The Big Picture

FOR A MOMENT, let’s look at the big picture, the really big picture. We can all agree Marin has its controversies, points of contention or, simply put, issues. But those problems seem to pale in comparison to some of what we see happening in the world today.

Most will say traffic has become unbearable and something must be done about it. Others say possible solutions — the SMART train, widening Highway 101 through the Novato Narrows and improving a major Southern Marin interchange — will cause more harm than good. Many also insist that high-density housing has no place in our suburban environment; others say it’s a way of limiting suburban sprawl and reducing greenhouse gas emissions.

Several activists claim the current statewide drought is a valid reason for halting all development. Yet those seeking to build point out our reservoirs are currently at 69 percent of capacity, not even 10 percent off the average for this time of year (marinwater. org). Speaking of development, those who’ve lived in Marin for more than 25 years argue the county has become way too crowded. Meanwhile, many newcomers say — in comparison to where they came from — the county is ground zero for the no-growth movement.

Other county controversies and questions: Are immigrants, illegal and semilegal, a vital part of Marin’s economy? Or are they a drag on our schools and social services? The county’s pension fund and health care obligation — is it manageable? Or is the burden sure to someday bankrupt us? Then there’s the million-dollar emergency shelter, or is it a clubhouse, in Sleepy Hollow; the Ross Valley Flood District’s progress, or lack of same; the possibility of development in Strawberry; and MERA’s, the Marin Emergency Radio Authority, November ballot measure asking for an annual $29 parcel tax for the next 20 years. And, lest we forget it, the recent land-use debate over the future of Drakes Bay Oyster Company.

Sure, Marin County has problems, but I started this discussion by agreeing we’d look at the big picture, the really big picture. In that regard, Marin is in fantastic shape.

"And this litany of world woes doesn't include freakish weather resulting in floods, forest fires and the destruction of entire towns, many of them closer and closer to Marin."

Every day, the world’s headlines get worse. As I write this, Russian troops are massing on the Ukrainian border and, while the U.S. and Europe are imposing sanctions on Russia, Russia is banning the import of foods from America. Though President Obama vows not to be “dragged into another war,” two F-18 jets dropped 500-pound laserguided bombs in an effort to protect Iraqi Kurds. And as the war between Israel and Hamas continues, Palestinians demand the blockade of Gaza be lifted, while Israelis demand Hamas disarm. These issues need to be settled before any truce can be deemed significant or lasting. Meanwhile, in West Africa, more than 1,000 people, including several doctors, have died in an outbreak of the Ebola virus, for which there is no known vaccine or effective treatment. And this litany of world woes doesn’t include freakish weather resulting in floods, forest fires and the destruction of entire towns, many of them closer and closer to Marin.

Minds far more in tune with global trends than mine are saying that what now divides the world are matters of order versus chaos. And — as a result of globalization, computerization, growing economic and technological inequality, population growth where it isn’t sustainable and the impacts of global climate change — chaos is winning.

Sure, Marin County has its issues. However, compared to the rest of the world we are extremely fortunate to be living here at this time in the world’s history. Our problems are problems of progress. That’s my point of view. What’s yours?

Email pov@marinmagazine.com.