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Sonoma County Gazette

OPINION: Fire Recovery and Beyond by Trathen Heckman, Daily Acts

Aug 31, 2018


By Trathen Heckman, Daily Acts

It is important to first honor the significant hard work that went into seeking community input and writing this strong guiding fire recovery and resiliency framework for action, especially under difficult conditions. While there are more detailed fire recovery recommendations that have been crafted, such as in the recent report from the Alliance for a Just, Equitable and Sustainable Recovery, here are a few of the recommendations to help strengthen this plan.

“Resilience is a chief characteristic of sustainability” ~ David Orr

Sustainability is the moral and strategic imperative of our time and thus should be the primary organizing principle, above the other eight organizing principles. Sustainability is resilient, regenerative and places equity at the center of a local living economy that cares for people and place.

Our focus must broaden beyond recovery and preparing for the next disaster. To reflect the vision of our community, as is the report’s intent, we must think and act in accord with what the scientific mandate for survival says we must do to maintain a stable climate.

As Supervisor Gore reminded us at last week’s North Bay Climate Action Summit, in a five-year period from 2013 to 2017, locally we had record drought, record rains and flooding, and record fires. This capped the costliest year in our country’s history for natural disasters, over the span of several decades in which these disasters have significantly increased globally.

The second reason for placing sustainability at the center and making our recovery and resiliency framework a strong call to action is because preparedness alone is not enough to nourish and sustain active engagement and the spirit of our community.

Last month California’s Governor raised the bar and set a bold new climate target for our state of 100% renewable energy by 2045. Locally, Sonoma County has a strong track record for visionary community-powered action, regenerative agriculture, cutting-edge green businesses, carbon-free water, local power and more. This plan is an opportunity to not just further sustainability goals, but to inspire and drive them because this community consistently models and drives leadership on sustainability at all levels, and we know what we can expect more of if we don’t strongly prioritize more than recovery and preparedness.

A strategy that Daily Acts has long used, which could be included in this plan is to highlight and connect what’s working to grow more of it. As mentioned above, we have an incredible community of leaders in resilience and sustainability across all sectors of society, from the home to farm and civic scale.

Eight years ago, David Orr wrote about a national effort by sustainability leaders in partnership with the Department of Defense, calling for a National Security Sustainability Network to connect and spread models of sustainability. While there has been a significant increase in new networks and alliances to strengthen our collective resilience, this area could use much more attention and investment.

An emphasis on strengthening and connecting existing organizations, networks and place-based centers of resilience and sustainability is a critical strategy for both near-term recovery and long-term sustainability and resilience.

My last recommendation is to start in the garden.

To achieve the framework’s intent of planning and preparation before a disaster occurs, we need to provide a call to action that is accessible, inspiring and rewarding in the way that small efforts aligned with our values are.

Lots of people creating small practical demonstrations of sustainability and resilience at home and in the garden and neighborhood can strengthen our local food system and make our landscapes and neighborhoods more drought and deluge resistant. Getting more of us outside, has a range of personal benefits, including connecting with neighbors, which builds resilient communities.

Final comments for the Recovery and Resiliency Framework are due on October 26th. 

Until then, we have an opportunity to pause, reflect, connect and update our community vision for a just, resilient and sustainable recovery. Every day across Sonoma County residents, businesses, organizations and agencies are taking action towards a strong vision of more sustainable communities. By placing sustainability at the center of recovery efforts, strengthening the social infrastructure of our community and emphasizing practical action that residents and households can take to create more healthy, just and resilient communities, together we can rise to this historic moment.


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