Public Letter to Sea Ranch

Monday, 25 November 2019

Dear Dr. Lyndon and Ms. Griffin:

Sadly, the architectural aspect of The Sea Ranch is only half the story. As the Principal Investigator for The Center for U.S. Rural Cultures Studies, I’ve been immersed in the Sea Ranch culture for more than a year, and the slogan “Living Lightly on the Land” is only that: a slogan to sell property.

What the Center has documented in a little more than a year is a staggering loss of both hard and soft structure habitat for deer, quail, turkey, raccoons, bats, and monarch butterflies. Unfortunately, when human architecture is not balanced by a functional, sustainable landscape management policy — devoted to protecting other-than-human-animals’ homes, shelter, and safety — those other beings’ homes and safety will always be the cost of human habitat.

Our documentation has confirmed that the cutting this year (beginning in the spring) is primarily for aesthetics rather than safety. The land management and landscape policies in Sea Ranch have abandoned any preservationist stance Dundee-TSRA continue to tout.

Lisa Dundee of The Sea Ranch Association is my neighbor, and her approval is at the “bottom” of every order to cut trees and clear habitat in Sea Ranch. (Ms. Dundee was notified in January 2019 of the on-going research at the Sea Ranch. Additionally, a formal complaint is being prepared for the national offices of The Humane Society against Ms. Dundee’s position as Gualala Humane Society President.)

As the New York Times pointed out, Ms. Dundee’s fear also drives cutting decisions here: “With Northern California — well, actually all of California — burning up, we’ve really had to challenge ourselves to find alternatives to our traditions.”

The fear that “all of California” is burning infuses Sea Ranch “owners” through TSRA’s communication processes (formal and informal), and the continuous cutting and clearing go unquestioned and unchallenged in Sea Ranch. (Democratic processes and systems are only as good as the human commitment to share power via those systems and processes.)

The evidence is all around those who care to open their eyes and see beyond their own little patch of property in SR. We have filmed and photographed the destruction.

We’ve also corralled all of the Sea Ranch pieces written and published this year (next to the Sea Ranch wiki), and the narrative is clear: focus on human architecture, eliminate almost completely any reference to Halprin and his ethic, get those houses, lots, and rentals sold, and get ready for all those potential new “owners” who make reservations at the new lodge. All the other beings (and objecting humans) be damned.

(The manuscript in process that describes our findings:

The Human Basis of Democracy: Relational Power-Sharing & Everyday Authoritarianism in U.S. Rural Cultures is a nonfiction manuscript in progress that shares findings from three years’ total ethnographic immersion — post-11.6.16 — in two distinct rural cultures: Cave Junction, Oregon and Sea Ranch, California. At bottom, the book shows how the human commitment to share power founds democratic systems and processes.

The study’s method — framed in both process philosophy and anthropological ethnographic terms — is unique in its longevity in the field and total immersion protocols. Theoretically framed in terms generally reserved for urban cultural studies — but accessible to most audiences — the analysis of rural cultural norms and practices introduces newly relevant field-grounded concepts of power, relations, and agency.

The study’s findings identify normal everyday authoritarian practices — relational power-stealing and -hoarding — in both rural cultures. The practices described have devastating impacts on human safety, trust, and well-being — the enabling conditions necessary to support human agency: the power to speak, to dissent, and the power to drive forward momentum. Also described is a generational “orientation” embodied by members of the two rural cultures whose normal relational practices destroy natural resources and function to support state-level authoritarianism.

The Human Basis of Democracy puts the tools to understand and navigate power relations in every concerned U.S. American’s hands. Unapologetically a description of what’s democratically possible in the United States, the book makes recommendations for reclaiming stolen power, creating power-sharing relations, and producing new sources of power. Project background.)

Obviously, most humans live in habitat that displaced other animals. That is not reason to stop monitoring and changing human processes whose momentum continue to unnecessarily destroy nonhuman neighbors’ homes. Decisions about tree removal, herbicides and pesticides, grasses cutting, and human architectural design need to reflect careful consideration of their impact on other animals who live in Sea Ranch.

Unfortunately for all those other animals, the human(s) making the decisions in Sea Ranch include no consideration of their nonhuman neighbors. That can change. We have made numerous recommendations to remedy the problems in Sea Ranch. You can find them here: The Sea Ranch Nonhuman Residents Project.

We look forward to sharing our findings widely.

Cathy B Glenn, Ph.D. Private Principal Investigator The Center for U.S. Rural Cultures Studies :: The Center’s Background :: The Center’s Projects :: The Reference Collection ::

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