Damn, but we love our views. We love them so much that, back in 2011, some of us successfully levied this love into stopping the big baddies at Shell Energy from installing wind turbines on Bear River Ridge, just south of Ferndale. "Unsightly!" was the argument. OK, well, there were other arguments, like the prospect of large equipment trucks barreling down the Wildcat and the well-documented negative impact of wind farms on bird species. But the loudest shouts came from those who didn't want Ferndale's postcard-ready face pockmarked by progress, even if that progress represented a step toward alternative energy. NOMRL: "Not On My Ridgeline!" The rallying cry for we rural NIMBYs who are lucky enough to have the wilderness as our backyards.
Now, faced with the uncertainty of legalization and the very real influx of mega-growers leveling hillsides, draining streams, out-watting the stars with mixed-light grows and generally ruining our views with giant greenhouses, we are crowding out community meeting halls and Board of Supervisors meetings, waving the banner of NOMRL once again. Given that we live in the most beautiful place in the world, it's not a bad argument. It's actually an argument I've used before in this column. But it's not the right argument.
Commercial agriculture is not coming to our backyards. It is here. It has been here. And chances are that you and I have already profited from it, actively or passively. We have profited from it as growers, as trimmers, as soil salesmen, as restaurant owners, as writers for an alt-weekly that regularly advertises clones and glassware. We have profited from it from the sanctity of our rural hideaways, trying to drown out the surround sound of generators with our own nervous humming. We have largely looked the other way as our neighbors and family members — it didn't start with the "not from around these here parts" folks, thank you very much — tore apart the hills, pumped the creeks and lit up the night sky. Maybe you didn't see it from your back porch, but it was staring you in the face all the same.
So now we're looking at a very strange vision of the future in which some of those ginormous greenhouses will get the nod from the Planning Commission and law enforcement, should they meet all of the various restrictions on land use and accessibility. And yet more ginormous greenhouses are being built every day. Some of them will be back in the hills where they've always been. Some may appear on the picture-postcard hills above Ferndale, forcing tourists to tip the lenses of their smartphone cameras a little lower. Who knows?
There are some great arguments against the large-scale commercialization of marijuana in rural Humboldt County: Habitat fragmentation. Light pollution. Noise pollution. Crumbling infrastructure. The admittedly-dubious ability of county government to deal with all of the above. If you really have a problem with greenhouses ruining your view, start there. It's OK to be sad and uncomfortable with the rate at which things are changing and with the realization that your slice of rural utopia is becoming (more) smelly, noisy and dangerous. But don't make it the cornerstone of your argument. With (possibly) the exception of the Ferndale wind turbine battle, history does not give a shit about your view.