Summertime is here and the living is what? Is it “easy” or “lazy?” We can’t quite remember the lyrics to the Gershwin song.

And that’s the trouble with summer; school students and many of the rest of us give our brains a vacation and we put our lessons aside. “Roll out those lazy, hazy, crazy days of summer. Dust off the sun and moon and sing a song of cheer,” so goes another oldie but goodie summer tune.

Rollie Atkinson Column Photo

Rollie Atkinson

But this is a newspaper editorial so we must get to our serious topic of the week. And that is a random list of “things we forgot to remember.” These include how we should eat, how we transport ourselves, what our computers are doing to us and a few other random observations.

Summer is a time for our local farmers markets to brim over with vegetables and fruits, mostly organic and sustainably farmed. A recent market trip reminded us we all should be eating a more plant-based diet with less meat. Most of us forgot to remember what Frances Moore Lappé told us in her 1971 book, “Diet for a Small Planet.” We know that eating so much meat is a big contributor to climate change, not to mention what it does to our individual heart health and risk of chronic diseases. Animal agriculture is a huge source of our planet’s greenhouse gas emissions and it also involves intense use of water, arable land and other resources not required by raising vegetables. But we knew that; we just forgot.

We take extra trips in the summer for vacations and wandering around. Thoughts of transportation in Sonoma County usually involve three major topics. These are our congested Highway 101, whether SMART (Sonoma Marin Area Rail Transit) is smart or dumb and our latest encounter with potholes. We forgot that our small towns and regions of the county were once inter-laced with electric trains and mass transit systems like trolley cars and freight lines. We have one SMART train that some critics still call “the train to nowhere” while we use our original rail routes for recreational bike and walking paths. Up until 1947, the Joe Rodota Regional Trail was used daily by the Petaluma and Santa Rosa Railway (P&SR). We had regional mass transportation since 1870 with steam-powered passenger trains, some arriving from Sausalito and ending at Monte Rio and Cazadero. The current location of Hopmonk in Sebastopol was originally an electric powerhouse for the P&SR built in 1903. It served almost 36 miles of track. The last passenger trollies ended in 1947 and the last diesel train that ran down the center of Sebastopol’s Main Street was in 1984. Passenger trains stopped running north out of Santa Rosa to Windsor, Healdsburg and points all the way north to Humboldt in 1958. So these days we all creep along Highway 101 and pay $4 a gallon for gasoline. Duh.

We might rest our brains a little extra this summer but our smart phones and computers won’t be taking a break. We forgot that machines we invented to think for themselves might take over our own thinking process one day. Cybernetics was first defined in 1948. It is the scientific study of “feedback loops” and how both human and machine forms of communication are organized and controlled. We forgot to be better masters of our own machines but at least we have smart phones to remind us of everything we might forget.

Along the way, through many past summers and years, we have collectively forgotten many other lessons. We dawdled for almost a century before making medical use of cannabis. Maybe we are finally serious about replacing our fossil fuel-based economy with the Green Plan we first conceived almost before we put a man on the moon 50 years ago. Talk about lazy and hazy, we even forgot what was supposed to come next after walking on the moon.

— Rollie Atkinson



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