Framing the Post-Fire Future
Anniversaries are often bittersweet, and as we collectively approach the fateful date of October 8, there is much to remember, much to forget and much to continue to learn from.
It seems strangely appropriate that we approach October 8 at the same time another consequential date draws near, because in a little over three months the Sonoma Developmental Center (SDC) will be placed in metaphorical mothballs—a “warm shutdown,” as the State of California calls it.
And when that happens the clock will start ticking on a deadline for developing and proposing a long-term plan for the future use of its nearly 1,000 acres, 142 buildings and strategically priceless location.
If there’s a lesson from last year’s fires, it’s that we weren’t prepared then for a wildfire catastrophe and we probably aren’t prepared now.
The first responder agencies that fought the fires courageously and wisely were overmatched from the outset and likely would be again if a similar fire erupted.
It’s hard to tell whether we’re better off for all the fuel the fires consumed last year, or worse off because of the increase in dead but standing trees and brush, waiting to burn again.
Either way it should be clear the fire threats we face will continue to exceed our resources to stop them before great damage is done again.
So as we continue our strategic planning for emergency preparedness and resource augmentation, we’re fools if we don’t loudly and publicly acknowledge that the burgeoning wildfire threat in California and all over the West is not the result of Mother Nature’s capricious behavior, but of the completely predictable consequences of what soundscape pioneer Bernie Krause insists on calling global warming (instead of climate change).
Bernie and his wife, Cat, barely escaped with their lives from the Glen Ellen home and studio where they lived and worked (see page 67). And there is no doubt in their minds that the fire that knocked on their front door, and killed their two cats, was the angry, red eye of global warming.
What does that have to do with SDC?
We are one long, narrow community, ecosystem, watershed and transit route, from Oakmont to San Pablo Bay. How we plan for its future, how we protect its human, economic and ecological resources, will ultimately define our future. And if we can’t come up with a sustainable, affordable and human future for SDC the future won’t bode well for the Valley as a whole.
One small step everyone can take to influence the outcome at SDC is to sign a petition directed at Gov. Jerry Brown requesting that the state transfer the property to an as-yet to be created public trust, along with enough money to preserve the property until new uses can be secured.
It is an eminently fair proposal. We should voice it as a demand. The state of California willfully allowed the gradual deterioration and neglect of its iconic property and now wants to walk away from the mess it created. That is both foolish and unfair.
The petition can be found at change.org. So far, more than 2,700 have signed. The goal is to reach at least 5,000, and Jerry Brown will be out of office in three months.
It’s one small step toward a more secure future.
Inside this issue you’ll find a flood of stories about the fires and the future we face. We hope you will find in them some inspiration, direction and encouragement.
David Bolling, Editor & Publisher, Valley of the Moon Magazine
The Everlasting Leaf Blower Debate Story Don Frances Photos Steven Krause (Models: Victor Torrez, Angie Hurtado) There was once a time, before cell-phones, before microwaves, before hip-hop—before anyone can seem to remember—when people took care of fallen leaves using rakes, brooms and their arms. Then, in the early 1970s, the…
—News Analysis— How ADA compliance policy is forcing closure. Story David Bolling Photos David Bolling and Steven Krause On August 20, during what some construed as a historic convergence of state officials gathered at Altimira Middle School to address the future of the Sonoma Developmental Center, the Secretary of the…
Story: David Bolling Photos: Steven Krause Winemaking is a kind of alchemy because, at a fundamental level, it involves turning water into wine. A lot of water. UC Davis professor Larry Williams studied a test plot of chardonnay grapes in Carneros and calculated that irrigated vines required a little over…
Story & Photos: David Bolling The state says the developmental center has to close by 2018, but no one knows where to put the residents, how much it will cost or how many will die. Midway across the Harney Street Bridge over Sonoma Creek, centered more or less in the…
Photos: Steven Krause When Nancy King was a kid, her mother would put a bowl over her head and cut off whatever hair stuck out. “Which is why,” King explained as she settled into the cozy embrace of Terry Sue Harms’ salon chair, “after that I grew my hair down…