The Sonoma Ecology Center celebrates its silver anniversary this Earth Day — marking 25 years of bringing environmental awareness, ecosystem restoration and overall conservation common sense to the Sonoma Valley.
Ecology Center Executive Director Richard Dale has had his boots on the “green” ground since the beginning. As he and the nonprofit’s indefatigable staff and volunteers gear up for their April 22 anniversary celebration and panel discussion, “Building a Sustainable Sonoma,” we asked Dale about everything from the Ecology Center’s past to its progress to its plans for the future.
The big Earth Day event takes place Wednesday at Ramekins (450 W. Spain St.) with a 5 p.m. reception and panel from 6 to 7:30 p.m. ($20 general; $12 students).
Until then, here’s the second part of our interview with Dale.
In Part 1, which ran last Friday, we talked to Dale about the legacy of the Sonoma Ecology Center. For the second part of our Q&A, the nonprofit’s executive director discusses the future – for the SEC, Sonoma and the world.
The SEC launched the Sustainable Sonoma initiative in 2013. Well, are we sustainable yet?
We’ve made progress learning about and taking better care of what we consider the “foundations of civilization” here — our land, water, climate and biodiversity. We’ve also learned that all this good work really isn’t enough. If someone is focused on survival, or if there are incentives for a business or a household that eclipse the benefits of acting for the health of the community and its environment, those actors can’t be expected to act outside of their interests.
So you’ve got to sell people on this beyond, what’s in it for me?
There is a growing interest here to act more sustainably in realms beyond the environment, with wide-ranging discussions on health and economic disparity, so there is receptivity to a larger conversation.
How does Sustainable Sonoma fit into that conversation?
Sustainable Sonoma invites our community to collaborate on a program to unite our collective sustainability efforts. We have built a framework for the program, and brought together partners from health, and local tourism and business. In the coming months we’ll foster a larger partnership, develop common measures of sustainability, track those measures, identify gaps in collective community sustainability efforts, prioritize actions, communicate progress back to the community, and if all goes well, scale up the project so that by 2025 Sonoma County is the most sustainable county in California.
That sounds like a tall order for the Ecological Center.
We don’t see this as an SEC project, we see this as a Sonoma Valley and County project. If not here, where on earth could this happen?
Do people have any misunderstandings about the SEC?
People tend to think of us based on where they meet us. We’re educators to thousands of students, parents and campers. We lead outings. We raise produce and offer a place to grow it. We establish preserves and help protect key open spaces. We clean up and work on creeks. We host forums and conferences on important environmental topics, make great maps, manage a state park. We work on climate issues, work on water and groundwater. We build innovative partnerships.