It is with such a heavy heart that I sit here in my chair in Brooklyn, while Sonoma, Marin, and Santa Rosa go up in flames from wildfires. Gorgeous wine country, farm land, people's beautiful homes, the rolling hills that I drive through on an escapade outside of the city, have all been devastated by the past week. I grew up on this gorgeous peninsula, and yes, it is as beautiful as the photos show. San Francisco is the Lost Atlantis, and the silver clouds hang around its hills.
The area is nostalgia itself: I knew it as I was growing up, and knew it when I decided to leave its idyllic views for a series of states-then to end up in one of the grungiest but most fabulous metropolises in the country, New York. I'm not the first one to make the move. But the scenery and the memory of the ocean air, the hills like friends that hug me close, and the dry grasses signifying winter's turn - these are the foundation of some of my best memories. Our relationship with our home is as complicated as a marriage: us and the land - for the most part -get along, but in this region, not today, not tomorrow, nor the day after. The land and the space that seems familiar and stable isn't, and maybe never will be.
The fact that this is all temporary....
Ah, but now I am being Apocalyptic.
There is meaning to this land and human relationship. We reap and sow and nourish and survive on this land. But for some reason, we don't think we need to understand its ways, its worth. Yes, yes, I would say we are in an abusive relationship with this land of you and me.
We will deny it because it will require us to come to terms with the fact that our practices may not be our best, that we must be critical in order to achieve quality of life. In that realm, we would have to embrace complexity first, and then digest a simple life later. We eat the food in this way, we break it down to absorb its full nutrient power so that we can keep on living.
The fires in this region are the worst they have seen, and they are still not contained.
And we will have to find solutions to prevent this from happening again.
Which brings us to a larger discussion about the future of food and farming. One of the most heartbreaking elements of the destruction in Sonoma, Medocino, and Santa Rosa, is that herein lies an enclave of small to medium scale farms that make high quality produce, cheese, and wine. These operations are beacons of hope to the larger national network of farmers who have devoted their lives to producing high quality food that has less impact on the environment around us.
We can see that climate change is real, that it is having an impact on the quality of our water, soil, and the nutrient level of our food. It is increasing the extremes of each season. In California, the wettest winter on record, coupled with the driest summer on record, created the worst for fire potential in Napa Valley, in recorded history. It is worth investing in new infrastructure. The shifting environment requires innovative thinking to match and manage the challenges ahead. Currently, it looks like those innovations will have to continue to come from the private sector, such as Google's helium balloon satellites that provide WiFi to Puerto Rico, or Tesla's offer to rebuild an entirely green infrastructure in Puerto Rico to make the island more self-sufficient.
As the fire still unfolds, as the firefighters keep fighting, we'll have to watch closely and reflect on solutions. I don't have any of the answers now.
For now, I pray that Mother Earth will spare the people I know and love in the area from too much hardship. We do currently know the historic Stornetta Dairy has burned down, as well as numerous produce farms and wineries via this Eater article.
This weekend, take a moment to appreciate the land around you.
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