Don Rogers: Even in paradise
This is a great community, no question. I’m fully smitten, so I can’t think of better. All this and it’s not so far to the coast, either. Oh, and Lake Tahoe. Truckee’s even in the same county.
Sure, we have our problems here, too, we being humans and all. You do know Adam let that snake in the garden, right? No doubt from boredom.
But I’m thinking western Nevada County’s issues run a mite less awful than some other places in the world.
Drought may kill trees, but the Nevada Irrigation District keeps us in clean water to drink. Crime and the thought of terrorism frighten us, but we don’t hide under our beds or fear our daughters might be kidnapped while their brothers and fathers are massacred.
Lack of prudent vaccination is a bigger health concern than actual epidemic. Government is burdensome, but not widely corrupt. At least not as the Third World understands it. Starvation is not culling us.
I don’t mean to downplay our challenges, just put them in perspective.
You probably have a list. Me being new, I’m working on mine. Here’s what I have so far:
1. Drought: An average winter in Northern California brought relief, but this is the state’s warmest summer in 122 years of keeping track. Odds look even between a La Niña drying out next winter and a wetter pattern.
2. Water: The Nevada Irrigation District is preparing for an 80 percent reduction in snowpack over the next 20 years. As they’ll tell you, they don’t get to argue the politics or pooh-pooh the science, which by the way has proven accurate so far.
3. Wildfire: Heat and drought, not to mention lots of houses, exacerbate what’s already natural. Wildfire shapes the environment, and for more than a century we’ve tried to keep the woods from burning. The result is bigger, hotter, more devastating fires. Then we’re slow to fund fire departments, which leads to more expensive fire insurance if you can get it, and more danger from wildfires.
4. Pine die-off: Some observers predict widespread devastation much like the southern Sierra and 66 million dead trees so far since 2010. Then again, the bark beetles might be accomplishing the healthy thinning we have denied fire.
5. Housing: We don’t build and still they come, a large share of them active retirees who can afford the homes locals can’t. Well-off retirees mostly are a great asset. But there are consequences, too. Lack of affordable housing and rentals for the working population is just the beginning.
6. Economy: Sales and other signs of economic growth generally are running flat. Development remains largely stalled. Shoppers stream to other towns, filling those communities’ tax coffers at the cost of their own. Working families feel pressure to leave, in part from lack of good jobs. School enrollment declines. Governments turn increasingly to tax measures for funding, and taxpayers become more likely to turn them down. Business operators point to too much government and not enough customers.
7. Homelessness: Here’s damning evidence of social breakdown, personal economic catastrophe writ large, and failure in our mental health care system. But also trespass of land, risk during fire season, the cost of trying to care for so many of them, crime and general nuisance. And some guilt we have allowed it all to fester.
8. Politics: We have admirable voter participation, but no one bothers to run for local office. We complain about the same ol’ same ol’ in elected positions and do nothing about it. We should be profusely thanking the few folks who do step up, and start doing the same ourselves.
9. Connectivity: Lots of cell phone holes and well-meaning protesters bullying planning commissioners who should know better out of approving much-needed cell towers. Meantime, where’s the council? Nevada City’s recent episode is emblematic.
10. Marijuana: The actual problem here is the illegal growers and honey oil lab rats. The made-up one is with the medicinal growers and the at-times mind-numbing culture clash with the wrong folks. This is moonshine and backwoods stills all over again.
We know how to solve this last one, at least. Maybe it gets harder as we work back up the list. But put some collective will, smart investment and pragmatic problem-solving to the task, and this community can make a good dent in easing all of these short of drought. OK, maybe we’ll need some luck, too.
Publisher Don Rogers can be reached at firstname.lastname@example.org or 477-4299.
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