Power outages, wildfires, and COVID 19 (oh my!) — but still optimistic

In theory, at least, rural economies such as ours in the Sierra Foothills were supposed to be winners by the 2020s: Offering a breath of fresh air from sometimes stifling city life.

Unlike Coastal California, the housing is in our neck of the woods is affordable. Our schools are still good (Ghidotti High is a statewide standout) and the outdoor lifestyle is extraordinary. Those neighborhoods with high-speed internet (we live in one) open up great telecommuting opportunities from the woods.

Jobs are a mixed bag, as you’d expect in a rural setting, but good opportunities exist for those with entrepreneurial mindsets (we’ve experienced that).

Things have been looking up in our towns: A thriving arts and culture scene, exciting new projects ranging from the new Center for the Arts building in Grass Valley to the Truckee Railyard — as well as heightened environmental awareness.

Then along came the wildfires. And COVID 19. And PGE’s “planned” power outages. (Like others, we now awake to the sound of power generators running in our neighborhood, not just song birds). This week, the internet dropped too. Argh.

Add to that “distanced learning,” the latest education “experience” in the COVID 19 era. And fighting in the streets of our “quaint town” as political rallies turn ugly.

For those on fixed incomes — a big chunk of our population — the stock market decline has depleted their IRAs. Others have lost their jobs all together. Some are half joking, “What’s next? The locusts.”

As it turns out, 2020 is proving to be a challenging one, exposing our region’s vulnerabilities. In short, we seem ill-equipped to handle all of it at once.

It’s a fragile state of affairs, to be sure. And it’s easy to get drawn into the negativism.

Though the problems (expected and unexpected) seem daunting, I’m remaining optimistic and keeping it all in perspective (AKA “The sun will come out tomorrow”).

I’ve noticed encouraging signs of collaboration, such as the Nevada County Relief Fund: “The Nevada County Relief Fund is our emergency response to Covid-19. We don’t know how this crisis ends, or how bad it will get. But we do know that in times like these, we take care of one another and unite against adversity head on.” We’ve gladly donated to the fund.

I also see some progress when it comes to expanding broadband initiatives, a longtime bugaboo. And I see more of our talented locals stepping up and running for public office — providing new leadership. I also see signs of compassion, even smiles emerging from beneath the masks that people are wearing around town. We can do this.

Author: jeffpelline

Jeff Pelline is a veteran editor and award-winning journalist - in print and online. He is publisher of Sierra FoodWineArt magazine and its website SierraCulture.com. Jeff covered business and technology for The San Francisco Chronicle for 12 years, and he was a founding editor and Editor of CNET News for eight years, among other positions. Jeff has a bachelor's degree from UC Berkeley and a master's from Northwestern University. His hobbies include sailing, swimming, and trout fishing in the Sierra.

4 thoughts on “Power outages, wildfires, and COVID 19 (oh my!) — but still optimistic”

  1. Thanks for your steadfast optimism, Jeff. We need all of that we can get. It is a strong, vibrant community here all right, but it’s also a microcosm containing a lot of the pathologies of the nation (right-wing violence, anti-vaxxers and other science deniers … but they are still in the minority). Your optimism is still an expression of the majority. Today, another day of smoky skies, I won’t say anything against optimism.

    1. Are you active with the newest version of the Empire Mine reopening? I have been giving some info and tried to get Mike and Jon involved but I am not sure what is going on.

      Hope all is well.

  2. I appreciated this comment I read on Facebook: “Can we just have a week off of fires, smoke, power outages, covid and politics..I probably forgot something.”

  3. I can appreciate those who have grown up around here, have family connections, and are determined to stay. All that “Paradise Strong” stuff. I tip my hat and will sell you our house.
    With wildfire seasons getting worse and worse, this is no place to get old in.

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