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Articles in Northern California

The Mendocino Marijuana Economy

By Martin W. Lewis | January 19, 2010 |

As mentioned recently in this blog, organized criminal activity supposedly accounts for seven percent of the total value of goods and services produced annually in Italy. But that figure is nothing compared to the illicit economy of Afghanistan, where a 2007 United Nations Office on Drugs and Crime (UNODC) report argued claimed that opium accounted

Introduction: Cultural Diversity and Political Division in Northern California

By Martin W. Lewis | February 13, 2012 | 2 Comments

For the next several weeks, GeoCurrents will examine California, particularly the northwestern quarter of the state.  Our interest in California derives from several sources. First, GeoCurrents strives for global coverage, and as a quick glance at the Master Map reveals, North America has received relatively little attention. Second, northern California is the home base of the website, and as such …

Regionalizing California

By Martin W. Lewis | February 16, 2012 | 6 Comments

With thirty-eight million people spread over an area of 163,696 square miles (423,970 km2) and an economy that would rank between the eighth and eleventh largest in the world if it were an independent country, California makes an unwieldy state. Its different regions are so distinctive culturally, economically, and politically that numerous attempts have been made to divide California into two or more …

The Indigenous Peoples of Mendocino County: From Genocide to Marijuana Cultivation

By Martin W. Lewis | February 20, 2012 |

Previous GeoCurrents posts on historical instances of genocide have elicited critical comments from several readers, including one who took us to task for not mentioning genocidal events perpetuated by the United States. There is no denying that the U.S. government has been guilty of numerous genocidal assaults on indigenous communities. The United States engaged in wholesale “Indian removal,” often disregarding …

Rural Cosmopolitanism in Mendocino County’s Anderson Valley

By Martin W. Lewis | February 23, 2012 | 2 Comments

An earlier GeoCurrents post described the food culture of a certain segment of the San Francisco Bay Area as exhibiting “cosmopolitan localism.” Such attitudes are not unique to urban areas in Northern California. In Mendocino County, cosmopolitanism takes on distinctly rural cast. In some of the most seemingly isolated areas, one can find pronounced cultural sophistication and global engagement.
Consider, for …

Religious Diversity in Northern California

By Martin W. Lewis | | 5 Comments

Most detailed maps of religion in the United States depict the leading denomination of each country, as in the first map here. Here one can see a Baptist belt in the southeast, a Mormon region in the central part of the west, a Lutheran Zone in the center-north, and a vast area of Roman Catholicism spread over most of the …

Political Complexities and Contradictions in California’s Mendocino County

By Martin W. Lewis | February 27, 2012 | 6 Comments
California 2008 Election Map from Dave Leip's Atlas

A GeoCurrents post last week highlighted the left-wing orientation of Anderson Valley in California’s Mendocino County, while noting that not all residents lean to the left. The same observation holds for Mendocino County as a whole. Recent election returns show roughly one-third of Mendocino voters selecting Republican candidates, including John McCain in the 2008 U.S. presidential election. As the election …

The 1980s Geopolitical Transformation of California

By Martin W. Lewis | February 29, 2012 |
California Presidential Election 1960 map from Dave Leip's Atlas

Recent GeoCurrents posts have examined the political allegiances of various parts of California, focusing on Mendocino County. Mendocino today votes strongly for Democratic Party candidates, although not overwhelmingly so, like San Francisco. Voting history places Mendocino squarely in the Democratic camp for many decades, as the county has turned to Republican candidates only in landslide years, such 1972, 1980, and …

The 1970s Transformation of California’s North Coast

By Martin W. Lewis | | 2 Comments

The previous GeoCurrents post noted that Mendocino County remained in the Democratic-voting camp after California’s geopolitical transformation largely because it experienced a demographic transformation of its own during the same period. The first glimmerings of this sea change can be dated to 1957, when artist Bill Zacha settled in the coastal village of Mendocino and established an art center. According …

The Hippie Migration to Mendocino and the Establishment of a Cannabis-Based Economy

By Martin W. Lewis | March 2, 2012 |

Although the hippie movement of the late 1960s and early 1970s may seem like a historical curiosity, its consequences were profound. It continues, moreover, to be a contentious topic, often used to score points in political debates. The New Republic, for example, is currently running a slideshow entitled “The Weekly Standard’s Obsession with Hippies Continues,” which pillories the conservative magazine …

Rethinking California’s Political Divide

By Martin W. Lewis | March 6, 2012 | 5 Comments
California Liberal and Conservative Precincts Map by David Latterman

Recent GeoCurrents posts on Northern California have emphasized the political divide between the left-leaning coast and the right-leaning interior. Such an analysis is reinforced by an incisive new report, David Latterman’s “The California Political Precinct Index,” published by the Leo T. McCarthy Center for Public Service and the Common Good at the University of San Francisco. Based on returns from …

Anti-Environmental Environmentalism in California’s Bay Area

By Martin W. Lewis | March 8, 2012 | 6 Comments

The previous GeoCurrents post ended on a controversial note, contending that although the wealthy suburban communities of the San Francisco Bay Area seem decidedly liberal, they actually embrace highly conservative policies at the local level. Before I attempt to validate this claim, a word of warning is in order. The entire issue is muddied by terminological imprecision, and even more …

Anti-Environmental Environmentalism in California’s Bay Area, Part II

By Martin W. Lewis | March 9, 2012 | 6 Comments
Trulia Palo Alto Real Estate Prices Map

As the previous post noted, the new environmental consensus calls for urban intensification to reduce of greenhouse gas emissions and preserve rural landscapes. In the San Francisco Bay Area, such an ideal has been widely embraced in principle by both leading environmental groups and regional associations. The 2007 housing report by ABAG, the Association of Bay Area Governments, opens by …

Exclusivity and Anti-Environmentalism in Palo Alto and Vicinity

By Martin W. Lewis | March 12, 2012 | 4 Comments

The previous GeoCurrents post argued that opponents of urban intensification in wealthy suburban communities such as Palo Alto, California are motivated in part by their desire to protect their property values.  Commentator Nick Baldo took issue with that assessment, arguing that increased density actually has the opposite effect. In retrospect, I think that Baldo is correct. Environmentally responsible “smart growth” …

Anti-Urbanization and Economic Irrationality in Silicon Valley

By Martin W. Lewis | March 14, 2012 | 3 Comments

The previous post noted that opposition to urban intensification has negative economic as well as environmental repercussions. Such consequences, are experienced in and around all of the thriving cities of the United States, but nowhere more than in the San Francisco Bay Area. Here, the economic and technological marvel of Silicon Valley is fettered by outrageous housing costs that are …

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