Sunday, September 28, 2008

San Francisco

Hola folks.... from Silicon Valley! I've been living and working in Silicon Valley and the greater San Francisco Bay Area for almost a month now. I have been so busy that that I hardly have a chance to think... thus nothing new to write about until now.

San Fransisco and the Bay Area is UNBELIEVABLY liberal. I've never been anywhere like this before. My shock and amazement of San Diego liberal is in comparison rather conservative. I have yet to figure out what exactly though all this liberal-ness is. I can't quite describe it. The area has a rather odd sisterhood with NYC and Ithica (NY), as well as Boulder (Colorado), Portland (Oregon), and Seattle. Despite its liberal tendencies, I have had a rather difficult time finding gluten free food. Although the problem lies mostly in that I have found 2 restaurants/stores in 30 days that speaks enough English for me to describe my food "allergies". If the servers/managers/staff speak english then they always seem to know what gluten is. If they don't speak English, I have a hard time even communicating that I need to avoid wheat. My attempts to explain that I cannot eat wheat, barley, and rye, as well as soy and dairy has even resulted in the staff looking at me and asking whether or not I just asked for a job. AAHHHH!

Currently I'm running an office here for Environment California ( and it has been a lot of hiring, training & managing staff (as well as firing several people) and all the administrative parts of running an campaign office. I work at least 12 hours a day, plus a 35 min. commute each way. Add 7-9 hours of sleep and that leaves me with about 2 hours to cook food (or find food in most cases), take a shower, talk to a few people on the phone, and read a bed time story. My "bedtime story" these days is Hot, Flat, and Crowded by Thomas Friedman, the NY Times columnist on foreign policy and economics.

All that aside, life is going well. Albeit stressful. Vernon, a mutual friend of mine and Adam's that worked with us over the summer in San Diego is now running another office in the Bay Area. Last weekend we visited San Fransisco and saw sights in the Bay Area. Yesterday I had a regional meeting/training in Berkley with all the other NorCal offices (Northern California- there are 5 total). Vernon and I spent the night in San Fransisco and then took a hike in the Redwood forests this morning. I found the experience extremely refreshing and sad at the same time. I have missed the forests, fields, and water of upstate New York and the brief hike was wonderful. However, the effects of climate change (that I have chronicled in Europe and San Diego) are visibly evident in the Redwood forests here, which made me very sad. I wonder whether or not if in the next 50 years we lost our ecosystems even at the same rate that has been occurring in the past 50 years, how many of our forests and water bodies and natural environments will still be alive and thriving? Will my children get the chance discover an owl, a deer, or even a snake or a bear wild in the forest, or will they only see them in a zoo?

This book I have been reading by Thomas Friedman has made me think more and more as I get deeper into it. My work with Environment California dovetails closely with the concepts Thomas Friedman lays out in his book, although in a much simpler, 30 second version. I don't agree with everything has written about, but he has some very interesting theories and proposals. With the current economic crisis, I wonder how we will ever be able to deal with our energy crisis. Our dependency on oil and other fossil fuels has led to skyrocketing energy costs and global warming. However, we have the technology to harness the wind, sun, and other homegrown, clean energy sources. But there is no political willpower to do even what scientists call for as a minimum. Looking back at US history however, I am both afraid and thankful for this economic slippery slope. Perhaps I am over simplifying, but the 20's were an era of decadence, greed, independence and over-abundance. Then the stock market crashed. The Great Depression happened. But we pulled out of it by harnessing our innovation and reinventing our society. We don't have much time if were are to reduce our global warming pollution to avert even the worst parts of dramatic climatic changes everywhere, all over the globe. But this economic down-spin we are in may be a blessing in disguise. Nothing so far has spurred us enough to confront this challenge of systemic change in our energy production, consumption, and conservation. I certainly don't want this path, but I'm afraid it may be one of the only viable ones left.

Such challenging issues... and yet my greatest frustration is that so many Americans are oblivious to it all. Why do the rural Chinese and Africans, and news giants in Saudi Arabia, as well as the business class on India and even entire governments in Europe are acknowledging and even addressing these problems and we have yet to agree on whether or not they exist yet? This goes beyond simple apathy to plain ignorance, which fortunately is a solvable problem.