Preserve future by participating in comp. plan | Guest column

By Steve Ulvi

This place, protectively moated by surging tidal waters from the continuous spreading rash of the I-5 corridor, is a prominent geography of hope. I suspect that this has been a place of promise since the first human footprints on sand.

People often use terms like pristine, wild, natural, rich or abundant in describing these islands and waters. As if the inconvenient truths of history can somehow be swept away or ignored. The generational blinders of “shifting baseline syndrome” numb all but the alarmists among us.

You can apply this crippling lack of perspective to almost anything is this era of drastic change. The most truthful bumper sticker for seekers of the good life in the west has always been “You shoulda been here 30 years ago!”

I have a nagging feeling that despite our happy talk, the opportunities for this county to attain long-term community stability – a more diversified economy, balanced population demographics and protection of critical resources – is evaporating like a snowbank overpowered by the relentless intensity of the summer sun.

As depressing as the national picture is, the future of this unusual county is to some extent still ours to prescribe and protect. As Canadian scientist David Suzuki reminds us, “Our future will not be determined by chance. It will be determined by choice.” Collective public choice.

So, by what process can we hope to preserve future opportunities while slowing the excesses of decades of gentrification, parceling out arable land and effectively squeezing out a functional middle class? The 2018 County Comprehensive Plan Update! I know, the sound of one hand clapping in eager anticipation!

This update asks that we take measure of our immediate challenges and extrapolate them into the future with an eye on altering the arc of outcomes. Hopefully, we can realize just how ineffective head-nodding agreement is without clear lines in the sand to constrain the self-destructive momentum of the “Nantucket Effect” in order to create a far more sustainable future.

After agreeing that 19,400 plus people is the best middling “guestimate” of the county population 20 years out, the multi-part “community visioning” feedback loops are next up. A new vision declaration should stand in stark contrast to 1997, when accelerating global climate change, was widely unrealized or poo-pooed as Ivory Tower, pointy-head alarmist speculation (except, it turns out, by Exxon Mobile senior scientists!).

You can be sure that the “growth is always good, so open the doors wide and we will sort everything else out later!” cheerleaders will participate in force, protecting the status quo trajectory and their own profit-taking from overblown summer tourism and rampant trophy home construction “Preserving rural character” is a bumper sticker sentiment, not the well-defined and measurable outcome it must be.

Where does your mind wander as you sit in ferry lines thinking about somehow preserving the rare qualities of this place for future generations of regular folks, given the compounding socio-economic disruptions and the new normal of cascading climate change impacts?

Editor’s note: To learn about upcoming meetings on the comprehensive plan, read this article.