So can’t claim Bill Kortum was a close friend; we only met at meetings and a coffee house, but the life he led deserves reflection and emulation. He was brave; he was honest; he did some very fine work for us all and his beloved California coast. He was the first person to invite me to sit and talk with him about Petaluma and North Bay politics and coastal issues when I moved to town, and I was very touched, realizing it was a sign – I would have to get involved! Will always be sorry we didn’t visit his home – recall telling his wonderful wife, Lucy, that we planned to visit and she said “Do you hear that, Bill? They’re going to visit.” But by the time we had recovered a bit from our own family losses this December, Bill had also left us.
Glad I had a chance to sit on a couch with him at a High Street Salon in Sebastopol a few months back, topic the future of environmentalism. Great conversation with Bill, Jonah Raskin, conversing with a geologist and academics. Plenty to argue through – would we welcome GMOs if they ate plastic? Well, maybe, but is Monsanto killing a possible future for organic foods? Could fracking be OK if it only created “minor” earthquakes (and uses huge amounts of polluted water injected into our aquifer (OUCH!) Still LOADS of battles ahead, though a recent interview on Michael Krasny’s Forum (KQED FM, 88.5 from SF) offered a representative of the UN stating “if the rest of the world operated as California does, we’d be OK environmentally (!?!) This could not be true, sadly.
Point is, Bill didn’t take the surface argument and let it go, he dug deeper and found the truth about environmental degradation, in the process opening whole new trails along the coast to the public and beginning organizations that are continuing his fine work in a steady stream of useful ways.
Bill’s passing has been duly noted in not only the PD, Argus and other local papers but also in the SF Chronicle. A true environmental leader whose work to protect and preserve the Coast, our Lafferty Park and as a founder of Sonoma County Conservation Action (SCCA) is important to us all whether or not we realize it.
Bill did his research. When a nuclear power plant was proposed along our coast at Bodega Head, Bill Kortum, veterinarian by trade, tested cows in pastures near a nuclear facility and found a highly poisonous gas had leaked its way into the cows milk! Our coast was saved from nuclear contamination but Bill kept going, creating Californians Organized to Acquire Access to State Tidelands (COAAST) with others, opening 13 miles of coastal land for public access along Sea Ranch, then helped create our Urban Growth Boundary (UGB) attempting to limit growth to what is sustainable for our region, helped found Sonoma Land Trust, Heritage Roads, Sonoma County Open Space District and he helped create SMART so transit doesn’t have to be a major polluter.
I often hear of Bill’s namesake trail along the coast and hope to get there with a bunch of Petaluma Grangers and family this spring. You can see a YouTube of Bill at the trail head at http://www.positivelypetaluma.com/2014/09/20/video-the-hole-in-the-head-by-petalumas-elder-environmentalist-bill-kortum/ Or just Google Bill Kortum on YouTube and find a whole crowd of interviews, all inspirational as was he.
If you knew Bill K, if you admire the message, please do come to his memorial Sat. Jan. 24th, Sonoma Mountain Village, 1pm, to honor Bill Kortum and mingle with a big tribe of people who care about the land we inhabit enough to work for its wellbeing – and our own!