Can Your Children Come Home?
Can your children come home? Without living in your garage, the guest bedroom, a trailer in the driveway?
That may be the coal-mine canary question when looking down the tunnel of time at Sonoma’s future.
It’s a question that embraces more than housing, although where your children can afford to live and grow roots speaks to the fundamental viability of generational succession, one of the cornerstones of a healthy community.
Because if our children can’t come home because they can’t afford to, and if they can’t afford to because we are unwilling or unable to create the conditions that put housing within the reach of new generations, then Sonoma will incrementally cease to be what it was and tenuously still is. It will become ever more aged, wealthy, and monocultural. Like any ecosystem that cannot support healthy succession, it will not preserve itself if it cannot preserve its young. It will not be, in a word, sustainable.
So, in this issue, we have pulled together some of the threads of the sustainability equation—housing, energy, transportation, agriculture—leaving for later, when more time and space are available, the issues of sustainable wages and an evolving local economy with greater diversity than wine, and thus more resilience.
That said, we are close to agreeing that the very word “sustainability” is in danger of becoming an overused cliché, co-opted by marketing messages and corporate green-washing. “Resilience” may be a more responsive word for how the Valley is trending and for the need to engineer outcomes outside the trend lines.
There is a school of thought that holds organic change will have its way, that, left alone, market forces will self-correct any imbalances in the evolving life of Sonoma and, for that matter, the world. Let the market decide the future, the argument goes.
But we are the market, and we should indeed decide, by taking responsibility for our future and for the future of our children, rather than letting the unrestrained power of infinite growth drive the global economy—along with the ecosystems it ultimately depends on—off a cliff.
That faith in laissez-faire ignores the greatest existential threat we face as a community, as a culture, as a species—climate change. As the CO2 content of earth’s atmosphere surges past the redline of 350 parts per million (it has now reached 400 ppm and is creeping toward 410) that defines a sustainable, survivable balance, we are running out of time for an effective correction.
At the local level, most experts agree there are only a couple of things we can do to help slow the rise of CO2. The first is to wean ourselves off fossil fuels for heating and cooling and powering our homes, and the second is to drastically reduce or eliminate the use of fossil fuels in our vehicles.
For the first objective, we have working models for an elegant solution with existing microgrid technology—one of them already built at Stone Edge Farm in Sonoma—that can radically reduce, or fully eliminate, any dependence on the power grid that remains significantly dependent on fossil fuels.
For the second objective, the technology is already on the road all around us, in the form of plug-in electric cars. We simply have not given that market enough political and economic incentive to radically accelerate its growth, perhaps in part because U.S. tax policy subsidizes the oil industry with credible estimates of from $10 billion to $52 billion a year.
We are thus investing in the fuels that threaten the life of the planet, instead of giving adequate tax incentives to the technologies that can save it.
And that is an unsustainable path, not unique to the United States.
The point of all this is to suggest that, while we can’t easily impact federal tax policy from Sonoma, we can begin to model at the very local level some of the solutions that help reduce CO2 levels in the atmosphere. And that requires a level of community vision and leadership we haven’t yet created.
To its everlasting credit, the Sustainable Sonoma initiative described in these pages has taken the lead on that front. But much more help is needed. Within the population of Sonoma we have the wealth, the wisdom, the experience, and the skill sets to shape a model future. What we need now is the will and the leadership to do it.
We hope you get some value out of the content in this issue. It is just the beginning of a public conversation we hope to participate in for the long haul.
David Bolling, Editor & Publisher, Valley of the Moon Magazine
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