Small ‘d’ democracy – water and power
You don’t want to swap water with the folks in Flint, MI, and you don’t want to swap electricity reliability with anyone in Texas.
Water and electricity are essential. In Humboldt, water, and to some extent, electricity, are managed by public districts. That means if you don’t like the way your water tastes, or its price, or its development, you can have a say in how your essentials are managed.
Our public districts have become so very easy for us, as individuals, to watch and participate in in the last year. Zoom means wherever you are, you can drop in on your local meetings. Unlike the incessant talk-a-thons of city councils and the Board of Supervisors, these meetings are focused and relatively short. That is, it doesn’t require much of your time, and you get an outsized input if you choose to participate.
Personally, I have two boards, the Humboldt Community Services District (water/sewer) and Redwood Coast Energy Authority (the commodity, not the delivery, of electricity).
The community district is an organization with lots of potential for using alternative energy, restructuring rates to reward conservation, addressing climate change, and influencing development. Until recently, it’s been stuck in the old ways, but new board members and staff are breathing new life into it. What it lacks is public input. It’s been operating without public “sunshine” for ages. Your elected water district has its own stories, and some are fascinating. All are essential to everyday life.
The broader district is the energy authority. It doesn’t lack for public interest, but your voice can be heard there too. It’s working on big ideas, like offshore wind and microgrids. It has to work with PG&E, though, for transmission and distribution of that energy. If you want to get involved on that level, you can participate at the California Public Utilities Commission.
Another district you can watch is the Humboldt Bay Municipal Water District. Many water providers are run through your local city services and can be accessed at the department or city council level.
It’s so easy to be an “influencer.” Not for Instagram, but for yourself and your community.
Recollections of the Early NEC
I spent a lot of time at the NEC as a volunteer from 1973 to about 1983…
I came to Humboldt State College in the fall of 1973, right out of high school, having grown up in Marin County. The very first week there was a new-student orientation panel about environmental issues, including Rudy Becking and Wes Chesbro; I don’t remember who else. I was immediately attracted to the NEC as a nexus for all things environmental. I volunteered right away, and swear I was sitting on the floor at the NEC cutting out articles about the recently defeated Butler Valley Dam, before classes had even started. (I wonder if any of that archive survived the fire?)
I was already getting involved with river conservation issues during my senior year in high school, including the fight to prevent New Melones Dam from being built on the Stanislaus River. The NEC was a helpful base for coordinating a Humboldt County Save-the-Stanislaus petition drive and subsequent ballot measure campaign. The dam fight wasn’t successful, but out of it grew the statewide Friends of River organization. Linda Miller and I started up a North Coast Chapter of FOR, and that was my main focus for several years. We became a member organization of the NEC.
The NEC provided a center for communication and a place for gatherings for all things environmental on the north coast, including informal office space for a small group like NCCFOR. I probably spent the most time at the 14th & H location, then the 9th St. spot, although it all sort of blurs at this point.
I do have a key memory from the 10th Street location, circa 1975(?). I had nervously drafted my first article for the Econews, about some river issue. Sid Dominitz went over the article with me, very kindly and editorially, while we sat in the sun on a bench outside in front of Arcata Transit Authority. He suggested a ton of changes, but they were all good ones. I learned a lot about brevity and clarity in that single session. I always appreciated the red pen he wielded over the Econews (not everyone did!) “300 words or less!”
Econews layout nights were great fun, productive and a bit crazy. Board meetings were interesting, but never very well organized, imho.
These days there are so many more environmental organizations, and a lot of the issues have become mainstreamed. That was not the case in the ’70’s. It was so important and helpful to have a “Center.” I think it still is, but it was so much more unique at the time.
ZEN BIRD CURTAINS
After several fatalities and dazed feathered friends hitting our sliding glass doors, we decided to take action. Decals, streamers and keeping the blinds closed were not effective. Further research led us to the Zen Bird Curtain. Since putting it up we have observed the birds avoiding this area. Most Zen Bird Curtains are designed to be placed directly over the windows. However-we felt this was not an option in this circumstance. Because of its location the strands occasionally become entangled with feisty winds and people walking through them hurriedly. However, we don’t mind taking a moment of Zen to restore order to the strands when this happens. You can go on-line and find several videos on how to create one. We are happy to say there are no more bird eulogies since installing ours!
Mairead Dodd and Peter Zizza