Saturday, September 20, 2014

The State of Jefferson, Logging and the Confederate Mindset...

All across rural northern California you can find evidence of a growing secessionist movement.  The feeling I get when I look at all these billboards and flags (yes, flags) that are sprouting up everywhere  like measles spots as I drive around Butte, Glenn and Tehama counties for my job---the feeling I get is that I'm looking at the northern California version of the Confederate flag. And that's what it is essentially.

The State of Jefferson has been adopted by mostly extremist Tea Party types who pine for the days when there were no rules regarding resource extraction. They blame city people for most of the problems in rural areas, and they long for the days when resource extraction didn't come with all those "regulations". They mostly blame Environmentalists for their problems and most would shoot a spotted owl if they saw one.

However, if you look at time sequenced shots of the forests in northern California, you will see that there has been no shortage of resource extraction. The number of clear cuts is sickening and to watch them on time sequence shots is apalling. There is no shortage of logging. Mechanization has created a world where logging takes a couple of people to clear a forest---as seen on those horrid logging television shows. And what happens to the wood? Factories are more efficient, more mechanized and require fewer people. Plus much of the wood is shipped raw to China.

There has been no reduction in cutting of our forests. Ten minutes on Google Earth is all that is needed to prove that assertion. The reduction in work force has come from mechanization and global trade. The Third Worldization of rural California. Yet, it is so much easier to blame an Enviro. Or a spotted owl.

Ban shipping raw logs to other countries and rural California would immediately see an increase in jobs. Ban all clear cutting of forests and move to selective logging of the forests and  you would see an increase in jobs in California. Selective logging is much more labor intensive.

But for those who want to see an end to the onerous regulations that Sacramento supposedly imposes on rural California, well, it is much more fun to blame a bureaucrat or an Enviro for your problems.

Of course the State of Jefferson is a pipe dream. Can you imagine two more US Senators from Glenn and Siskiyou Counties? Can  you imagine two more Senators who would be like Doug LaMalfa and Dan Logue?  It is bad enough that we have to put up with the undue over representation of rural areas like Idaho, Wyoming, North Dakota, South Dakota and Montana. Political clout is already skewed towards unpopulated rural States.

But these Tea Partiers are convinced that a new State of Jefferson that would look and behave much like Texas would be the answer to all their woes. Well, their woes have been caused by a lack of vision in their elected Representatives for the past 40 years. Neither the Democrats or the Republicans have a decent plan for reintegrating rural areas into a functioning economy.

But at least the Tea Partiers have a plan. The Democrats have presented no ideas as to how to help rural California. Hence, without a competing vision, the people have bought the lies of the logging and the extraction industries and continue to elect politicians who are tied to the teats of these industries.

It wasn't always this way. Northern California was solidly in the Democratic camp up until 1980. What happened? The Unions were busted and local economies were destroyed in the previous 20 years as economies of scale brought cheap products in and moved the small manufacturers and the mom and pop shops out. Agriculture has been in a free fall from mechanization for seventy years and now is essentially controlled by a few corporations and a few rich families. Local examples of that would be the Butte County Rice Barons found in the LaMalfa family and the Lundbergs.  A tale of those two families would make a pretty interesting contrast: the organic, progressive Lundbergs who sit (and profit) on the same water district as the right wing, reactionary LaMalfas.

What is needed is a competing plan/vision for rural California. A plan that doesn't rely on extraction but on sustainability. A plan that markets beauty. Adventure. Local economies. All the benefits of rural life that creates good jobs without creating rural sprawl.

One thing is for certain: creating a State of Jefferson is not the answer, even if there was a snowballs chance in hell of being created.

1 comment:

  1. Great article Alan. I couldn't agree more.