2021 Yolo Sustainability Plan

Review of the Yolo County Sustainability (Draft) Plan – by Scott Steward

The draft Yolo County Sustainability plan was just distributed.  

Is the draft Yolo County Sustainability Plan perfect, no one would make that claim, but I have gratitude for at least having a 15 page county level Sustainability Plan.  

It’s perfectly valid to assess the Yolo County Sustainability Plan as well organized lackluster. The process of producing a sustainability plans is limited by the laws we pass and conventions we enforce.  So, for example, if you want to see Methyl-Bromide never used again, then it needs to be law before the Sustainability Plan can claim that the County’s highly effective incentives for bio-friendly pesticides replaced carcinogenic pesticides – instead you will read about the “limited” continued use of the carcinogen.

This Strategic Plan review starts with the frame that we (we the public) are dealing with a governance system that is predicated on a culture that has settled on a environmental policy of “do the least harm.”  The great mistake of the “do the least harm” environmental policy is that it assumes natural resources will “naturally” compensate, for the annual harm imparted; that they will naturally replace themselves and “give us” a fresh palate of resources as we go merrily along.  That is grossly incorrect.  Humans have broken the ability of the earth to compensate and future versions of Sustainability Plans need to reflect that reality.

You will not find requirements for 100% recyclable or 100% degradable plastics, or other essential policies, in the Draft Yolo Sustainability Plan.  You will find a useful placement of about 30 local municipal and County plans and projects and some 23 State and Federal departments segmented into 8 “elements” – Land, Water, Air, Buildings,  Waste, Local Food, Agriculture, and Education.  Each element is given a  summary of the policy and the plans and programs adopted by the county and then by the state and federal government that enforce or inform those local policies. 

Health and safety elements are missing from this draft of the Sustainability Plan.  Those that suffer most from our legacy of “do the least harm,” are our front-line workers, marginalized and under-represented black and brown community members.  They have been most harmed and the most likely to die from our practice of not planning comprehensively for climate change.  This needs to be addressed before the Sustainability Plan is finalized.

Read the Sustainability plan and get some perspective.  You will start to create spaces for the “Yolo-Bypass Wildlife Area Land Management Plan” and how that Land policy is related to Water policy.  How the standard for sounding the alarm about nitrogen in drinking water is to “not significantly impair water quality.”  It’s kind of like saying, “what’s a little tetrachloride” as long as it’s parts per million are smidgens?

For those of us doing the work of moving our culture to a just and equitable regenerative future, the important statement in the report is this “the key elements selected for evaluation and recommendations made do not preclude the County from exploring additional or complimentary elements, strategies, or actions related to sustainability in the future.”  

Not to upend the progress that the Sustainability Plan represents – the sustainability plan was created and delivered within a system that is still learning to communicate how much bolder we must be.  This review is to make it clear to our public that this is where you come in – the County’s work is a large part of our covenant with the youth of the world.  Youth who marched 2 years ago, March 15th, in The World Climate Strike and shook us to our bones – “Our House Is Burning!”

What we are here for is to engage with our legacy and change course in every personal and collective way possible – to contribute to living system’s health.  What we are also here for is to constructively upend policy maker comfort with what has been and what is currently contained in the Sustainability Plan.  It’s not enough.