A perspective on growth



Editor, Index-Tribune:

As a follow-up to a conversation I had the other day with a longtime Sonoma resident, I received this email. His perspective is one I’ve not heard expressed in our town’s ongoing discussion about growth, so I wanted to share it. I think it adds an important dimension to the discussion. This is what he said:

“For those who wish to keep Sonoma rural, rustic, small town, etc., their effort is about 40 years (or more) too late. When the ribbon on the Golden Gate Bridge was cut in 1937, the destiny of small, rural towns north of the bridge was destined to forever change.

“For those who rail against the tourist/wine-based culture, there is a simple question, what is the alternative?

“The commercial poultry industry is gone. The dairy industry is shrinking. Plums, pears and apples are long gone.

“Sonoma and Napa are two of the best places in the world to produce wine grapes. Tourists love to come, see and sip. And, when they go home, they ask their local wine vendor, ‘can you get me a case of …?’ When I took economics, this was called ‘pull through.’ First, it employs people who look after tourists, then it helps wineries sell wine, which employs lots more people. It is pretty simple. If you want a viable local economy based on something other than social security payments and distributions from IRA accounts (and other forms of retirement payments) this formula is our best shot.

“When employers make money, it is a lot easier for all the folks in the ‘neighborhood’ to make money. And when people are working at something, doing a good job and making money, they are happier.

“I know capitalism is kind of out of fashion.

“I will put the soap box away now.”

Thoughts to ponder.

Sue Simon


  • Dee Test

    “The commercial poultry industry, the dairy industry, plums and apples are long gone…”. Right. Lets bury the small family farmer. Lets get rid of the concept of small family agriculture and embrace large corporate industrial farming and all the large corporate profits that go with that model of “Life in America”. Lets celebrate the lack of accountability and responsibility in the production of our food chain, which has led to unprecedented rates of cancer and other major negative health consequences

    to our population. Lets turn our civilized communities – where raising our families with ethical and health-conscious choices used to be paramount – into tourist meccas for maximum profit. Its a question of priorities. That “viable local economy” comes at a steep cost, if we undermine our quality of life and loose our capacity to raise our children in a healthy environment.

  • giulia

    Not to speak of the amazing amounts of water that the wine industry uses, plus the pollutants (herbicides, pesticides, fungicides, fertilizers etc.) seeping into the water system from their vineyards. I have watched Sonoma Creek disappear over the last few decades, and now that we are in the midst of a drought nobody seems to be talking about the terrible impact that the destroying of pastureland and wild areas has had on our water supply to make way for more more more vineyards . The water table is falling drastically and although saving water in the home is always a good idea it is a pittance when compared to agricultural uses (4% vs. 90% respectively). Not serving you water at your table at a restaurant, unless specifically requested, is a nice gesture, but detracts attention from the real culprit in our area: over-planting of vineyards. In Europe it rains (a lot) in the summer: here we have to irrigate the vines. Please, let’s put a stop to more planting of vineyards, and let’s require every vine grower to let a certain percentage of old vine acreage revert to pasture land, instead of replanting new vines, and allow the growth of native grasses, trees and bushes. Respectfully,

  • Phineas Worthington

    Capitalism is only out of fashion because of the total lack of ideological diversity in our schools due to the tyrannical control of progressives on the economic ideas being disseminated to youth. I managed to salvage some decent self-education in spite of my sub-par government education. So can anyone else. It just takes effort.

    • The Village Idiot

      As formal schooling eventually ends for everyone, continuing self-education is commendable; it shows a healthy curiosity important to the survival of the species. As you indicate, you are obviously largely self-educated and apparently received little benefit from public education.

      However, it appears ideology, not knowledge, is more important to you. Acquiring real knowledge means being willing to ask questions, challenge answers and accepted thinking and follow evidence wherever it leads, even if it destroys comforting ideologies.
      Ideology severely handicaps the ability to acknowledge or even recognize conflicting facts which, to a more rigorous and open mind, demand cogent explanations.

      Ideology is the antithesis of learning, a hypothesis that begs the question.

      To wit, in disparaging an allegedly sub-standard ‘government education,’ you fail to explain or even appreciate that millions of Americans with a similar or identical government (taxpayer) education, who may even have sat beside you in class or commented in these spaces, are obviously more knowledgeable, accomplished, nimble and better educated than you.

      Was it really because of a ‘total lack of ideological diversity in our schools’ or ‘tyrannical progressives’ that capitalism now seems dysfunctional to so many of Americans, even those from the best private schools? Was the government-provided public education really so sub-standard, or was it the student? Do you even understand the question? Take your time.

      • Phineas Worthington

        I will be glad to have a meaningful conversation with you when you decide to have the courage to use your real name and a real picture. Otherwise, I prefer not.