Premortem for Sierra County 052111
Winter’s hard snows, which started in the middle of fall and lasted until the middle of spring, have been a blow to some. The dead economy has shuttered more businesses in the county, and shrinking state and federal budgets have put the remaining government jobs in jeopardy. There is no end in sight, as we continue to pour billions into Iraq and Afghanistan. The war in the Middle East is not only sucking tax dollars, gasoline is creeping towards five bucks a gallon, sucking the profit from commuting out of county to work.
The nature freaks, in their blissful ignorance and holy calling to do good, have killed gold dredging and are working to kill OHV and snowmobiling. The SPI cogen plant in Loyalton, the one chance for long-term sustainability, is cold to touch, locked in the grip of legal and financial mumbo-jumbo. As is always the case with colony states, the power of our future lies in the hands of wealthy men far away, men who know nothing and care nothing for our plight.
The Valley ranchers, historically a snooty and consanguineous bunch, will likely become like the withered aristocracy of the Old World as their children move away, climate change makes the pastures lean and bureaucrats salt the land with regulations. The last fence post and gopher mound will be in an easement, bought by the Muirish from more populated lands.
The county would lose grants if Loyalton dis-incorporated; that tiny flow of money justifies keeping it, on paper at least, an incorporated “city”. The County is in better shape than most, but that isn’t going to prevent it from being quartered and spread among other counties: Plumas, Lassen, and Nevada get the east county; Plumas gets the north and Nevada the South; foothill counties can squabble over the west. The division which has often separated Loyalton and Downieville will become a true division of ink, the stepsisters will be divorced. If anything, the County’s near solvency makes it a plum.
In the midst of this, our Board of Supervisors functions perfectly, taking the modest course, joining groups, writing letters; prudent men making responsible decisions. When the Titanic finally goes down, the Board will be at its post, playing “Nearer My God to Thee”, struggling to stay in tune as the water rises.
In the best of times, it is hard to be rural, but in these times, it is becoming fatal. Tragedy always depletes the rural lands; war and drought and famine drive people from their heritage lands to the cities. Urbanites force us to comply with codes and regulations, and because our existence is already marginal, the weight of it shutters our businesses, robs our children, binds our land. Our county officials are simply those maidens among us we’ve selected to serve the state, they are powerless to help us in any significant way, or to prevent the wilt of the ravaged economy.
In a world where everyone is mad, sanity makes no sense. If we are to have any hope of saving our schools, our city, our county, we must bet big and take chances. We will need to take actions that in a sane world would seem foolhardy. We really are in a life and death struggle against the climate, the economy, and a political power structure that is increasingly estranged from the land even as it rushes to “protect” it.
Otherwise, those who can leave, will, and those who can’t, will watch the old ways die.