Kimberly Burr | Jul 14, 2015
The innocent, and others that seek to travel and drink responsibly, might consider the below.
Because the local wine industry lays claim to our countryside literally calling it "Wine Country", and because they have launched a campaign to brand the minds of locals and prospective travelers, we must insist that the health of our regions watersheds and groundwater resources be included in any definition of sustainability. The Sonoma County wine industry's recent use of an important environmental concept -sustainability, does not do that. The attempted manipulation of the consumer to believe that something currently unsustainable is sustainable is, in my opinion, dishonorable. A branding campaign like the one the industry has launched cannot hide the fact that local watersheds are suffering negative impacts on wildlife, water supply, and old time residents.
True sustainability is a community wide process that takes into account all impacts in order that they can be analyzed and avoided, or fixed some how. As the impoverished conditions of our regions streams, forests, wildlife, and wells demonstrate, the major land users in our watersheds are acting in an UNsustainable manner. Until the public's interest in healthy watersheds are protected in perpetuity, the Sonoma County wine industry, a major developer in local watersheds, is UNsustainable.
Until stream flows are reliable, fish run naturally, forests and woodlands are properly protected, groundwater is managed like one manages their check book, and until the industry embraces transparency and cooperation, the Sonoma County wine industry is UNsustainable.
True sustainability means that there are, and will continue be, living streams with water, fish, and salamanders, and that there are protection policies that place a proper value on trees. In this respect too, the Sonoma County wine industry in UNsustainable.
True sustainability is transparent and verifiable. Independent certification by reputable parties is a basic tenet of programs that can stand up to the light of day. The Sonoma County wine industry is not there yet. A program based upon self certification and with a narrow focus that is used as much as a marketing ploy as anything else does not equal true sustainability.
True sustainability is something the industry could be proud of. The industry, should welcome independent and comprehensive certifications. Our region, despite proclamations to the contrary, is home to an UNsustainable wine industry. The industry as a whole is producing wine next to rivers and streams devoid of salmon. It has ripped up ground that once supported cooling trees whose root systems created pathways for rainwater that refilled groundwater aquifers. Groundwater is now a finite resource. The current intensive agriculture is unsustainable insofar as much of it occupies grounds where once tall redwoods touched the sky and cooled and wetted our watersheds.
And finally, the development of groundwater pumping systems, wine grape installations, and construction of processing facilities continues a pace in the absence of adequate controls and proper monitoring, and despite the severely degraded conditions in our watersheds. Coastal grass lands and ancient soils are being ripped 6-feet down and the complex soils tossed up into the daylight in order to wipe out older root systems. Vast amounts of chemicals continue to be used, and removal of woodlands and forests continues.
The wine industry has the power, funds, and truly green economic incentives to change all this. The smart and honorable thing to do would be for local growers and tasting rooms to adopt a watershed and fix it - ensure adequate flows, caretake their own healthy runs of salmon, increase riparian buffers, phase out chemicals and irrigation, and honor the limits of extraction embodied in the concept of sustainability. Until then, I eagerly look forward to the day when the Sonoma County wine industry in coordination with the community is run in a sustainable manner. It will be a proud day.