It’s encouraging to see the lively debate about Measure C, the Watershed and Oak Woodlands initiative, that Napa voters will decide in June. It’s one example of a working principle of our democracy -- expressing opinions respectfully in a neutral public forum.
Compromise is another principle that makes democracy effective. Measure C was drafted by a concerned group of vintners and environmentalists who know that it's a necessary part of policy making. Compromise inherently doesn’t meet all the demands of either side, but it creates a solution that is good enough.
At a time in our national history when we all are frustrated by the rarity of working together across ideological divides, we can appreciate the efforts of both of these groups to find a middle ground.
We can also thank those who established — also amidst much controversy and outcry — far-seeing protections for our ag lands. Yet five decades later our understanding of our world and the protections needed has changed. The immediacy of global warming means that we must all find new ways to work together, and the sooner the better.
With the national weather service in the United Kingdom, the Met Office, predicting recently that "1.5 degree Celsius events are now looming over the horizon,” we are approaching the temperature limits from the Paris climate agreement about two decades ahead of earlier predictions for around 2040.
So while we can appreciate our responsible local vintners who have been living here and environmentally proactive throughout their careers, none of us can stand on our laurels in the world we now live in. A committed and innovative stewardship will strengthen protections for agriculture, and at the same time show a local commitment to solutions needed to limit global warming.
Actions that mitigate climate change are complementary to the compromises of Measure C. The main sources of CO2 pollution are burning fossil fuels and deforestation. Mature oaks sequester CO2, an acre of forest absorbing twice what is created by an average car's annual mileage.
Our forested lands retain water, easing the severity of droughts, filtering and protecting the water our cities need. Producing a gallon of wine uses seven gallons of water, and if that water is groundwater over four gallons of it comes from our watersheds. Enough water for both ag use and our cities, as well as smart climate choices, means planning for the future now.
Oak woodlands can currently be cut with very minimal limits. Measure C creates a compromise between two strong minded groups, allowing 795 acres to be developed and forests removed. When that limit is reached, permits are needed to remove our trees, which will slow development.
Because the latest groundwater report commissioned by the county shows declines in three areas of the Napa Valley sub-basin, we need to ask ourselves today where the water for additional growth is going to come from, keeping in mind predictions for more frequent droughts in California.
Compromise works in politics, but not so well with Mother Nature. The reality of global warming will continue to intrude on our fantasies of unlimited growth. Nature, as we have understood her, has changed course, and we must acknowledge the magnitude of the changes and shift our priorities, taking the clear and non-political physics of rising temperature into consideration in our local decisions.
People ask "what can we do?” about reducing global warming. Measure C, though a small step in solving a huge problem, will begin changing priorities in our local actions now in order to build toward long term protections.
Preserving our iconic woodlands and ensuring adequate water for our cities and agriculture are the immediate choices we have in June, and both demonstrate our commitment to act locally while thinking globally.
A yes on Measure C joins our valley with the growing efforts worldwide that protect our future, which is not so far off as we once believed.
Steve and Sandra Booth