In an initially unexpected turn of events, I found myself in Ukiah’s Holiday Inn Express. The hotel wasn’t unexpected; having a reason to spend a night in Ukiah was. But NOAA’s head admin, Dr. Jane Lubchenco, was making a rare trip to the North Coast at the behest of Rep. Mike Thompson and so off I went.

The meeting itself proved interesting without any of the drama I’d worried might spill over from other North Coast political issues (we’re an unruly bunch at times, prone to conspiracy theory and passionate displays of our uniqueness). Time constraints precluded everyone having a chance to speak, myself included, but if my card had come up, I would’ve said something like this:

I’ve been working on the Marine Life Protection Act for the past year and have learned so much: primarily, that no matter how controversial and complex an issue is, working with local communities will always provide a path forward.

Then, on the drive to Caspar, I thought more about that. Is it true? Is a way forward always possible, compromise ever an achievable goal? I want to say yes, although clearly that’s not the case when it comes to human rights: No one is going to feel like being only three-fifths of a person is okay for now or accept civil union as an equitable alternative to marriage. But other issues? If enough of the people making the decisions can remember that at the end of the day, we’re all just trying to keep food on the table, make a good life for our kids, be decent human beings and find a little love somewhere? Is that totally corny? Because it worked, mostly, for MLPA. “It” being really listening to what mattered to people, balancing human needs with the impetus for environmental protection, sticking to my own beliefs, but nonetheless treating the concerns of others with respect and funneling all that through hours of discussion and debate to an end that no one loved but most people could live with.

I want to believe decent human communication and solutions are more often possible than not. Wishful thinking?