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San Francisco Secession: Could It Create ''Ecotopia''?
Republican Riverside County Supervisor Jeff Stone wants a Republican state of his own, a place called South California that would carefully exclude Los Angeles, San Francisco, and other Democratic-leaning counties. On Tuesday, county supervisors gave his idea a boost, endorsing Stone's plan for a secession summit.
Stone's plan ultimately doesn't have a snowball's chance in Palm Springs, but in the meantime, he's been able to get people talking -- and some of them are even asking whether we shouldn't just throw the bums out. That question is reminiscent of earlier plans for NorCal to have a secession itself.
Mike Trinklein, author of "Lost States: True Stories of Texlahoma, Transylvania, and Other States That Never Made It," told HuffPost that proposals like Stone's aren't as unusual as you might think (remember West Virginia), and said he's an enthusiast.
"California is a poorly designed state geographically," Trinklein argued. "You have too many people, so this is never going to stop happening."
While secession may be a dirty word for anybody who remembers a little American history -- Gov. Jerry Brown's spokesman quipped "A secessionist movement? What is this, 1860?" -- Tinklein thinks secession's gotten a bad rap. "Secession as a way of getting a new state is a perfectly acceptable way of settling these differences," he said.
Aside from an 1859 attempt to split California in two thwarted by the Civil War, previous partition proposals have mostly come from the northern end of the state: from San Francisco, or the mysterious border region called the State of Jefferson.
Back in November of 1941, a self-promotional group of men from Siskiyou County tired of being ignored by Sacramento, commandeered Highway 99 with hunting rifles to spread word of their proposal to create a new state, Jefferson, out of the backwoods of northern California and southern Oregon. That idea was stopped dead in its tracks by -- you guessed it -- Pearl Harbor, but the dream has never died, and even the local NPR station calls itself Jefferson Public Radio.
But what about San Francisco, the city by the Bay, which sometimes seems to style itself as a city that doesn't belong to this country or planet? It too has seen its share of secession suggestions, most prominent of all in a classic 1975 novel by Ernest Callenbach called "Ecotopia."
In that book Callenbach moots the fictional idea of a breakaway ecological state disgusted with the ecological disaster of consumerism in the United States. Ecotopia has been carved out of the Pacific Northwest and has its headquarters in San Francisco. The Ecotopians aren't talking to their American cousins, and they live off the land in a "stable state." Pseudo-Native American garb is in fashion, as are free love and wooden cars. High-speed rail zips people up and down the coast. All in all, "Ecotopia" is a forward-thinking vision of sustainability, one that seems remarkably prescient today, and particularly in the Bay Area, where people care greatly about the environment.
In "Ecotopia," Callenbach references a heated discussion over whether "ecology in one country" is possible. He wrote his book before global warming had been discovered -- so the debate holds renewed relevance in an era of failed international climate change agreements. Over email HuffPost asked Callenbach, now 82, whether his vision of Ecotopian secession still holds, and whether it would still make sense for San Francisco to become a national capitol. He still lives in the Berkeley hills. Below his response is quoted at length.
The "ecology in one country" argument was an echo of an actual early Soviet argument, as to whether "socialism in one country" was possible. In both cases, it now seems to me, the answer must be no. We are now fatally interconnected, in climate change, ocean impoverishment, agricultural soil loss, etc. etc. etc. International consumer capitalism is a self-destroying machine, and as long as it remains the dominant social form, we are headed for catastrophe; indeed, like rafters first entering the "tongue" of a great rapid, we are already embarked on it.
When disasters strike and institutions falter, as at the end of empires, it does not mean that the buildings all fall down and everybody dies. Life goes on, and in particular, the remaining people fashion new institutions that they hope will better ensure their survival. So I look to a long-term process of "succession," as the biological concept has it, where "disturbances" kill off an ecosystem, but little by little new plants colonize the devastated area, prepare the soil for larger and more complex plants (and the other beings who depend on them), and finally the process achieves a flourishing, resilient, complex state -- not necessarily what was there before, but durable and richly productive. In a similar way, experiments under way now, all over the world, are exploring how sustainability can in fact be achieved locally. Technically, socially, economically -- since it is quite true, as ecologists know, that everything is connected to everything else, and you can never just do one thing by itself.
Since I wrote Ecotopia, I have become less confident of humans' political ability to act on commonsense, shared values. Our era has become one of spectacular polarization, with folly multiplying on every hand. That is the way empires crumble: they are taken over by looter elites, who sooner or later cause collapse. But then new games become possible, and with luck Ecotopia might be among them.
So far, at least, none of San Francisco's supervisors have responded to Jeff Stone with a secession proposal of their own. His plan is scheduled for a summit this fall.
- They should split CA in three, while combining Wyoming, Idaho, Utah, Montana, the Dakotas, and Nebraska into one. The small states have way too much power in the Senate.
- Why not? Let them decide their own issues, free from meddling by DC or Sacramento.
Dumbass secessionists. You know who is a secessionist? Todd fucking Palin. That's the level of intellect and social conscience you're aligning yourselves with.
So just shut the fuck up before Sister Sarah hits on you at a 'copter hunt.
- R4, why do you want to keep telling people what to do- or let them tell you what to do- at the point of a gun?
The managerial costs of keeping +300M people under one government is huge, and breaking the country into much smaller units would cut those costs dramatically.
It would allow people that want a gay marriage (that is recognized by their own gov) to move to states that have it, without having to worry that the Federal Gov will not recognize it. It would allow states to create their own health care, immigration, abortion, tax, regulatory and education policy without having to worry about what Alabama or Utah says.
What is the problem with that?
- In 1850, the small hill town of Rough and Ready, Ca. seceded from the United States.
They rejoined after a few months of being an independent nation, when it became clear that everyone was going to miss the annual 4th of July party. No, really, it really happened and Rough and Ready is still there.
So it's not like there's no historical precedent.
- The problem with that, Einstein, is that you leave the civil rights and civil liberties of Americans to the whim of the state or region in which they reside.
Some gay people have civil rights - some go to jail for being gay or get strung up on fences to die.
Some women have reproductive rights - some go to jail for trying to control their own bodies.
Some black people have equal protection under the law, some can be discriminated against at will.
Some children are protected from parental abuse and neglect, some are left to the mercy of the evil fuckers who bore them.
Some people have access to public education and health care, others get sick and die illiterate.
Some latino people have the protection of the law, others are rounded up and deported.
It is just the most fuckwitted, unworkable, inequitable, stupid goddamned idea ever. You may be willing to leave hundreds of thousands of Americans to the "kind ministrations" of freeper shitstains in their "regions" I am not - nor are most sensible people.
- I'm all for a California Republic...years ago. Now the state is too fucked up to stand on its own.
- [quote]Some gay people have civil rights - some go to jail for being gay or get strung up on fences to die.
No federal law prevents people from being jailed for being gay. Second, that's called murder, and all 50 states have laws against it.
[quote]Some women have reproductive rights - some go to jail for trying to control their own bodies.
Some states have very strict abortion laws already, so what's the point?
[quote]Some black people have equal protection under the law, some can be discriminated against at will.
No states discriminate based on race, despite- not because- of the federal laws. 60 years ago you had a partially valid argument, but not today.
[quote]Some children are protected from parental abuse and neglect, some are left to the mercy of the evil fuckers who bore them.
The most heinous and evil cases of child abuse come from the "bluest" states in the US. The public schools in most "blue" states are some of the worst offenders.
[quote]Some people have access to public education and health care, others get sick and die illiterate.
All states have education systems, and the best are in some of the most Red states, especially in smaller communities. Red states also have more access to PRIVATE charities that cover indigent patients.
[quote]Some latino people have the protection of the law, others are rounded up and deported.
Wow, you're really going off the rails. More people get deported from NY and CA than Texas. You're making the argument that the Red states need to keep you Blue staters in line!
[quote]It is just the most fuckwitted, unworkable, inequitable, stupid goddamned idea ever.
Like trying to pass laws and control +300M people from one small swamp in DC?
[quote]You may be willing to leave hundreds of thousands of Americans to the "kind ministrations" of freeper shitstains in their "regions" I am not - nor are most sensible people.
No, I would prefer to know that my vote could actually affect the local conditions of my state instead of transferring power to pampered, corrupt, entitled warlords thousands of miles away who were in the pockets of multinational companies and banks that control their every move and vote.
Now, if you'll get your tiny head out of your big ass and think about it, you'll see that secession is MUCH better for everyone in the US...well, except for the big banks, and multinational companies, and defense industry...
- Frankly it would be better to split CA in half. The people in LA are stupid and the people in SF are snooty bitches that no one likes.
Right now CA is on the fast track to the highest taxes on it's population in the land. And there is no stopping them. You might hate the R's and rightly but there are some fiscal Rs out there that need to stop this out-of-control tax train and it won't be the Ds.
- R10, when I saw the article today about tax revenues being up for Cali, the first thing that went through my head was "Well, the morons in office will spend it before it before they even try to balance the budget"
True to form, the Gov announced new initiatives based on this one time bump in revenue. It's all due to people taking advantage of the expiring federal exemption on cap gains, plus Facebook. The problem is that next year the revenue will be WAY lower than projected.
- Splitting up CA any number of different ways is very old news. The only thing different is how it would be split. Of course CA would then lose its political power, so don't count on it happening. CA #1 cash makes a lot of natives rich too, and it's green.
- FB is actually not doing that well according to biz news. Neither is Yahoo. And tons of small businesses are leaving the state of CA due to high taxes. It is a hard state to open a biz in unless you have VC money. And great right now you can get VC money for ideas, but they will own your soul & control your company.
Sm. biz can not survive here in CA. There are loads of empty stores in SF and Sonoma County for instance.
- Please sign the petition-
They don't want to be under the control of you any more than you want to be under the control of them.
Why can't we just split the country into smaller sections and get along?
- Poor R9, so much effort and you still don't get it.
- New technology (fracking) could turn California into Saudi Arabia.
Environmentalists or $ Billions in new oil tax revenue and jobs.
What will the politicians choose?
- [quote]Ecotopia has been carved out of the Pacific Northwest and has its headquarters in San Francisco.
That cracks me up. If the Pacific Northwest seceded, the LAST thing the urban liberals would want is any of California -- and the last thing the backwoods red-staters there would want was to have their capitol in San Francisco.
- Prop 13 needs to be repealed.
It's a generational transfer of wealth from young people to old people. Like we don't have enough of that going on already ... Social Security and Medicare.