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Afterburn – Response to North Bay Fires

Blogpost published on: Tuesday, November 7th, 2017

Afterburn, photo by Jim Coleman

October 2017.  In the middle of a tightly scheduled month of strategic planning retreats at OAEC, an unprecedented wildfire ripped through our region, consuming 300,000+ acres, 8,000+ buildings, and 41 human lives. With blessings counted and cars packed ready to evacuate at any moment, we donned masks, kept eyes peeled for spot fires from embers floating through the smokey rose-colored sky, and got to work.  The cancellation of retreat groups here at OAEC freed us up to house and feed dozens of evacuees (mostly undocumented families) during the 2-week crisis.

In the midst of it all, the annual Bioneers Conference in Marin County forged ahead as planned, and a group of organizers, including ecologist Brock Dolman of OAEC, came together to debrief and begin to envision the way forward. Watch the full interview by Free Speech TV for Brock’s analysis…

Now that the smoke has cleared and folks are returning to the smoldering remains of homes and livelihoods, the North Bay Area sits with the opportunity to rebuild and continue the incredible mobilization of people power that has been catalyzed. The devastation, toxicity and trauma is massive and will continue to unfold over the weeks and years to come. Yet never has there been a more opportune moment in our region’s history to apply the ethics of democratic self-governance and the principles of permaculture to create the ecologically and culturally healthy future that we all want.

Take Action!   Here are a few things you can do to help:

1) Give money.

  • Undocufund  Undocumented residents of Sonoma County have been hit hardest by these fires and do not have equal access to relief moneys and services.
  • Just & Resilient Future Fund Organized by the Farmers Guild, Community Alliance with Family Farmers, the North Bay Organizing Project, Daily Acts, the School Box Project, the Arlene Francis Center, Sebastopol Grange and Conservation Action. Funds will support initiatives that build more just, healthy, and resilient communities and that better prepare us for future catastrophe.
  • Redwood Credit Union Fire Relief Fund – 100% of the proceeds go directly to those who need it and keep money circulating within our local economy.
  • Sonomacounty.recovers.org – lists lots more opportunities to give

2) Get involved in local government. 

“Vulture capitalists” are already circling overhead, so it’s time to stand up and protect the commons!  Support grassroots campaigns and public processes that promote a just and ecological transition in this critical moment. The moment is ripe for the movement to demand recovery solutions that prioritize:

  • ecologically intelligent clean-up
  • building of affordable, dignified, non-toxic housing that addresses both the pre-existing and fire-related affordable housing crisis
  • jobs that favor just, locally-owned, appropriate-scale organizations and businesses
  • preservation and expansion of the commons including open spaces and community-centric (not car-centric) development
  • democratic, participatory planning processes based on what people, not corporations, want

Check out sonomacountyrises.org for more information on how to get involved in re-envisioning Sonoma County’s future.

3) Become fire-literate.
Did you know that the California landscape evolved in a fire ecology for thousands of years?  The patterns of the Tubbs fire are very similar to another fire in 1968 and likely many, many other fires over millennia. Native Californian place names, stories and land-use practices provide a wealth of Traditional Ecological Knowledge on how to live in balance with fire. Check out these resources:

4) Stop the proliferation of toxic petroleum-based materials and the capitalist system that produces them.
Toxic ash from burned buildings and their contents will have the most lasting negative impact on human and ecological heath through air pollution and stormwater runoff – and will be the most expensive aspect of cleanup.  Read the NewsDeeply article in which OAEC’s Brock Dolman is quoted.  Make a commitment not to build nor fill your home with things that are toxic when burned (including, ironically, flame retardants) AND hold manufacturers accountable for pollution by supporting legislation that stops the over-production of plastics and other volatile compounds at their source.  #cheapstuffisn’tcheap  @storyofstuff

Photo found at a farm near Santa Rosa after the fire and posted on Facebook.

Glen Ellen was home to author Jack London and ironically this poem was written in response to his home burning down in 1913.