Letter to the editor: Another side of solar

 

Solar Panel

photo by Jim Stroh

The Middle Finger 

By Charles James, Big Pine, CA

17 February 2014

The “California Salute,” that lifting of the middle finger in an otherwise closed fist, is the oft-used, “unofficial” fourth motor vehicle hand signal after “right-turn,” “left-turn,” and “stop” on California roadways. Also known as “flipping the bird,” as we all know: “The bird is the word” says the song and apparently so as well in the opinion of the writer of “Industrializing the heart of Owens Valley.”

In Greek mythology there is the well-known story of Icarus who, ignoring his father’s advice, flew too close to the sun wearing wings made of feathers and held together by wax. The wax melted and he plunged to his death. It wasn’t the fall that killed him; he drowned in the sea. There is no record of whether or not he “flipped the bird” at the sun on his way down while shouting “Damn solar energy!”

In the recent Letter to the Editor titled, “Industrializing the heart of Owens Valley”, the author metaphorically compared the “elongated shape of the proposed REDA (Renewable Energy Development Areas) as a giant middle finger flipped by Planning Department staff at those who love Owens Valley,”−because obviously the only group of people that truly love the Owens Valley and know what is best belong to the alliance represented by the writer. There could however be other views as well as alternative interpretations of the “elongated shape.”

Having their work and views misrepresented through use of an invented metaphor, who could blame the Planning Department staff if they wished to “flip their middle finger” at a particular someone. On the other hand, couldn’t the “elongated shape” be said to as easily resemble an “erection,” although one whose shape would send most men immediately to a doctor for treatment? Apparently 95% of the “erection” is on land owned by the LADWP. (Doesn’t this alternative interpretation seem somehow familiar, if not more applicable?)

As to the comment of the “remarkable display of opposition to DWP’s proposed industrial scale solar facility near Manzanar”, you might get the impression that there is overwhelming opposition in Inyo County to the project. Although far less vocal, there are many local business owners and private citizens that support the project and the economic boost that it could provide, saying that the short-term benefits of construction jobs and the long-term benefit of providing good paying local jobs into the future are exactly what the county needs. Actually, no one can prove (or disprove) that the project’s opponents or proponents represent a majority of voters or residents in the county. Loud protests do not signal a majority of opinion any more than silence.

Some feel that the solar energy project could bring much-needed jobs into the area, an improved housing market, and an improved local economy for Independence and Lone Pine. It could also mean more children in local schools, better state funding, and attract more young families. The Town of Independence is practically on life-support− and to be blunt, Inyo County needs to be something other than retirement communities… or a just great place to have a government job.

Tourism, often touted as both “savior” and “economic engine” for Inyo County, is a fickle mistress. Even in good years it provides only a hand-to-mouth existence for most workers in the private sector through low-wage, unskilled, and often part-time jobs. Allowing some limited industrialization or manufacturing within the county is a viable alternative to the sole reliance on tourism. The “slippery slope” argument that the valley floor will be overtaken by industrialization is not only a greatly exaggerated hypothetical, it is a well-known weak form (fallacy) of argumentation. Just because “A” happens is no guarantee that “B” will necessarily follow.

Unfortunately our County has no real economic development plan. Part of the county government’s responsibility is to provide social and economic stability− and while a viewshed may be aesthetically pleasing and spiritually fulfilling to some, it doesn’t put food on the table for all the talk of its value as a tourist attraction. That may be particularly true with respect to the area in which the solar energy project is being proposed. There are many viewsheds of equal or even greater value to be found in the valley. Also, consider the CARMA radio telescopes north of Big Pine which add interest to an otherwise unvarying landscape that many travelers along the 395 often describe as “boring.”

As to the charge of County Supervisors and Commissioners typically acquiescing to staff recommendations, the simple fact is− that is how representative government works. County supervisors throughout the state depend on staff to gather information and make recommendations to them to make informed decisions.

The Inyo County Planning Department is not a political or environmental organization. Its employees are not paid to write reports and make recommendations that espouse a particular political or philosophical view, or promote an environmental ideology or other cause. Nor are they in the business or habit of “flipping others off.” Their job (and they do it well) is to provide the Board of Supervisors with objective information upon which to base its decisions.

Anyone who has taken the time to attend the many public planning workshops and read the reports provided by the employees of the Planning Department know them to be highly professional and open-minded. They do not deserve to be belittled.

The writer’s opinion of the “Industrializing the heart of Owens Valley” would have greater merit if he had restrained himself from ad hominem attacks on county supervisors and county staff. It is one thing to disagree−everyone should have that right and opportunity−but it is quite another to resort to falsely manufacture accusations, misrepresent others’ actions, or attempt to belittle those with whom you disagree.

Keep in mind that you are the company you keep. Appeals to emotion are fine, but more important are true facts and then making good arguments in favor of your position. And own up to your middle finger; perhaps it is pointing towards you.

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Ken Warner
Ken Warner
8 years ago

PA: Your post is largely nonsense. 1) There is no such thing as Manzanar Historic viewshed. 2) If you are looking at the Sierra Nevada Mountains from Manzanar or 395, you couldn’t see the PV panels unless you have eyes in the back of your head. 3) Yes, people have… Read more »

Benett Kessler
Benett Kessler
8 years ago
Reply to  Ken Warner

Your last line could be applied to you as well.
Benett

Mongo
Mongo
8 years ago
Reply to  Benett Kessler

I’m a city slicker and I love to escape and enjoy the undeveloped OV. It is necessary that I escape for my overall health. I don’t drive out to Victorville, Twenty-nine Palms, Lancaster, Bakersfield, Mojave, Salton Sea, or any other uninhabited areas of California. Why do I prefer OV to… Read more »

Ken Warner
Ken Warner
8 years ago
Reply to  Benett Kessler

Benett: If you bothered to read your own blog, you would see that it’s not my line, it’s philip anaya’s.

Benett Kessler
Benett Kessler
8 years ago
Reply to  Ken Warner

The comment has Ken Warner’s name on it.
BK

Ken Warner
Ken Warner
8 years ago
Reply to  Benett Kessler

philip anaya February 20, 2014 at 10:08 am #
I would agree with you DT …

So DT. How about a little respect for the perception of others, for this Valley and a little honesty in this comparison that you attempt to make .

Benett Kessler
Benett Kessler
8 years ago
Reply to  Ken Warner

That’s not the comment I was commenting on. But, Anaya makes a good point.
BK

kwak
kwak
8 years ago
Reply to  Ken Warner

There is, in fact, a Manzanar Historic Viewshed (it’s tautological–look it up); what’s absent is your willingness or capacity to recognize it (or your illusion that in order for something to exist there must be an official designation of some sort by some agency). What is now the Manzanar National… Read more »

Mongo
Mongo
8 years ago
Reply to  kwak

When I venture into this “desert wasteland” as some describe it, I am continually amazed by the diversity of unusual adaptive life that has been preserved in this geographically isolated and uniquely watered desert region. I know the value of the OV and of the incidental rarity of its unlikely… Read more »

Desert Tortoise
Desert Tortoise
8 years ago

Will some of you please drive south to Mojave and see, what little there is to be seen, of a similar project immediately west of Hwy 14 just south of Mojave, and two more such installations on Hwy 138 west of Lancaster. This is not anything like the big solar… Read more »

Ken Warner
Ken Warner
8 years ago

Good point DT. People get upset over things they have never seen except in their imagination.

My thoughts about the Manzanar (beating that dead horse again) is that the heat shimmer off the dark ground would make whatever PV panels installed invisible from Manzanar and most of 395.

philip anaya
philip anaya
8 years ago

I would agree with you DT that the 2 PV Solar projects do not present visual impacts to their surroundings. The entire area is covered for many square miles with Industrial Scale Renewable Energy Projects. These two projects fit right in to that modern day Industrial landscape. They however are… Read more »

philip anaya
philip anaya
8 years ago

An open letter to Inyo County Planning Dear Mr. Hart , Inyo County Planning Director As you know the documents for the REGPA item #6 for the Planning Commission Meeting Feb 26 ,2014 are quite extensive, highly technical and specific and I thank you and your staff for their preparation… Read more »

MJA
MJA
8 years ago

Sometimes truth like the dust in the Owens Valley is hard to swallow. Way to go James. =

Eastern Sierra Local
Eastern Sierra Local
8 years ago

Excellent article and commentary. It’s quite interesting how the individual who wrote the initial piece that you’re responding to claims to represent many people in the Owens Valley- yet I actually support solar projects in the Owens Valley- he doesn’t speak for me.

Ben Holgate
Ben Holgate
8 years ago

Charles, You concede here that Inyo doesn’t have a plan for economic development. So, starting from a point of agreement is good – Everyone knows industrial solar is not part of any economic development plan for the Owens Valley. Many of us are working with our elected leaders on a… Read more »

Philip Anaya
Philip Anaya
8 years ago

“Inyo County is a land of contrasts formed by the diverse and abundant natural riches located here.” This is from page 1-1 of the Inyo county General Plan http://inyoplanning.org/general_plan/goals/ch1.pdf This Document was crafted in Dec 2001. I’m thinking an open “Space Odyssey” The people who crafted it’s drafting, with the… Read more »

Charles James
Charles James
8 years ago
Reply to  Philip Anaya

Philip, thank you for the comment. As usual your comments on these posts often eloquently explain your views and your obvious love for the area. As you noted the General Plan Goals were promulgated in 2001. General plans however are not static documents, but are revised periodically to meet changing… Read more »

Philip Anaya
Philip Anaya
8 years ago
Reply to  Charles James

Mr. James has much more understanding and experience with the Environmental Community than myself. I am aware of a confusion residing within myself between Global Warming ,Carbon Footprints , the need for renewable energy all vital essential broad strokes to Earths health and salvation and the conflict that arises when… Read more »

Charles James
Charles James
8 years ago

Ken, thanks for the kind words. My concern is more to the type of dialogue surrounding the project that eschew or distort facts and then resort to incivility. I knew that many would not agree with my listing what some feel are the positive aspects of the solar energy project.… Read more »

Ken Warner
Ken Warner
8 years ago
Reply to  Charles James

“My concern is more to the type of dialogue surrounding the project that eschew or distort facts and then resort to incivility.”

So sad — so true. Seems an intractable problem and not unique to SierraWave.

Mongo, Superficial Conservationist
Mongo, Superficial Conservationist
8 years ago

I recycle bottles, plastic, newspaper and cans, I pay CRV, I use reusable shopping bags, I have a catalytic converter on my car, I observe no burn days, I use public transportation, I walk instead of using the car, I read Walden, Life in the Woods, . Most of these… Read more »

Eastern Sierra Local
Eastern Sierra Local
8 years ago

Actually, “Mongo the Conservationist” the “Coalition of Unified Recreation in the Eastern Sierra” (CURES- a now defunct organization) designated US 395 a “Scenic Byway” but that designation holds no significance officially other than to CURES-there no official “scenic byway” in the eastern Sierra. US 395 is an official State designated… Read more »

Mongo
Mongo
8 years ago

OK,
You’re right.
Go ahead with the panels.
M

Benett Kessler
Benett Kessler
8 years ago
Reply to  Mongo

I think you had good points earlier, Mongo. Our own perceptions of beauty and scenery have validity. They don’t need to be locked down with a designation one way or the other. I am sad that southern Inyo, with the exception of Laws and Deep Springs, have been exclusively chosen… Read more »

Eastern Sierra Local
Eastern Sierra Local
8 years ago
Reply to  Benett Kessler

This is half correct Ms. Kessler; Daniel Prichett’s letter you posted earlier (of which Mr. James is responding to) specifically calls out “the world class beauty” of Owens Valley and how the Inyo County Planning Department is thumbing their noses to those designations (sic). There is no designation of the… Read more »

Mongo
Mongo
8 years ago
Reply to  Benett Kessler

I know that I am wrong for this part of society. I hold beauty, people and spirit above commerce. To me the whole point of money is to enjoy these things. Commercialism seemingly drives everything we do. Our stewardship to the earth and to each other lays dead in the… Read more »

Mongo
Mongo
8 years ago

Is The Scenic Byway worth preserving, or are other options more cost benefit effective to society? The scenic area is of interest to society while the solar project being in OV may be more corporately and land holder profit motivated.

Eastern Sierra Local
Eastern Sierra Local
8 years ago
Reply to  Mongo

The official State designated scenic highway map for Inyo County.

http://www.dot.ca.gov/hq/LandArch/scenic_highways/index.htm

Ken Warner
Ken Warner
8 years ago

Very good James. A little wordy but the premise is right on. The valley’s reliance on tourism is exactly what was sold the early residents as fair trade for losing their water and ability to develop an agricultural base. We can see the results of that dependency in every town… Read more »