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Savory Sonoma, by Stephanie Hiller - November 2015

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Savory Sonoma, by Stephanie Hiller - November 2015

This breaking news will be old by the time you read this, one of the perplexities of covering what’s happening in a monthly publication.

An article in the North Bay Business Journal October 19 revealed that plans are well in place for an equestrian center to replace the Sonoma Development Center that has taken care of disabled people for over 100 years.

The property is zoned for nonprofit or governmental activities. But this project, expected to generate $300 million a year for the county in tourism activity, hardly seems to be nonprofit.

Nevertheless, plans have been in process since at least November 2012, when the California Equestrian Park and Event Center (CEPEC) began publishing its newsletter, available on its website, cepac.us/. Though unknown to the many people who have been actively opposing the closure of the SDC, the plan hasn’t exactly been secret. The group held a fundraiser at the Green Center at  Sonoma State the same year. Sponsors listed on its web site number approximately 54 businesses scattered throughout the county, and include such local luminaries as Oliver’s, Osmosis Spa (in Freestone), Kendall Jackson Winery, Chalk Hill, Lagunitas Brewery, Northwood Golf Course and Restaurant (all the way in Guerneville) and others.

So while our friends and neighbors have been testifying at long hearings held by the County and attended by some of our beloved supervisors, plans for the sale of the land for 27,000 horses have been in place.

That’s shocking! And nobody knew? The Sonoma Land Trust didn’t know? The County Open Space Preservation District didn’t know? 

The lack of transparency is even more disturbing than the project itself, although what all those hoof beats are going to do to our cherished bucolic property in Eldridge between Sonoma and Glen Ellen can certainly be imagined, not to speak of the traffic, the visitors, the trash…and, yes, the carbon dioxide and methane wafted into our choked and warming atmosphere.

Certainly there will be objections. But the banner will be Jobs! Tourism! Profits! And claims to maintain the beautiful open space, protecting it from…affordable housing, for example. A state of the art treatment center for the disabled people we create with our toxins. A fabulous carbon sequestering ranch. A farmers’ market. A field of dreams…

Climate Change

Meanwhile, in the extraordinarily contradictory manner of humans, we have had quite a few events this month to draw attention to climate change and ways of dealing with it. 

Transition Sonoma Valley co-sponsored a talk, “Political Will for a Liveable World” with Earth Care, the environmental group at the Congregational Church, and presented by Dr. Peter Joseph, advocating a carbon tax to solve our climate problems. 

I’m not in favor of a carbon tax. I’m in favor of subsidies to farmers who follow certain innovative practices to enhance the natural ability of plant life to take the carbon out of the air and put it back in the soil. But at least the conversation is going on.

Also in October we had the second annual Sustainability Day at Sonoma State, a FREE event with a full slate of speakers. I attended but am writing this column before it happens on October 20-21, so I’ll have to tell you about it at some other time! 

On the 24th we had a unique all-day event Mulchstock, with demonstrations and workshops on mulching those lawns instead of removing them, a thankless and laborious task. I went because I am going to convert a little strip of land on my back patio to a vegetable patch, and in order to do that I have to restore the soil. Again, this is a way we can all help return carbon to the soil – while growing beautiful fresh foods! It takes a little work but it’s direct, easy, and very rewarding.

All these events are leading up to the Paris climate change summit, the Conference of Parties in Paris (COP21) which begins at the end of this month. Demonstrations to demand action from our (cough, cough) world leaders will be happening all over the world. You and your pals can all attend the one in Oakland on November 21. Gather at Lake Merritt Amphitheater 12:00 noon - March 1:00 pm - March to Frank Ogawa/Oscar Grant Plaza for Rally. Please do!

Climate change is without doubt the greatest threat to life on this planet, greater even than nuclear war. It’s extraordinary that we have created such dilemmas for ourselves and all other inhabitants of this little planet, and that we have demonstrated such incapacity in gaining control of the monster. It’s quite beyond our ability to conceptualize, but never mind. If there was ever a time to act without asking why, this is it. Demand action now! The sea is rising as we speak, and in case you had forgotten, we’re all coastal dwellers here. May our highest nature finally triumph over whatever you wish to call the force of greed and hostility that is still running the show, God help us…