Sonoma, California
BREAKING: The Bay Area Air Quality Management District has issued a health advisory and
Spare the Air alert through the weekend…”Very unhealthy air quality from the wildfires in the North Bay is causing unprecedented levels of air pollution throughout the Bay Area”; the agency said in a news release.

No kidding! My head and stomach don’t feel quite right after a week of the wild fires in Northern California, as I write this piece ensconced in temporary quarters in the town of Sonoma, while keeping an eye on an 18-year- old arthritic, black cat named Sasha, whose mobile home I am occupying for her owners while they are away for a spell. Not eating much, she’s feeling unsettled too.

But our entwined lot is nothing compared to the devastation to the north and east of us. Over 200,000 acres scorched, fourty-one lives lost — a new heart-wrenching record for California wild-fire events. This toll doesn’t include feline and canine friends and untold other critters lost to this inferno. Over 6500 homes and businesses destroyed in Sonoma County alone, more than a few having belonged to friends and others whom I have known for years.

To say that I feel helpless and disoriented belies deeper feelings of a creeping despair not just for me but for so many whose lives are suddenly cast into uncertainty, this despite so much caring with neighbors helping neighbors, often with heroic efforts. I think the dark feelings rise because we, including the fire fighters, are so out maneuvered by nature suddenly gone berserk. Just the right (wrong?) combination of things: increased fuel by the above-average winter rains, another record-setting season of summer heat creating intense dryness with nearly hurricane-force winds and then conflagration.

As far back as I can remember—maybe because I was raised on a farm—I have been attuned to wanting the climate to do what it’s supposed to do, provide just the right amount of seasonal rain, give us plenty of soothing, warm days and some fruit-ripening hot days too, a perfect balance for optimal enjoyment and ongoing sustenance. Sure, rain fell when the hay was laying in windrows before it could be baled and put away in our barn but that wasn’t the norm. Now there doesn’t seem to be a weather norm anymore, anywhere. In California we have experienced record setting heat year after year, with a prolonged drought until finally the heavy, unrelenting winter rains came, which we could sorely use another hit of right now.

So my own feelings of despair have been gnawing for some time and now are being fueled by the recent weather catastrophes in our hemisphere and of course situated in the middle of one of the most nightmarish ones right now doesn’t help. But I am not the kind of person who caves into despair. Not only am I buoyed by own faith, but also, I usually, if not immediately, move into some kind of counterweighted action and community building.

I count myself among those who see this latest spike in weird weather, including the very recent record number of hurricanes reaching landfall with devastating consequences, not just as unusual quirks of nature but a result of a changing climate, caused largely by human activity,and along with several local colleagues in Sonoma Valley, I haven’t been quiet about it either. Primed for action by groups like, we have been beating the drum here in Sonoma for months and years now, sounding the alarm and seeking to raise awareness in our community that we need to take action in mitigating the problem of global warming.

The slogan of one of these groups, Transition Sonoma Valley—that has been working on this issue since September 2010, when we showed our first public film, In Transition-From Oil Dependence to Local Resilience—is “If we wait for governments to act it will be too late, if we act alone it will be too little, but if we act as communities it may just enough, just in time.” And so, like many other communities around the country, we began to organize and act such as on 10/10/2010, when called for massive community projects to stem the tide against the effects of environmental destruction, we undertook our initial community action project, by planting a garden, with other volunteers at our local community center.

Since then TSV and has been a voice for change in the Sonoma Valley. And now, since the last major Climate March held on March 28, 2017 (the 100th day of the new administration in Washington),when 350 and others called for another massive demonstration to rouse the public and our politicians into serious action on reducing greenhouse gases, TSV has been
joined by several others local groups– some of which, like Indivisible Sonoma, sprang up in the wake of Trump’s election—and including the Sonoma Valley Democrats, the Earth Care Committee of First Congregational Church (to which I also belong), the Sonoma/Napa County chapter of the Sierra Club, the Sonoma Valley Ecology Center and other local individuals, to form the Sonoma Climate Coalition, with the sole purpose of making climate change our focus of concern and action.

Inspired by a recent visit at our most recent Coalition meeting by the Executive Director of (owning to a friendly, life-long connection that she shares with Sonoma, not to mention this writer) SCC is on the throes of determining our campaign slogan for having our Valley become fossil-fuel free by 20??

If anything positive comes from the wild fires we are presently enduring in Northern California, and other areas across the state, perhaps it will be because the citizens of California, and hopefully our politicians, will do the important work of “connecting the dots” and moving with haste to reverse the use and impact of fossil fuels (including the banning of fracking, Governor Brown). You can be sure that at least in one place in our beloved state this work will go forward. And while that is happening we will also be working to help our neighbors rebuild their lives in the aftermath of this latest catastrophic weather event.

350 note ~ When climate disaster strikes people are impacted differently. Undocumented immigrants have more layers and complications of needs. If you wish to contribute funds to the fire-impacted we recommend the UndocuFund. The UndocuFund will provide direct funding to undocumented immigrants and their families to help with expenses incurred directly as a result of the fires. Thank you.

For more climate movement news, follow 350 on Twitter, Facebook, Instagram