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We can't get there from here

Observations from the Edge
Robert T. Nanninga
Coast News
October 11, 2006


Sitting on the veranda of a cabin at the end of an old logging road in the mountains of Mendocino County, surrounded by a second growth forest on a warm autumn afternoon, it occurred to me how big California is and how we differ geologically, biologically, and culturally from north to south.

The cabin was off grid, solar powered, surrounded by apple trees, a working garden, and enough wilderness to fix even the most debilitating cases of suburban malaise.

Coastal California, bearing the brunt of population increases, does not bear the brunt of population pressures and impact. The maintenance of coastal communities, comes at the expense of inland habitats and their finite resources.

Last week the population of the United States of America topped 300 million, California's population is somewhere around 40 million, that's 13%. Undocumented immigrants make it impossible to know how many humans currently reside in California, not counting tourists and those here on extended business.

On our current trajectory, population pressures will build beyond the ability to mitigate. California communities are unwilling to come to terms with the limits of a culture based on unlimited consumption and disastrous demographics promoted for short term profit.

Like most road trips, our week away was spent visiting cities way beyond their prime. Seeing how other people live is great for achieving perspective. What I noticed was a lot of empty store fronts, abandoned farm houses, failing and forgotten infrastructure, and very few examples of change.

In the dead and dying towns of Northern California could could read the history of California. Willits, Ukiah, Mendocino, and Fort Bragg where all lumber towns made prosperous and then ruined by deforestation. Unless you consider working for minimum wage at a dead end job at McDonald's, opportunity in these places is decreasing as population continues to grow.

I also discovered Californians share a commitment to sitting in traffic. Roads all over the state are being widen to accommodate the number of people on the road. Napa Valley, although famed for their wine, will always be known to me as the grape street gridlock. Too many people, going nowhere fast, tends to spoil a drive in the country.

Roadside litter gets worse as you travel east in the Golden state, which is quite golden mid-autumn. Campaign signs, another reminder of the season, littered the landscape. Traffic and trash is as much a part of the California dream as surf and sun.

In Lodi, I almost stopped to take pictures of trash collecting beneath a collection of re-elect Richard Pombo: Congressman and Rancher signs. For those of you not keeping score, Pombo, Chairman of the U.S. House of representatives Committee on Resources, is the Republican who has made it his life's mission to dismantle the Endangered Species Act, oil drilling in the Arctic National Wildlife Refuge, and weaken clean air and water standards.

The point to this road trip ramble was to step outside the crowded chaos of San Diego county for some fresh perspective. What I saw made me realize California should not only succeed from the federation of United States, I also learned the Republic of California could easily be divided into three parts, north, central and south.

Different people, with different priorities, California is growing to big to thrive under the current conditions set by Sacramento and Washington D.C.

I mention this because an election is taking place, and the tired tricks of stupid white men will do nothing to bring about the changes needed to ensure the sustainability of our consumptive communities.

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