Editors Letter

Caught in the Web of Climate Change

And a stunning collection of local art.

When we took a step back from the table and looked at the menu for this, our last issue in the 20-Teens, we realized that, while it was branching out in various directions, a lot of it seemed to be connected by the expanding web of climate change.

Swedish climate activist Greta Thunberg has become the surrogate voice for millions of young people who are now beginning to develop a demanding voice of their own, and as you read this, she may have been named recipient of the 2019 Nobel Peace Prize.

Inspired by Thunberg’s speech to the United Nations Climate Action Summit in September, we reached out to a few local students to get their own reactions. We hope it is the start of an ongoing local dialog.

Climate change is also the context—within which PG&E is too often the culprit—for the wave of wildfires that have incinerated vast swaths of California for the past three years, most painfully (in terms of lives lost and property destroyed) right here in Sonoma County.

The subsequent power outages—ironically dubbed “Public Safety Power Shutoff” (PSPS)—may have saved lives and property but, wielded clumsily by PG&E, they may have caused more damage than good in some communities where small businesses lost thousands of dollars in irreplaceable income, ruined foodstuffs, and lost employee pay.

Many Valley residents went five days without electrical power, during most of which time their homes and lives were clearly not at risk. PG&E’s failure to maintain the security of its power grid, while simultaneously stinting investment in technology that could allow for a more surgically precise application of PSPS, has revealed the limits of the giant utility’s capacity for protecting the public interest.

Which means that the silver lining in the cloud of wildfire smoke may be the urgent impetus given to efforts to find more secure, resilient, and flexible forms of electrical power. Which brings us back to the subject of microgrids, solar power, and battery storage we explored in our July/August issue on sustainable Sonoma.

Three or four months ago, microgrids and battery storage seemed more like interesting topics for a still-distant future. Today, they almost seem like a necessity. Which is why we explore the latest information on cost and benefit from home solar/battery systems that may well represent the best path away from more PSPS BS.

And speaking of BS, we felt compelled to take note of an ill-advised legal attack on the extraordinarily successful public/private partnership that pulled Jack London State Historic Park out of a soon-to-close, red-ink past into a rosy future. Driven by a deep well of volunteer support, an efficient and creative nonprofit staff, and the enthralling, soul-inspiring entertainment produced by Transcendence Theatre Company inside the park, Jack London State Historic Park is now a model of enlightened management, being enjoyed and loved by easily twice the number of people who were visiting before the park was almost shuttered for lack of funds. You’ll find a report further inside.

Also inside, we hope you enjoy a unique collection of potential holiday gifts, culled from the Valley’s abundance of exceptional local art, and a smattering of gifts that have more to do with your practical power needs (witness our cover) than art appreciation.

Happy holidays,

David Bolling

Editor and Publisher