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Judie Messier Interviews Sonoma County - Part 3 Summary


Judie Messier Interviews Sonoma County - Part 3 Summary

Please read the introduction with Parts One and Two to learn about this project - THANK YOU

Into the Future - Judie Messier Interviews Sonoma County

Judie Messier Interviews Sonoma County Round ONE

Judie Messier Interviews Sonoma County - Round TWO

By Judie Messier

I continue to be awed by how much people pour their hearts and souls into their answers.  Once again, I feel honored to have been able to bear witness to the deep concern and caring that people have for their Sonoma County!!  


Brock Dolman, Water Institute Director, Occidental Arts & Ecology Center (46)

Caitlin Cornwall, Biologist, Research Program Manager, Sonoma Ecology Center (57)

Carla Howell, Executive Director, Healdsburg Chamber of Commerce (54)

Carol Russell, Council Member, City of Cloverdale (50)

Dr. Laura A. Watt, Professor, Environmental Studies & Planning, Sonoma State University (43)

Evan Wiig, The Farmers Guild (49)

Evelina ‘MayaRose’ Molina (55)

Jerry Allen, President, Sebastopol Grange (47)

Jesus Guzman, Graton Day Labor Center (44)

Josho Somine, Site Designer, Permaculture Design, Project Manager, Merge Studio, Sebastopol (59)

Leonard Diggs, Manager, Shone Farm, Santa Rosa Junior College (53)

Letitia Hanke, Spokesperson, North Bay Black Chamber of Commerce; CEO/President, ARS Roofing (56)

Luca Zanin, President, Bennett Valley Cellars (58)

Michelle Heston, Regional Director of Public Relations, The Fairmont Sonoma Mission Inn & Spa (45)

Richard Retecki, Board Member, Sonoma County Regional Parks Foundation (51)

Sandi Potter, Environmental Review & Comprehensive Planning Division Manager, Permit & Resource Management Department (PRMD), Santa Rosa. (42)

Tara Smith, Tara Firma Farms, Petaluma (52)

Tiffany Renée, President/Treasurer/Co-founder, Petaluma Grange (48) 


In this summary, I will provide some representative answers to each question – and will hopefully tease you to read each individual interview. 

The first question asked folks what was their relationship to Sonoma County.

Many saw their relationship to Sonoma County in terms of how long they have lived here – some having been born and raised here; others having moved here.  Many spoke of Sonoma County as a home that they loved.  And some saw their relationship to Sonoma County in terms of the role that they play in Sonoma County.

- I grew up here.  In my twenties, I moved away from California, but in my thirties, I realized I wanted to be here, live here, because it was deep in my bones. (57)

- I have worked in Sonoma County for nine years now, as a professor at Sonoma State – and have lived in the county for six years.  My entire life has been spent in the Bay Area, though! (43)

When asked how they felt about this interview, their answers spanned a full range of feelings.

Many felt honored to have been asked to be interviewed.  Many were happy to be participating in something that they hoped would contribute positively towards resolving the water issue in Sonoma County.  Others expressed feelings ranging from “fine” to “excited” to “grateful” to “willing and able” to “A little awkward.  I’m used to typing on a keyboard & being able to re-arrange my words until they’re just right” (57) to “Optimistically ambivalent.” (59)


When asked next how they saw the water situation in Sonoma County right now, their answers revealed a wealth of mindful and detailed consideration of the water situation.

A number of folks saw the situation as a challenge, an opportunity, or both.  While some felt that the situation in Sonoma County was not as bad as it is in other parts of the state, all expressed the opinion, in one way or another, that the water system in Sonoma County is in dire straits and that everyone in Sonoma County has to change how they think and act with respect to water.

- I see both a challenge and an opportunity.  We are being challenged by the drought, which is directly related to climate change, and this is an opportunity for us to change from past practices & policies towards more innovative conservation practices. (44)

- Sonoma county, like much of the state, is deep within an historic drought, the consequences of which we’re only just beginning to truly grapple with.  Snowpack is at an all time low, canals have run dry, aquifers are under increasing pressure, and tensions are running high in the local political sphere.  For those who depend on such natural resources for their livelihood – farmers and ranchers in particular – it’s an unfortunate turn of events.  But these challenges also force us to examine our food system, innovate to conserve, and hopefully open up dialogue that will inform the general public on the systems – both natural and man-made – on which they rely. (49)


When asked how they felt about the current water situation in Sonoma County, their answers revealed a range of feelings.

Many expressed concern, sadness, and frustration.  Some were confident, hopeful, optimistic not only that there are solutions, but also that Sonoma County residents can work together for the future.

- I feel sad, frustrated and many times hopeless and disconnected. (55)

- Energized!  Very hopeful, too.  Thanks to what I’m seeing in Cloverdale (both from the Council and our residents and businesses).  We’ve conserved as much as 35% year-over-year!  In fact, in 2014, we declared a Stage 2 Emergency – we didn’t wait for the state! (50)


When asked what would be the worst possible outcome of not confronting the water situation in Sonoma County, their answers revealed a focused set of potential worst possible outcomes.

Many said that the worst possible outcome would be the ruination of both the natural environment and the human environment of Sonoma County.  Some were concerned about the potential for harsh governmental intervention, and many were concerned that conflict could emerge.

- In regards to not having enough water, the worst outcome is becoming a dust bowl with ghost towns.  While I think we still have time to prevent an outcome like this, changes need to be happening on a greater scale.  People need to feel a greater sense of responsibility to saving water.  It should be a patriotic duty to reduce and re-use water at home.  In regards to infrastructure issues, I don’t think people realize how critical this is or how expensive it continues to be, the longer we put it off. (48)

- I see the results of fighting over a limited resource and the blunt force that governmental agencies can bring to bear in these situations.  If we don’t confront our water situation with thoughtful planning and broad community engagement, we may see water hoarding, water scalping, and fear-based water allocations. (53)

- The drought endures while resulting conflict between various interest groups distracts and disempowers those seeking long-term, sustainable solutions.  Ignorance and indifference proliferate, our agricultural economy crumbles, and we are forced to import food, raising costs and growing more reliant on foreign practices of food production, the likes of which we have little to no control over. (49)

When asked how they felt about the worst possible outcome of not confronting the water situation in Sonoma County,  their answers expressed a full range of emotions.

Some were “worried,” “concerned,” “sad & frustrated.”  “I feel numb – confused and uncertain about the future for coming generations.” (55)  Some felt optimistic “that those conversations are starting, at least.” (43)  Others felt confident because “Sonoma County is filled with smart, dedicated people who will drive change and figure out solutions.  Per capita, compared to other places, there are more folks working to conserve and enhance our resources.  Water is the new ‘gold,’ precious and limited.” (51)

When asked what would be the best possible outcome of working together to confront the water situation in Sonoma County, their answers presented an equally focused set of potential best possible outcomes.

While some detailed specific improvements that they felt needed to be made, many wanted the people of Sonoma County to work together to build a joint vision, and in so doing, to serve as a model to the world.  And many wanted cooperation about water issues to expand to cooperation about many issues important to Sonoma County.

- The best possible outcome of working together is that our communities can “think like a watershed” and then act like a “basin of relations” whereby we all begin to realize we live in these shared basins called watersheds and from ridgeline to rivermouth, we have to collectively come together to re-think and retrofit our watersheds to be resilient and regenerative for life. (46)

- We develop a sustainable water plan, with good conservation, catchment, re-use, restoring lakes and wetlands, transitioning from water flush toilets, water-thrifty agriculture.  Best of all, the cooperation around water can lead to more cooperation on other crucial community issues like food, energy use, transportation, garden development, health care – the list goes on. (47)

When asked what were all the reasons people would give that it is impossible to achieve the best possible outcome, their answers ranged from characteristics of the situation to characteristics of the people.

- Ecological illiteracy is a pretty good reason that limits our capacity to achieve resilient watersheds – considering the epidemic we face with a deep lack of working knowledge and functional relationship with how life systems work on planet Water and thus here in Sonoma County.  We must bring life literacy to land use and planning. (46)

- Too expensive.  Too complicated.  Not enough enforcement.  Too much regulation.  Not my problem. (54)

When asked about the new beliefs and behaviors folks would need to learn in order to make the best possible outcome happen, their answers ranged from beliefs and behavior about the environment to beliefs and behaviors about people.

- People will need to value water as the scarce resource that it is.  We will need to see the connection between rainfall, stream flow, tap water, and waste water, and protect the amount and quality of water at all steps of the hydrologic cycle.  We’ll need to see that water use is a critical factor in almost every aspect of our daily life and make changes to use this precious resource thoughtfully. (42)

- 1. We live in an era of climate change and we must adapt cooperatively to survive.  2. We can use less water, resources, energy, etc., and still have a good life.  3. Gandhi “Be the change we want to see in the world.”  We have to shift to taking personal responsibility for the shifts in beliefs and behaviors, not waiting for someone else to do it.  4.  Shift from focusing on blaming the “bad guys” to finding ways to join together in common concerns. (47)

When asked about strategies and actions that would reflect those new beliefs and behaviors and make the best possible outcome happen, their answers ranged from strategies and actions about the environment to strategies and actions about people.

- Manage all water, in all parts of the water cycle, under one roof, for each watershed in Sonoma County.  Manage to a set of targets that represent a resilient, water-abundant community.  These targets will include minimum streamflows & groundwater levels that sustain water-dependent species & habitats & guaranteed baseline water supply that’s affordable for poor households.  After these non-negotiables are met, then we’d do well to explore more market-driven ways to price & distribute & re-use water.  And, of course, we have to manage with future climate in mind, not just past patterns. (57)

- Leadership coming together to message to the public the critical nature of what we face, and draw all community members to participate in Town Hall education that in turn leads to action.  All members of the community coming together to discuss, plan, commit, and execute the next 50 to 100 years. (52)

When asked, if folks worked together now to confront the water situation, what would be their vision of Sonoma County in 20 years, their answers revealed a shared vision of social, environmental and economic vitality.

- That vision is of a county that made an opportunity of catastrophe, that became an exemplar of community resilience.  Other counties will look to Sonoma for ways to handle their own crisis and manage resources in ways that recognize triple-bottom line economics.  Sonoma’s will be a story of how environmentalists sat across the table from wineries to tackle the problem, how policymakers expanded their goal of increased GDP to include equity growth, real innovation, and the production of healthy, fair and just food. (49)

- If we work together NOW, Sonoma County can be a role model, coming up with a duplicatable system and/or process than can be adopted by other counties.  We have done it before; we can do it again.  In 20 years, I see that we will be telling stories to the little ones who are now 2 or 3 about how we came together, rose above our prejudices, all the ism’s – racism, classism, sexism – and transformed a destiny of near-term extinction and war to providing good food, clean water, the amazing life they enjoy and are charged with paying it forward to future generations. (55)

When asked how they felt about this vision, their answers revealed that they felt hopeful, excited, optimistic about their vision..!

- It feels like a place I’d be honored to live in, a place that would inspire other communities to also become water-rich and water-secure. (57)

- I feel hopeful about these possibilities.  As the awareness of our situation in the state and global contexts spreads to more of the populace, we should be able to manifest the collective will to implement a critical mass of the essential practices. (59)

When asked what would be the first step that would need to be taken to realize that vision, their answers offered a wide range of ideas.

Some felt that Sonoma County was already taking first steps towards realizing the vision.  Many stressed the need for education of everyone about all aspects of the water situation, and the need for opportunities for people to come together to craft a joint vision.  Others mentioned specific water practices that could be implemented.

- We are taking the first steps.  People are conserving water and we’re having these conversations.  Each of us every day can take small steps to conserve water.  Collectively we can work together to make bigger changes. (42)

- Educate ourselves as to the problem.  Research, find out what others are doing.  Become vocal and involved.  Break down the “critical density” of business, agriculture, government, and individual barriers to find solutions.  Maintain city-centered growth.  Relax government rules related to water collection, re-use, Class K housing, etc.  Join a group such as the Grange to heighten individual & group awareness about our water resources. (51)

When asked what was something they could do right now to make that vision happen, responses ranged from what they were already doing to what they could start doing right away.

- I’m doing this interview for the Gazette.  I have started my own bilingual internet radio station, blog, social media, You Tube programming that will be dedicated to alerting, educating, teaching, empowering people.  And I’m going to have a block party to get all my neighbors on board. (55)

- Wearing my Ecology Center hat, I can keep working with our partners on these issues.  Now is a time of great opportunity.  Wearing my own personal hat, I can finally install a few greywater lines at my house.  The raspberries will love it. (57)

And finally, folks were asked how they felt about the interview now?

Many felt that they had participated in something that could make a difference.

- It was great to talk about this really important issue.  Thanks for the opportunity. (42)

- Just fine!  Water management is such a key issue, I’m glad you are documenting all these diverse perspectives! (43)

- Good.  I feel glad to talk about things that are aligned with my passions. (47)

- Inspired and motivated!  To quote Marie Forleo, “Everything is figure-out-able.” (48)

- Curious to know how so much info will be synthesized in ways that can either be clearly shared or else used to begin the conversation I’ve mentioned above. (49)

- My first impressions & enthusiasm were justified! (50)

- Inspired to go to work. (53)

- I’m still having fun!  I think the questions are interesting and really making me think more about it. (56)