PRESENT AT THE CREATION

By Ron Bonn, SanDiego350

Originally published in the San Diego Free Press on 4/20/2017

You could say I was present at the creation.

Looking back in our lives, we rarely know exactly when something started. But regular television news coverage of man-made climate change, with all it implies, started on New Year’s Day, 1970.

Ron Bonn

Ron Bonn, courtesy of the author

The staff of “The CBS Evening News with Walter Cronkite”: producers, writers, technicians; a couple dozen of us in all, were sitting around the newsroom waiting for something to happen—because nothing happens on New Year’s Day—when the man himself stormed in. “Goddamn it,” he said to us, “we’ve got to do something about this environment story.”

You might guess that when Walter Cronkite said, “Goddamn it,” things happened at CBS News. And what happened is that I, the science producer for “The Evening News,” was detached for eight weeks to “do something” about this environment story. Never before, to my knowledge, had a network spot news program paid that much attention to a non-breaking story. [Read more…]

Why I Am An Activist, #4

By Amy Knight, SanDiego350

It started when I began volunteering my Saturdays. It progressed when I got excited about giving up entire Saturdays. The feeling seemed all too familiar, but new. A laser-like focus, inexhaustible, melting hours away as if they were minutes. A flush of excitement came to my face whenever ice core records were mentioned.

Okay, maybe ice cores aren’t your thing. But, odds are that everyone has experienced these feelings in some way, about something. Perhaps it’s when floating on a surfboard, about to catch the next wave, or when about to take down a chess rival. It could even happen to some while tackling the intricacies of a tax return. If you’re getting a big return, that is…

I get that feeling when I’m teaching the science of climate change.

Amy teaching children about the ocean

Teaching children about the ocean. Photo courtesy of the author.

I didn’t magically wake up one morning and realize this was my passion. I realized it at 3:06 PM on a Saturday while listening to a University of Miami climate scientist explain the biogeochemical processes of ocean acidification. This was supposed to be my day off. Why was I here? Why was it transporting me so?

A year ago, I was teaching high school Psychology in Miami, Florida. My students were from predominantly low socioeconomic, minority communities sitting literally at ground zero for bearing the economic and social impacts of climate change. I’d spent the previous two years involved with Climate Leadership Engagement Opportunities (CLEO) outside of school hours, learning the science behind climate change and helping teachers incorporate climate change into their curriculum. The hours were long, the scientific concepts demanding, and the political climate in Florida somewhat short of supportive. [Read more…]

Popular Republican Mayor Praises Community Choice Energy

By Tyson Siegele, SanDiego350

Originally published in the San Diego Free Press

A staunch supporter of Community Choice Energy gave the keynote address at a March 10th forum organized by the Climate Action Campaign. Since clean, renewable energy is one of the main benefits of Community Choice Energy (CCE), you might think the speaker would be a long haired hippy prone to singing kumbaya. Not at all, not even close. The proud Republican Mayor of Lancaster, California, Rex Parris, provided an enthusiastic endorsement of CCE, lambasting the high prices of utility power and praising the savings gained through Community Choice.

Rex Parris and Clean Energy Innovation

Parris

Lancaster Mayor Rex Parris – Source: City of Lancaster

The people of Lancaster first elected Rex Parris in 2008. Since then he has been re-elected 3 times including in 2016 when he received 67% of the vote. One of the main ways he achieved such strong support was by turning Lancaster into a clean energy mecca. The biggest win in terms of jobs was bringing Build Your Dream (BYD) electric bus manufacturing to the city. BYD is an electric vehicle heavyweight. In 2016 it built more electric cars than any company in the world, and did so by a large margin. The Lancaster facility does not get as much press as Tesla, but it is ramping up activity in a similar fashion. Soon, in addition to buses, Lancaster will begin providing electric trash trucks and other heavy duty vehicles.

Electric vehicle manufacturing is just one piece of the pie in Lancaster. Parris was also instrumental in reducing permitting times for rooftop solar and introducing building codes requiring rooftop solar arrays. The city was the first in California to require rooftop solar on all new buildings. Better yet, Lancaster hopes to soon be able to announce that it has become a zero net energy community. That means it aims to produce more renewable energy within city limits than its total energy consumption, a goal it has been working toward since 2011. Accomplishing that has involved new and innovative building codes, creative public/private partnerships, and most importantly Community Choice Energy. [Read more…]

The Rise of Corporations as Climate Change Allies

By Nicola Peill-Moelter, Ph.D., SanDiego350

(Originally published in the San Diego Free Press on 4/6/17)

There’s a new category of climate and environmental champions appearing just as the federal government is fading into the background: corporations. While we’ve been conditioned to think of corporate sustainability programs as greenwashing, evidence of real action is mounting, motivated by consumer and investor demand, and real threats to and opportunities for businesses. I know this because I’ve been working inside the belly of a corporate beast for eight years now as its environmental sustainability officer.

Republic of Cloud

Graphic courtesy of the author

My company is in the “Internet cloud” space, developing software-based services that are accessed via the cloud (public Internet). Our customers are the world’s Global 1000 companies as well as young startups, spanning all industries. Electricity consumption, the associated carbon emissions, and electronic “waste” from the annual decommissioning of thousands of servers are our main environmental impacts, similar to many other companies providing Cloud-based services, like Google, Microsoft, and Amazon. To put things into perspective, if the Cloud were a country, it would rank 6th between Russia and Germany in global electricity consumption, as illustrated in the graph to the left. It’s one of the fastest growing industries, surpassing the airline industry in terms of energy consumption and carbon emissions. My company’s globally-distributed network alone annually consumes the equivalent of 25,000 U.S. households in electricity. On the bright side, the Internet has and continues to replace more energy-intensive and material-intensive activities. It enables us to read, shop, listen to music, bank, work and socialize with less material consumption and without getting into our cars. In fact, a study by McKinsey & Company found that the efficiency gains from the Internet far exceed its impacts. Nonetheless, in the face of climate change and dwindling natural resources, it’s important that all industries and companies reduce their environmental impacts. [Read more…]

Climate Change and Faith: A Moral Imperative

By James Long, SanDiego350

(Originally published in the East County Magazine)

On Monday, March 13, 2017, at the First United Methodist Church in Mission Valley, a panel composed of a climate scientist and representatives of the Jewish, Catholic, and Islamic faiths discussed climate change, each from their perspectives.

Dr. Ramanathan

Dr. Ramanthan makes his presentation. Photo by Greg Withee

The evening began with Dr. V. Ramanathan’s summary presentation of his climate science findings over the past 47 years. Dr. Ramanathan is a professor of atmospheric and climate sciences at the Scripps Institution of Oceanography. He also serves as a council member in Pope Francis’ Pontifical Academy of Sciences. In his presentation, he made the following points:

  • We are giving a damaged planet to our children, who will witness a rapidly and adversely changing, unpredictable world in their lifetimes
  • $500 billion in subsidies are given to the worldwide fossil fuel industry each year; this amount would solve 60% of the climate problem
  • There is still time to avoid the effects that a global temperature increase of 6°C would impose (at which point one third of the planet would be uninhabitable), but the window of opportunity is only open for 4 or 5 more years
  • The wealthiest one billion people in the world contribute 50% of global CO2 emissions, while the poorest 3 billion people contribute only 5%
  • The University of California has put forth 10 solutions to combating climate change, gathered in a report called Bending the Curve
  • In addition, The Lancet has published a report on the adverse health effects that climate change will impose

[Read more…]

Aliso Canyon’s Fate – and Ours – Hangs in the Balance

by Amy Knight, SanDiego350

(Originally published in the San Diego Free Press)

Considered one of the largest environmental disasters in U.S. history, the record-setting release of methane from SoCal Gas’s Aliso Canyon in October 2015 had both long-term climate altering consequences for the world and immediate health consequences for the people of the greater Los Angeles area. The leak went on for 112 days, emitted 65 billion cubic feet of this potent greenhouse gas into the atmosphere, and prompted the evacuation of more than 6,800 households.

Aliso Canyon Leak

Infrared picture of Aliso Canyon gas leak. Photo courtesy of EDF.

Today, the California public can make their voice heard, can be part of choosing the path we will go down from here. SanDiego350 calls on you to phone Senator Ben Hueso (619-409-7690) and ask him to bring SB 57 up for vote in the Senate Energy, Utilities, and Communication Committee – and to vote yes on it. The bill prohibits SoCal Gas from injecting any more natural gas into Aliso Canyon until a root cause analysis of the leak is determined. It also calls on the CPUC to finalize by 12/31/2017 its study that will investigate the feasibility of closing the Aliso Canyon facility. [Read more…]

Why I Am An Activist, #3

Activist_Header_ARTBy Eve Simmons, SanDiego350

I think it started with my love for animals, and the sea, and trees, and my connection to the endless wonders of Nature, of which we humans are a part. There’s a compelling desire in me to protect, to comfort, to celebrate, savor, and honor the magnificence of living things. And I work with others who feel the same way. What better company could I possibly keep?

Eve Simmons

Eve Simmons

This appreciation of our environment is like an open portal to an immense heart space that’s always there whenever we choose to tap into it. That’s when I’m most aware that we are ALL a part of Nature and not separate from it. And it’s this space I go to whenever I feel overwhelmed by the immensity of the problem. I may briefly wallow in sorrow, marinate in frustration and fury, but not for long. I remember a friend’s good counsel, “Yea though I walk through the Valley of the Shadow of Death, I don’t want to build a house there.” So, I banish cynicism, because that will not lead to progress. The truth is that we are awash in solutions, so shouldn’t we try to bring them about? [Read more…]

Why I Am An Activist, #2

Activist_Header_ARTBy Sadie Sullivan-Greiner, SanDiego350

(Originally published in the San Diego Free Press)

When I talk about the danger climate change represents, some of my acquaintances say I’m  reverting to adolescence (I protested the ‘dresses only’ policy at my high school, back in my younger days). Others say I’m just reverting to type.

I’ve spent most of my adult life involved with the military in one capacity or another. I’ve observed that as a general truth, the people who have to fight wars are not that eager to start them. I’ve also discovered that, in general, people become aggressive when they are either in fear of something or they are desperate for necessary resources. [Read more…]

One Million Letters & Underappreciated Ocean Effects Presentations

by Mark Hughes, SanDiego350

(Originally published in the East County Magazine on 3/5/2017)

On the evening of March 1, the organization Stay Cool 4 Grandkids hosted speakers who presented on Kids 4 Planet Earthtwo climate change topics. Representatives from Kids 4 Planet Earth spoke about their goal to have school children send one million letters to President Trump by Earth Day, telling him how important it is to them that he address climate change. Please help their request to go viral by sharing this goal on Facebook and other social media outlets.

The next speaker on the agenda was Dr. Lisa Levin, professor and researcher at the Scripps Institute of Oceanography. Dr. Levin spoke about the effects of climate change on the oceans, saying her concern is that this issue doesn’t get as much press as climate change’s atmospheric effects. It’s accurate, she says, to call the Earth “Planet Ocean,” as most of world’s habitable volume is in the oceans. [Read more…]

Why I Am An Activist, #1

Editor’s note: this is the first in a series of articles touching on the topic of why we become activists. Each of us has come to support this cause from different backgrounds and for different reasons. Underlying all those differences though is one common concern (originally published in Indian Voices)

Activist_Header_ARTBy Lora Hilliard

“Where there is ruin, there is hope for a treasure.” – Rumi

The Earth suffers more today than it did when I was a child in the sixties. People still struggle to find hope like they did during that tumultuous decade; we continue to fight against poverty, war, discrimination, and pollution. But the fight against pollution has bloomed into a global effort to stop climate change – an undeniable consequence of human activity that threatens our very existence. Several recent experiences led to my heightened pledge to the environment and my association with SanDiego350.

Lora Hilliard

Lora Hilliard

Last summer, I travelled to Yosemite National Park with my family. We took the scenic route up California 395, entered the park from the east via the 120, and then drove to a campground on the west. Somewhere north of Bishop, I began to notice dead and dying evergreen trees. The condition worsened inside the park, and I wondered whether thousands of acres of suffering pines should have been expected on this trip. When we reached our campground, I examined a fallen tree to find visible signs of bark beetle damage, and my heart sank. Everywhere, injured pines were bloody with leaking sap. I could all but hear them scream in pain. Dead and dying trees faced me in every direction. The magnitude of it overwhelmed and broke my heart. I cried that night and found little joy on our hike among fallen trees the next day. [Read more…]