much love from the county — our roads will not get resurfaced anytime soon. They’re ours. We have to take care of them.

Look at those potholes again — on the fresher scars, notice that lovely sheen of blackened dust. Couches are made of poison: rubber foam, treated wood, painted metal and chemical flame retardants invented to protect you if you drop a cigarette accidentally. When you set this Frankenstein product on fire and dance around it while it burns, you’re inhaling toxic fumes, you’re releasing huge amounts of carbon into our atmosphere, and you’re brewing up a huge pile of toxic dioxins that will run off directly into our ocean next time it rains. Dioxins bioaccumulate in animal tissue. Look them up.

I pay taxes, and you pay taxes, and we do this because if there’s a wildfire in the mountains next to your friend’s house or if you accidentally leave a candle burning in your room, we share the cost of firefighting services to help each other. It’s seriously not cheap to send out firefighters to clean up after a fire that was set for “entertainment.” Even if the perpetrator gets charged with arson, the fine (which can be up to $1000 or more) probably won’t make up for the cost of the crime. We’re all paying for it, every time.

Everybody subscribed to UCSB Alerts worries about increasing numbers of stabbings and robberies, but I have to wonder if a small part of why we get these problems is because we have a general reputation for lawlessness. If you’re a criminal scoping out places where you’ll probably get away with a crime, I.V. probably looks pretty good. If we’re the kind of people who don’t report a person setting a fire, we’re also likely to be the kind of people who don’t report a suspicious person lurking around and jiggling doorknobs. We need to not be that kind of community.

Also, couch burnings don’t make I.V. special. We’re not even famous for it. If you Google it, we’re far outshined by West Virginia University’s student neighborhood and several other college towns.

So, I would like to say: we can do better than this. I.V. should have a reputation for inventing original and earth-friendly ways to have massive amounts of fun, not for criminally stupid acts of arson. Next time you get that impulse to watch the world burn, please remember that you’re poisoning everything — the roads, the skateboarders, the snowy plovers, the atmosphere, yourself and Isla Vista.

Britta Gustafson is a crotchety old lady who graduated from UCSB in 2009.


Views expressed on the Opinion page do not necessarily reflect those of the Daily Nexus or UCSB. Opinions are submitted primarily by students.

This article appeared online only at dailynexus.com on Friday, May 24, 2013.