Update: At the supervisors retreat the tree ordinance was “kicked down the road” to 2021.
“With this letter, I am wondering, as my representatives, who do you support? Do you support companies looking to exploit the landscapes, we all know as home, to generate short-term profits for private interests? Or do you support me, and my generation, as we walk forward into a world of unprecedented environmental pressure — pressure calling us to change. I wonder if this Board will stand for business as usual, and let my generation and our forests which breathe life into us, be a causality of policy (or lack thereof), or if it will take a stand and help us protect what is fundamental. “
February 1, 2020
Dear Board Of Supervisors,
This has been a big year for me so far. On January 12, I turned 18. During my celebratory dinner with my family, when I blew out the candles on my chocolate and raspberry cake, I wished for peace on Earth. About a week later, I was at my friend’s house, and upon glancing down at a side table in his living room, I saw a fortune-telling 8 Ball, (the kind that will answer your most pressing question). So, of course, I shook it. It took a while for the opaque liquid in the silver square to come up with an answer. The die inside seemed to be stuck on two possible answers. And then, finally, my question, “Will there be peace on Earth?” was answered. The 8 Ball revealed, “Don’t count on it.” I laughed at that moment — I have been called an eternal optimist, when it comes to radical ideas like peace, by people who are less certain of humanity’s ability to change — to end violence, to stop hunger, to find harmony with the Earth. But when I learned from another activist explaining how the County Board is issuing over-the-county permits to private interests to cut down acres of oak woodlands, vital to our local ecology, without environmental review, I was shocked and dismayed. The message on the 8 Ball did not seem like just a pessimistic remark I could shrug off, but something I had to fight back against in my own community.
It is 2020. As I am sure you all know already, we are in a climate crisis. In their latest Report on Climate Change and Land, the Intergovernmental Panel on Climate Change authored a Summary for Policymakers including an Action in the Near-Term Response section. While I hope you each read the report in full, the portion that stands out to me as particularly poignant for the issue at hand is the following:
“Successful implementation of sustainable land management practices requires accounting for local environmental and socio-economic conditions… Sustainable land management in the context of climate change is typically advanced by involving all relevant stakeholders in identifying land-use pressures and impacts (such as biodiversity decline, soil loss, over-extraction of groundwater, habitat loss, land-use change in agriculture, food production and forestry) as well as preventing, reducing and restoring degraded land” (IPCC, C. 4.1).
In other words, climate change can either be perpetuated by irresponsible land management policy or fought against in a mission of regeneration. As policymakers, it is up to you to decide where our County stands in the movement to restore the land.
Among my many passions and dreams is to regenerate ecologies and forests which give us all life — and belonging — so my own children might have a chance to be resilient in the face of climate catastrophe. So, you might imagine how disheartening this news of the Board’s actions were. As I have already affirmed, I am 18, now, so I can vote. I am your constituent. With this letter, I am wondering, as my representatives, who do you support? Do you support companies looking to exploit the landscapes, we all know as home, to generate short-term profits for private interests? Or do you support me, and my generation, as we walk forward into a world of unprecedented environmental pressure — pressure calling us to change. I wonder if this Board will stand for business as usual, and let my generation and our forests which breathe life into us, be a causality of policy (or lack thereof), or if it will take a stand and help us protect what is fundamental.
I can’t help it, but I even wonder more. Walking on the trails so close to my home, beneath vast sky and canopies of redwoods, bay, oak, and fir, as the sunlight gleams through the leaves of trees so much older than me, I wonder how the spiders know to weave their webs in such beauty. I wonder if the frogs ribbitting in the enshadowed valleys, where I hear creek water flow down small falls, know in their tiny bones where to find clean water. I wonder how I have been so privileged to be able to enjoy the fresh air that these trees give me, a humble primate resident of West Sonoma County while knowing that young adults my age in the streets of Mumbai, where pollution coats their skin, Burkina Faso, where climate change has exacerbated desertification, or even Oakland, where my friends in Youth Vs. Apocalypse fight the development of a coal terminal, are not so privileged.
I urge each Board Member to wonder what it might look like if your institution were to uphold its responsibilities and protect this place, so precious. In my vision, it means ending all “county-approved” tree removals until the 2021 update of the Tree Protection Ordinance is complete.