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Political Science

July 10, 2014

We love a good contradiction in terms, particularly of the false dichotomy stripe.

The term “Political Science” is a real knee-slapper, given our relationships to both politics and science around here.

The politics speaks for itself. Nothing short of the Fourth of July Fireworks could match Mammoth and the Eastside this past political season.

That is not a complaint, by the way.

And the science speaks for itself as well.

On any given day, we hear from geologists, vulcanologists, botanists, paleoecologists (no kidding), limnologists (ditto), and so on.

Each is doing his or her science thing here, at the top levels of their disciplines.

Sometimes, though, our politics and science collide. That’s where trouble—and opportunity—lurk.

It’s trouble in the ongoing fuddle with Ormat Technologies, whose righteous efforts in geothermal energy production finds itself under a political microscope.

Some of the politicians have been pontificating that the firm’s Casa Diablo IV project will somehow affect Mammoth’s water supply and quality.

That might be a dubious claim, except privately held Ormat refuses to make allof its science freely available, putting a damper on meaningful discussion­. Then again, it might not be.

However, the emotional language being used by some agencies and politicians muddies the water even more.

Another collision of science and politics has to do with the ground beneath our feet.

It caught our attention that none of the candidates for public office this past June dared to wander into the murky scenarios that last month formed the basis for a new study (P.1) of the impacts of our seismic realities, not to mention the effects of a changing climate.

There is planning that needs to be done here, against the day when(not if) some kind of geologic event will disrupt the way we live.

That day might be next week, or in the next hundred years, but as the lead geologist for the California Geological Survey said in an interview, “Nobody plans for something that happens every other Tuesday.”

Coincidentally, the Mono County Board of Supervisors on Tuesday, July 8, sat through a draft presentation of something called “The Mono County Resource Efficiency Plan.”

It was presented by Jeff Henderson of Rancho Cordova (Sacramento County) and Wendy Sugimura of the Mono County Planning Division.

It would have been boring, were it not so vital in figuring out how we can save energy and money, while laying out a strategy to support local sustainability initiatives in our small (by population) and rural community.

It is so vital, in fact, that Sugimura, and others, intend to include it into the county’s General Plan Update.

Visitors at the Board meeting were few, which is too bad, given the report’s attention to such things as greenhouse gas emissions, greenhouse gas emissions forecasts and reduction targets, along with programs and projects to reduce emissions.

This is almost as sexy as the five big faults that lie under Long Valley, and no wonder it generated interest only among the die-hard environmental policy wonks at the government level.

As we have seen, here and elsewhere, “political” and “science” don’t mix very well, in spite of the phrase. It doesn’t have to be that way.

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