SDG&E: Solar’s Fake Friend

By Hutton Marshall
Originally published in the
San Diego Free Press on December 10th 2015.

San Diego Gas & Electric, our friendly neighborhood energy provider whether we like it or not, continues to prove that their claims to support clean energy are merely superficial. Especially in regards to solar energy, the most efficient, environmentally friendly energy source available to homes and businesses, SDG&E continues to favor policies that diminish the critical financial incentives that allow San Diegans to generate their own clean energy.

Why would SDG&E want to oppose something that benefits its customers?

Why would SDG&E want to oppose something that benefits its customers and the environment?

Multiple actions this year alone exemplify SDG&E’s anti-solar mindset. The first came earlier this year, when the California Public Utilities Commission (CPUC) ruled to change the way California public utilities like SDG&E charge residents and businesses for electricity.

The most significant change to these rules concerned the tiered rate structure that determines the electricity rate many Californians pay. Before the CPUC ruling, there were four different tiers SDG&E customers fell into, depending on how much electricity they used. Customers falling into the lowest tier paid the lowest rate. Others that generated more monthly electricity fell into the higher, gradually more expensive tiers, to the point where rates on fourth-tier customers were twice as high as those in the first tier. The point of this was simple: Incentivize electricity users to use less electricity.

The new rules, however, change that four-tier system into a disincentive to conserve, in the form of a two-tier system, where the difference between the two tiers is far more forgiving compared to the previous system. The second tier charges only about 25 percent more than the first tier, removing much of the incentive for big users to conserve. This means that the tier you fall into–and by extension how much electricity you use–now matters far less.

SDG&E strongly advocated for this new two-tiered plan. The company claims it lobbied for this change in the name of its customers, but does that sound like the ethos of a shareholder-beholden energy monopoly?

So what could be SDG&E’s motivation for aggressively lobbying this plan for the last three years? Fighting for its customers seems dubious, because it’s not as though there’s another energy company in town that residents can switch to if they’re dissatisfied with SDG&E. Rather, their push for a less progressive rate system seems to be yet another move by SDG&E to disincentivize the switch to solar energy by customers.

Under the four-tier system, many residents had the opportunity to cut money from their electricity bill by installing solar panels, since often just a small amount of savings could move one into a lower, less expensive tier. Now, the financial benefits of “going solar” have been all but erased. The previous four-tier structure made it likely that residents generating a modest amount of their own electricity would be enough to move into a less expensive tier. Under the new system, however, most residents won’t fall near the border between the two tiers where a bump from solar will move them down into the first tier, so generating clean energy at home may stop making financial sense to many.

To be sure, there’s no shortage of non-financial reasons to generate clean energy, like reducing our individual carbon footprints. However, not all residents in San Diego have the resources to invest in solar panels for purely altruistic reasons. SDG&E knows this, and they’re doing their best to sway residents into staying 100 percent on the grid by removing the incentive to go solar.

Excess power from rooftop solar benefits all utility customers in times of high usage.

Excess power from rooftop solar benefits all utility customers in times of high usage.

I wish I could say SDG&E has changed its tune on opposing solar energy, but now the company is back with another push against solar, proposing detrimental changes to California’s Net-Energy Metering (NEM) program, which benefits solar energy users that generate more power than they use (perhaps the state’s most important incentive to encourage solar energy). NEM does this by essentially allowing customers to cancel out a portion of their energy bill by generating their own clean energy to sell back to the utility.

The changes to the NEM program proposed by SDG&E would undo much of this boost for solar users by hiking rates on homeowners generating solar energy, and by reducing the price SDG&E pays solar-generating customers for the energy they produce. Rather than rewarding these customers for using solar power to bring more energy into the system, SDG&E says they’re overburdening non-solar customers whose electricity bills fund the grid.

This isn’t just an overstatement on SDG&E’s part; it’s an intentional tactic to create uncertainty among San Diegans weighing the costs and benefits of solar panels. Because of this, prospective solar users are left wondering what the economic benefits of going solar will be. SDG&E knows creating this uncertainty works in their favor in a region whose booming solar industry is a testament to the effectiveness of NEM. If SDG&E has its way, our solar market may go the way of Arizona’s, where companies reported a 95 percent reduction in solar applications after a large utility began charging solar users a $60 fee similar to what California utilities propose.

3D Electric powerlines over sunrise

This is a sight that should be sunsetting, but it won’t if SDG&E has its way. 

So why would SDG&E want fewer of their customers using solar energy? Customers generating their own energy create disruptive effects on the grid that pose serious concerns for the existing utility business model. This is especially true in a region like San Diego, where more than 5 percent of customers are generating their own clean energy, which is among the highest proportion in the country.

SDG&E has genuine concerns for its current business model. Real changes will have to be made to keep them functioning within their outdated framework. Regardless, residential solar usage should continue to be incentivized, as we’re surely just beginning to explore the true capacity of solar energy. The burden should be on utility companies to adapt to clean energy users, not the other way around.

It’s past time for us to speak out about SDG&E’s false flag on solar energy. CPUC must resolve the debate on NEM before the end of the year, which means this month is critical for San Diego’s clean energy future. SDG&E can no longer be allowed to get away with superficially praising solar while cynically opposing any clean-energy incentive that threatens its profit margin. Until SDG&E stops undercutting efforts to expand solar, the San Diego region must continue to lead on responsible, environmentally friendly energy production in spite of its utility company.

ArtBuild

A Road-to-Paris Team Work Party

On November 29th, 46 volunteers — some veterans, some new folks — showed up to help paint the grand banner — our 180-foot long red line that must not be crossed — plus posters, placards, and various types of signs for the December 12th March for Climate Justice through Balboa Park.

Outside in the shade on the north side of the Centro Cultural de la Raza, a dozen or so volunteers painted white text onto the long red banner.  It was a little chilly, especially when the breezes came through, but everyone was engrossed in the task of painting within the lines.

Jean Costa and Jane Blount paint "100% clean energy" onto long red banner.

Jean and Jane paint “100% clean energy” onto their portion of the long red banner.

Colleen Dietzel worksalong at mid-banner, or about 90 feet

Colleen works along at mid-banner, or about 90 feet.

The banner snaked into the kitchen and onto the table.  A piece of it even greeted volunteers beside the front door!  180 feet is a lot of fabric to paint!

The banner continues through the door and onto the kitchen table.

Preeta follows the banner in through the back door.

The end of the banner, with it's message of justice drapes a table.

The march will start with its climate justice message, which greeted volunteers at the Centro’s front door.

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

In order to make room for more of the banner to be painted, it had to be moved down from the tables and along the sidewalk around the building.

 

Getting ready to move the freshly painted banner to the drying area

Getting ready to move the banner in order to put unpainted yardage onto the tables required Hugh to come up with a strategy:  remove the weights, get lots of volunteers to keep the fresh paint from smearing and move slowly and carefully.

Moving the banner 1

Moving such a long banner required many hands.

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

Bev surveys the banner wrapping around the Centro Cultural.

Bev surveys the banner — a long red line — wrapping around the Centro Cultural. 

Meanwhile, in the main hall of Centro Cultural, an assortment of poster-painting and pennant-stenciling projects are underway.

Ian, Collette and Ania with the poster they designed and painted.

Ian, Collette and Ania with the poster they designed and painted with a message that speaks for those who will inherit the planet. 

Ian, Collette and Ania mug for the camera.

The three, having smiled for their “nice photo”, get a chance to mug for the camera.

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

Khanh and Juliet carefully stenciling pennants.

Khanh and Juliet carefully stenciling pennants.

 Marquiste and Anne-Marie


Marquiste and Anne-Marie create clear-to-read-from-a-distance posters.

 

 

 

 

 

 

A lot of work went into creating these colorful visuals.

A lot of work went into creating these colorful visuals.

Stephanie, Rae and Neal create posters with strong messages and visual appeal.

Stephanie, Rae and Neal create posters with strong messages and visual appeal.

Thank you to all the volunteers who came to help the Road to Paris Team prepare for the December 12th March for Climate Justice.

All in all, Sunday’s work produced some fabulous, camera-ready visuals.  But more needs to be done.  Join the effort on Saturday, December 5 at Masada’s from 10am to 3pm.

The Pope heard round the world

By Hutton Marshall
Originally published in the San Diego Free Press on September 24th 2015

The Pope is in town.

Not this town, unfortunately — he’s in Washington, D.C.  Today, Pope Francis will give a historic address to Congress, where he is expected to speak on the escalating climate change crisis. This closely watched event will further solidify his stature as an acknowledged global leader of the climate change movement.  He caps the year in Paris with an address to world leaders at the UN-sponsored climate-change summit COPS 2015.

Earlier this year, Pope Francis released his Encyclical Letter entitled “On Care for our Common Home.”  A passionate, comprehensive 40,000-word exhortation about caring for the planet, the Encyclical weaves modern climate science together with teachings from Catholicism and other religions, to build the case that caring for Earth’s climate is a moral obligation, a matter of justice for the poor and vulnerable. He thus breaks down the barriers between religion and science, and between environmental stewardship and social justice.

Pope Francis is by no means a rogue actor in using his papal authority to speak out on climate change. As the Encyclical notes, previous popes have spoken to the same issues.

Saint John Paul II became increasingly concerned about this issue,” Pope Francis writes. “He warned that human beings frequently seem ‘to see no other meaning in their natural environment than what serves for immediate use and consumption.’  Pope Francis also notes that his conservative predecessor Pope Benedict XVI spoke out on the environment as it relates to economic justice and  “proposed … correcting models of growth which have proved incapable of ensuring respect for the environment”.

The Pope and U.S. Politics

By speaking with papal authority, Francis may be able to help jump-start America’s weak legislative response to climate change. The timing of the Pope’s address to Congress coincides with President Barack Obama’s new environmental regulations, intended to limit carbon emissions, especially from the nation’s dirtiest coal-fired power plants. The regulations promise a tough political battle; several conservative, coal-heavy states have already responded by suing the federal government.

Even if Obama’s carbon rules survive these court challenges, they can be rescinded the next time an advocate for the carbon industry wins the White House. Congressional attitudes must change if American efforts to combat climate change are to succeed in the years to come. Pope Francis, in speaking to a Congress that’s 31 percent Catholic, may be able to plant the seeds for such an attitude change.

Climate change as an issue of social justice

Since his election to the papacy in 2013, the Pope has emerged as the champion of the world’s poor, declining to reside in lavish papal housing and don the rich, ornate attire associated with his office. In detailing the impacts of climate change, he points out that poor countries suffer more from climate change than developed nations that typically pollute much more. Due to a variety of factors—less responsive emergency services, more fragile infrastructure—poor communities fare considerably worse when struck by natural disasters, which have become more frequent as ocean waters continue to rise and warm.

These communities also struggle more with displacement caused by climate change. Uprooting one’s life is hard enough with the money to do so. With native Alaskan fishing villages seeing their livelihoods vanish and Pacific island communities at risk of being swallowed up by the ocean, we’re seeing an entirely new class of refugees emerge around the world. The Pope has brought into the light that this trend affects those without financial resources much more than others.

American Catholics’ response to the Pope’s climate message

Surveys show that the Pope’s views on climate change still differ from those of many Catholics, at least in the United States. Nevertheless, American Catholics, 22 percent of the population, are slightly more likely to express concern about human-caused climate change than the average citizen.

As a subgroup of the US population, Catholics reflect the partisan divide we experience when discussing climate change. A 2015 Pew Research poll found that Catholic Democrats were more than twice as likely (62 percent) to feel concern as Catholic Republicans (24 percent). The same poll, however, showed an overwhelming majority hold a favorable view of Pope Francis and feel he represents a major change for the better for the Catholic Church. This gives hope that his strong stance on climate change can have a substantial influence on his American congregation.

Predictably, Pope Francis’ address to Congress has been polarized by the unending partisan lines drawn whenever climate change is addressed on the national level. Rep. Paul Gozar, a Catholic Republican, says he’ll boycott the speech, because, rather than address violent conflicts with religious undertones or the “persecution and execution of Christians and religious minorities,” His Holiness will speak about the “fool’s errand of climate change.”

The Pope has strong words for such obstructionist attitudes which, “even on the part of believers, can range from denial of the problem to indifference, nonchalant resignation or blind confidence in technical solutions.”  As for political leaders who take such stances, the Pope asks, “Why would  anyone, at this stage, to hold on to power only to be remembered for their inability to take action when it was urgent and necessary?”  Clearly Pope Francis takes the long view of history rather than the short view of any nation’s politics.

For our nation, it is disappointing that partisan loyalty trumps the opportunity to see one’s internationally acclaimed religious leader speak in person.  Yet House Speaker John Boehner, another conservative Catholic, has responded with a more open mind and with greater respect for his spiritual leader: “We are humbled that the Holy Father has accepted our invitation and certainly look forward to receiving his message on behalf of the American people.” The Pope and the Speaker will also meet privately during Pope Francis’ visit. It was, in fact, Boehner who issued the invitation to Pope Francis, the first time in our history for a pope to address a joint session of Congress.

The response here in San Diego to the Pope’s visit to the U.S.

Here in San Diego, the papal visit and address to Congress has inspired the creation of the San Diego Coalition to Preserve our Common Home, a name echoing the title of Encyclical.  This evening in response to Pope Francis’ address to Congress, the Coalition is sponsoring local faith, labor, community and environmental leaders to speak on climate action as a matter of justice for the poor and future generations.

Alliance San Diego’s Eddie Junsay, a community empowerment organizer and one of the forum’s speakers, applies this climate justice message at a local level:  “We need to make sure the voices of communities of color, poor communities, and youth are heard as these are the very people that are most affected by our decisions on climate.”

Karma Lekshe Tsomo, a Buddhist leader and Professor of Theology at the University of San Diego, speaks to the same issues in basic human terms: “The connections between climate change and social and economic justice are so clear — they all turn on compassion.”

The voice of Pope Francis is being heard around the world and has reached us here in San Diego.  He is speaking to all of us — not just Congress, not just Catholics.  Multitudes are responding to his call for climate justice.

SANDAG’s RTP is stuck in reverse

By Hutton Marshall
Originally published in the San Diego Free Press on August 26th 2015

Climate change is a local issue that reaches every corner of the globe. Human activities, especially burning coal, oil and gas, are pumping heat-trapping greenhouse gases into the atmosphere. More than any other time in human history, we’re seeing unlivable marine habitats, rising seas that threaten to subsume coastal societies, and, on land, increases in extreme weather including droughts, floods and severe storms. The changes are happening everywhere, but the effects are felt locally. And the solutions have to come from changes we make in every community.

At SanDiego350, a local nonprofit fighting climate change, we believe that San Diego is at an important crossroads where we must decide how we will reduce our contribution to Earth’s looming climate crisis.  Here in the San Diego Free Press we’ll discuss some of these issues, and how San Diegans can help address them.

To start, we’ll talk about an important struggle happening right now that will affect San Diegans for generations to come. The San Diego region’s 35-year transportation plan is growing famous throughout California—for all the wrong reasons. It threatens to detrimentally raise carbon emissions in Southern California and set an irreversible legal precedent for the rest of the state to do the same.

The 2050 Regional Transportation Plan (RTP) was created by the San Diego Association of Governments (SANDAG), a planning agency made up of city and county governments, which handles regional issues. The RTP will be one of the most important things SANDAG does this decade—not just because it will shape how the region grows and changes over the next 35 years.  It will be a huge determinant of San Diego County’s carbon footprint in the 21st century, as transportation accounts for almost half (44.5%) of greenhouse gas emissions in San Diego County.

The proposed RTP will allocate $214 billion toward various transportation-related projects like freeway expansion, public transit and bikeways. While it does eventually allocate a healthy portion of money toward public transit and other relatively green methods of transportation, it puts spending on expanded freeways at the front of the line. The bulk of the public transportation spending would come decades later. That’s unacceptable for our transportation future, because it keeps us dependent on cars, with all the congestion, frustration, cost and greenhouse-gas emissions that go with them.

Shortly after the RTP was approved, the Cleveland National Forest Foundation, Sierra Club and several other environmental groups sued SANDAG over the plan, rightly pointing to its flawed environmental impact report, which underestimated how freeway expansion would increase greenhouse gas emission levels. The lawsuit was later joined by California Attorney General Kamala Harris.

The result? The courts have sided twice against SANDAG, most recently in the California Court of Appeals.

One would hope this would be enough to convince SANDAG’s board of directors that this plan needs changing, but we aren’t so lucky. The board voted almost unanimously to appeal the decision to the California Supreme Court, which has agreed to review the case.

It’s hard to see how SANDAG will argue this appeal, because the current RTP clearly fails to comply with state laws and executive orders calling for reductions in greenhouse-gas emissions. In 2005, Gov. Arnold Schwarzenegger issued an Executive Order that called for California to cut its GHG emissions to 1990 levels by 2020, and to cut emissions to 80 percent below 1990 levels by 2050. Following suit, the state legislature passed the Global Warming Solutions Act (AB 32), which echoes Schwarzenegger’s reduction target for 2020, and the state senate is expected to extend the life of AB 32 to 2050 in September. Finally, earlier this year, Gov. Jerry Brown issued an Executive Order requiring the state to cut its emissions to 40 percent below 1990 levels by 2030, setting an intermediate benchmark to previous goals. SANDAG’s proposed RTP is set to meet exactly none of these requirements, increasing rather than decreasing emissions over its 35-year timeline.

The most likely outcome is that the California courts will once again strike down SANDAG’s plan, forcing the planning agency, finally, to follow the law. Our regional leaders should do better than reluctantly meeting the minimum requirement for laws to protect the climate. We should be leading with a plan that shows how sustainable a region’s transportation can be. Instead, we’re trying to sneak by with the opposite.

The detrimental fallout from this battle goes beyond the future of the San Diego region. Ours is the first regional transportation plan to be adopted following the enactment of the aforementioned state statutes on climate change. Should SANDAG somehow succeed in their appeal to the state’s highest court, it would set a detrimental precedent for other regional plans to ignore important statewide goals reducing carbon emissions.

Supporters of the Supreme Court appeal say that the expensive legal process is necessary in order to flesh out the law’s effect on future regional planning.  Nonetheless, should SANDAG’s appeal somehow prevail, that would seriously undermine California’s future efforts to combat climate change.

What we have now is a planning agency that will be scolded by the state for its unwillingness to comply to clear state laws and executive orders. This is hardly an inspiration for others in the region—like cities now in the process of formulating their own transportation plans—to take bold action against climate change rather than contributing to it.

There are those arguing that a regional transportation plan that reduces auto use in the way we need to isn’t economically feasible, that such a change is too drastic. Yet, maintaining millions of individual cars and thousands of miles of roads is just an inherently expensive way to move people around a city. I would argue that in the long run, a greater focus on public transit and active transportation would be more efficient and cost-effective.  In fact, we can’t afford not to do it.

Some may also argue that regional governments do not have money to spend on transit and bikeways, but SANDAG already has the discretion to shift freeway expansion funds to projects expanding transit and active transportation infrastructure.

For those who would argue that substantial emissions cuts are not feasible, there are already two regional plans that show how it can be done, so it’s not as though there’s no model for SANDAG to follow. The L.A. region—with its notoriously congested streets—has produced a plan that actually meets the state GHG reduction goals.

Similarly, the city of San Diego, the largest municipality in SANDAG, has a Climate Action Plan designed to surpass the state’s greenhouse-gas reduction requirements. The city’s plan does this partly by making transportation—the city’s biggest pollution source—a key part of the solution. Surely if Los Angeles and the City of San Diego are capable of planning for a green transportation future, the San Diego region represented by SANDAG can be as well.

SANDAG has also defended its plan by saying that the RTP will be reviewed and potentially altered every four years. The problem with that argument is that it just puts off actions that need to be taken now. This is a deferral of the debate that needs to happen today, not years down the line.

We do need to act now.  Scientists are telling us that we need to act promptly to avoid the worst effects of climate change. Delaying action will only force us to take more drastic, and thus more expensive action later.

The RTP which proposes more freeway expansion isn’t even a realistic solution to the problem of traffic congestion. As with previous freeway lane additions, it ultimately results in more cars stuck in traffic than before. Multiple studies confirm this. We need to focus on projects that get people out of their cars, rather than incentivizing the opposite.

Proponents of the plan have also argued that the RTP meets other state goals pertaining specifically to Vehicle Miles Traveled (a standard measurement in transportation planning) contained in Senate Bill 375, which fleshes out certain automobile-related aspects of the Global Warming Solutions Act. But judging the RTP by that metric only reinforces SANDAG’s car-centric mindset. A more holistic approach that looks beyond how much we’re driving is needed if we as a region are to grow responsibly for the next 40 years. Claiming to reduce Vehicle Miles Traveled is an empty gesture if the RTP still raises overall greenhouse gas emissions.

We need an alternative to the Regional Transportation Plan that spends money for trolley, train and bus line expansion before it expands freeways. Bike lanes should be constructed sooner too. We’ve already wasted too much money arguing over whether the plan meets the bare minimum in the eyes of the law—a mediocre standard for a region with aspirations of becoming a global economic leader.

All of this points to a clear conclusion: Create a viable RTP alternative that prioritizes spending on green transportation, gets people out of their cars and onto bikes and transit, and protects future generations of San Diegans. Let’s create a plan that San Diegans 40 years from now will thank us for making.

Geothermal Energy Visuals

Here in San Diego, we have not only a lot of sunshine for solar energy, but also an exceptional potential for geothermal energy based on the heat that flows up from deep inside the earth.

Last spring, SD350’s Peg Mitchell was given a tour of the John Featherstone Facility, a geothermal energy plant located within the Salton Sea Known Geothermal Resource Area in the Imperial Valley. Peg has written about what she learned for SD350’s October column in the San Diego Free Press.

In case you’d like to learn a little more, we’ve shown below a few presentation slides provided by a company developing this renewable energy resource in our region.

You can link here to Peg’s report in SD350’s monthly article in the environment section of San Diego Free Press.

The Salton Sea area of the Imperial Valley has the largest known California has the largest known geothermal potential of any state in the U.S.

The Salton Sea area of the Imperial Valley has the largest known California has the largest known geothermal potential of any state in the U.S.  Its 1800MW potential electric generating capacity is 80% as much as the recently shut-down nuclear power plant at San Onofre.

Historically, California has tried to make use of this energy resource, but it's had challenges.  Many attempts have been abandoned.

Historically, California has tried to make use of this energy resource, but it’s had challenges. Many attempts have been abandoned.

A local newspaper clipping from 1957 documents one early attempt.

A local newspaper clipping from over half a century ago documents the enthusiasm accompanying attempts to make this resource work for California.

The steam that emerges contains many impurities that have posed challenges to those who have tried to use this energy resource.

The steam that emerges contains many impurities that are among the challenges to those who have tried to use this energy resource.

This list shows the kinds of compounds found in the brine.

This list shows the kinds of compounds found in the brine.

The most recent installation uses a modern technique called "flashing" to

The most recent installation, built by EnergySource uses a modern technique called “triple flashing” to gather energy from steam produced by underground geothermal reservoirs.

This flow chart shows the how the triple flashing process works.

This flow chart shows the how EnergySource’s triple flashing process works.

 

These slides and many more comprise a visual array used for the Borrego Springs Energy Day presentation about the history and potential of geothermal energy in the Imperial Valley.  If you’re interested in seeing the Energy Day slides, you can link to it here:  2015 Borrego Energy Day Presentation

Climate Justice Forum: Answering Earth’s Call

“We are hope gathering.” — Rev. Beth Johnson

 

gathered in the courtyard - IMG_0034-crop

The courtyard was filled with energy.

So many people came. The courtyard of St. Paul’s at Fifth and Nutmeg reverberated with their energy. They crowded into the Great Hall. People of many faiths and affiliations were gathered together, encouraged and challenged by Pope Francis’s courage, taking in and giving out the hope he inspires in us.

Pope Francis, as perhaps no one else could, is making the world see that climate change is a moral issue: a matter of justice for the poor, the vulnerable, and the children, who have done least to cause climate change and will suffer the most from it.

crowd-in-Great-Hall-resize2

People crowded into the Great Hall.

Responding to Francis’s moral challenge, SanDiego350 joined with representatives of four great faiths, as well as other advocates for justice and the environment, in an Interfaith Forum on Climate Justice. The Forum took place last Thursday night, September 24, the day of Pope Francis’s historic speech to Congress. More than 300 people attended.

MFOP square

Our coalition unites many faith, social justice, environmental, labor and other groups.

The Forum reflected how broad the climate movement is becoming. The program included clergy and religious teachers from twelve congregations and religious centers, and spokespeople from labor, environmental and community empowerment groups. The program’s sponsor, the San Diego Coalition to Preserve Our Common Home, includes thirty-three different religious and other organizations.

The Coalition was inspired by Pope Francis and is named for his historic encyclical on climate change, Laudato Si’: On Care for Our Common Home. The Forum is the beginning of a long-term coalition effort for climate justice.

Lots more photos here.

 

Moments to move and change us

Elders leading, children reminding us they will inherit the world we make.

Rabbi Laurie Coskey (l) and Very Rev. Penny Bridges lead the ceremonies. The choir looking on reminds us that today’s children will inherit the world.

The Forum brought some beautiful and memorable moments:

  • Clergy in liturgical attire processing into the Great Hall, followed by other community leaders, to the music of the St. James Academy youth choir: elders guiding us toward the future, the sweet voices of children reminding us that they are the ones who will inherit the world we make.
  • All of us taking a moment to post photos to our friends, tagged with “I stand for #ClimateJustice,” “My faith inspires me to #ActOnClimate,” and “Grateful to be surrounded by #Faiths4Climate.”
  • We reached up together.

    A prayer of movement: 300 people reaching upward in unison.

    300 people‘s hands reaching upward together in a prayer of movement, under the banners of the many faith and community groups gathered to speak for climate justice.

  • Everyone sweating on a sultry evening, making a small common sacrifice for our common future, experiencing in the most direct way how the everyday feel of our lives will change as the climate warms.

 

The wisdom of many faiths

Rev. J. Lee Hill: "We must care for the Earth because God cared enough to create it."

Rev. J. Lee Hill: “We must care for this Earth because God cared enough to create it.”

Speakers at the Forum offered insights from Christianity, Islam, Judaism and Buddhism. Nana Firman of the Islamic Center of San Diego spoke of men and women as only stewards, holding the Earth in trust. Rev. J. Lee Hill, Jr., of Christian Fellowship Congregational Church, spoke of stewardship as well: “We must care for this Earth because God cared enough to create it.” Rabbi Shai Cherry told us of Sukkot, the festival of water, in which ancient Hebrews gave sacrifices to help bring rain to all nations. Kent Peters of the Catholic Diocese of San Diego spoke of the need for dialogue, especially with those who do not yet see the urgency of climate action. Karma Lekshe Tsomo reminded us, from a Buddhist perspective, that climate justice flows from the principles of loving compassion, interdependence and simple living.

All of the Forum’s speakers reinforced a common message: Climate action is not only a practical necessity, but a matter of justice and moral obligation.

 

Hope on the move

For many of us, one of the most moving thoughts of the evening came from Rev. Beth Johnson of the Palomar Unitarian Universalist Fellowship. Early Thursday morning, watching the Pope come forward to speak to Congress, she hadn’t known why she was in tears. A friend on the telephone put it together: “He is hope walking.”

St. Stephens's  young choir ended the program by reminding us that we embody hope.

The young singers of St. Stephen’s ended the program with a song of hope.

Hope is on the move. We can feel climate action growing into a broad movement. Like the Civil Rights movement before us, we can succeed because we have a clear and compelling moral message: Climate action is about justice. Pope Francis himself is bringing that message to the world. 300 people coming together for the Interfaith Forum on Climate Justice tell us that the message is taking root here in San Diego: We are hope gathering.

*       *       *

 

There’s more below: photos and video of the Forum, links to media coverage, things you can do right now, and the many people we want to thank.

 More photos

Coming together for climate justice.

Rabbi Laurie Coskey and Rev. Dr. Frank Placone-Willey: Two faiths speaking together for climate justice.

Good fellowship, common purpose.

Good fellowship, common purpose.

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

Climate justice is all about love.

Climate justice is all about love.

Building a broad coalition: Angela meets Damian Tryon of the California Nurses Association

Building a broad coalition: SD350’s Angela Deegan meets Damian Tryon of National Nurses United

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

Rabbi Shai tells the story of Sukkhot, and the long relationship of the Jews to their natural environment.

Rabbi Shai Cherry tells the story of the seven days of Sukkhot, and the long relationship of the Jews to their natural environment.

Bill Wellhouse hands down banners to Bill Avrin.

After a successful Forum, Bill Wellhouse hands down banners to Bill Avrin.

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

Thanks to Bonnie and Peg for providing the photos in this post.

Video

Click here for a start-to-finish video of the Forum.

Media coverage

The Interfaith Forum on Climate Justice got outstanding media coverage, including news spots on six television channels; articles in the Reader, San Diego Free Press, OB Rag, Reporting San Diego, Fox5 and KPBS; and an op-ed and news article in our city’s biggest, most mainstream newspaper, the San Diego Union-Tribune.

What you can do

Understanding the moral necessity is a first step. The next step is to turn that moral necessity into action. Here are some things you can right now:

Climate Action Plan. Perhaps the biggest thing we should all do right now is to submit comments in support of a strong city Climate Action Plan. You can do that by emailing, “DSDEAS@sandiego.gov.” In the subject line, put, “Comments regarding San Diego Climate Action Plan, SCH NO: 2015021053. In the body of the email, start with, “Attention: Rebecca Malone.” You can follow that with your own version of, “I urge the City of San Diego to adopt a strong Climate Action Plan…”

You can let them know that we want (1) 100% green energy by 2035, (2) a plan that encourages green, healthy, efficient homes, (3) affordable, safe, clean, convenient public transit, (4) walkable, bikeable neighborhoods, (5) investment in the communities most burdened by air pollution, poor transportation and climate impacts, and (6) good local jobs.

Learn, dialogue and connect. You can:

Reduce your climate impact. While we work for solutions in cities, states and nations, there are lots of simple ways you can help to mitigate the climate crisis:

  • At home: Use a fan instead of air conditioning. Wear a sweater instead of turning up the heat. Replace old lightbulbs with compact fluorescents or LEDs. Insulate your home. Reduce waste.
  • When you eat: Eat less meat, especially beef and lamb.
  • When you drive: Drive less. Keep the tires aired up. Combine errands into a single trip, since a warm engine uses less gasoline. Drive a little slower.

People we want to thank

We at SanDiego350 are proud to have played a role in making the Interfaith Forum happen. We thank all of the groups who worked with us, the many San Diegans who attended, and the dozens of volunteers who did hundreds of small tasks. From within SanDiego 350, special thanks go to Masada Disenhouse, a driving force behind the Forum, Bill Wellhouse and Holly Young, who led our Forum team, and Angela Deegan, who worked tirelessly to bring in great media coverage.

We also want to thank all the people who spoke and sang at the Forum:
Rabbi Laurie Coskey, Jewish Committee for Worker Justice
The St. James Youth Music Ministry choir, Anne Marie Oldham, director
The Very Rev. Penny Bridges, St. Paul’s Episcopal Church
Rev. Jeanette Ham, Foothills United Methodist Church
Rev. Sadie Callumber, Pacific Beach Christian Church
Rev. Jennifer Chanin, First Unitarian Church
Rev. Iona Dickinson, University City United Church
Sister Maureen Brown, St. Thomas More Catholic Church
Kent Peters, Roman Catholic Diocese of San Diego
Nana Firman, Islamic Center of San Diego
Karma Lekshe Tsomo, Professor, Theology and Religious Studies, University of San Diego
Rabbi Shai Cherry, Shaar Hamayim Jewish Learning Center
Rev. J. Lee Hill, Jr., Christian Fellowship Congregational Church
Rev. Dr. Beth Johnson, Palomar Unitarian Universalist Fellowship
Jim Miller, American Federation of Teachers Local 1931
Maria Concepcion Villanueva, Environmental Health Coalition
Itzel Osmara Martinez, Student, Ethnic Studies, Mesa and City Colleges
Eddie Junsay, SanDiego350
Terry Bunting, California Nurses Association
Rev. Dr. Frank Placone-Willey, Summit Unitarian Universalist Fellowship
Father Mike Ratajczak, St. Thomas More Catholic Church
St. Stephen’s Youth / Young Adult Choir, Laura Smith, director

Notes from a Climate Conference Junkie, Part 2

by James Long

This post and my last one are about a journey that has changed my view of myself as a climate activist. That  journey took me to two climate conferences in a month. I found new friends, a new awareness of how active the climate movement has become, and a lot of ideas about the issues that call for action and how I can respond to them. Last time, I wrote about the first part of that journey, the Pando Populus conference in Claremont, California. Now I want to share the second part with you.

“We will not acquiesce to the ongoing degradation and destruction of life.” –Unitarian Universalist Statement of Conscience on Climate Change
Climate conference: 2015 General Assembly logo

I joined 5000 other Unitarian Universalists at our annual Assembly. Climate justice is a moral commitment for UUs.

Two weeks after Pando Populus, I left for Portland,Oregon to attend climate workshops at the Unitarian Universalist Association (UUA) Assembly. What does the UUA have to do with climate?  Well, Unitarian Universalists have long committed themselves to climate action. It flows from one of UU’s seven principles, that we “affirm [our] respect for the interdependent web of all existence of which we are a part.” In 2006, the UUA enacted a Statement of Conscience on Climate Change, declaring, “we will not acquiesce to the ongoing degradation and destruction of life that human actions are leaving to our children and grandchildren.” I feel the UUA’s call to act for climate justice is exactly what faith groups need to do to help protect the planet.

In Portland, we experienced a sign of the times with a heat wave reaching triple digits. The weather put an exclamation point on all of our climate workshops.

Climate conference: Panelists for the "Commit2Respond: Growing Young Adult Leadership for Climate Justice" workshop

Young activists told how they lay their bodies on the line to fight climate change: (l to r) Benjamin Craft-Rendon, Aly Tharp, Elizabeth Mount, Jennifer Nordstrom, Matthew McHale.

The first climate workshop that I want to tell you about featured young UU activists. These UU Young Adults for Climate Justice shared their sit-ins on oil pipelines in Texas, research on plastic garbage gyres in the Pacific Ocean, and actions to stop coal trains resulting in getting arrested. They gave specific advice about how to support them: delivering food and supplies to their sit-ins, contacting media and writing letters to editors, and raising bail funds to get them out of jail after they get arrested.  A particularly striking example of activism came from Elizabeth Mount: suspending herself from a bridge for nearly forty hours to block the passage of a ship involved in Shell’s drilling in the Arctic. For me, after two weeks of discussing philosophy and theory at the Pando Climate Conference, this was an inspirational change, to hear the passion of the millennial generation laying their bodies on the line to stop the fossil fuel industry.

The Young Adults presented another workshop called “Moving Capitalism Towards an Ecological Economy.”  Aly Tharp and Matthew McHale echoed themes from the Pando Climate Conference, suggesting that economics based on unchecked “growth” values profit blindly, even at the cost of destroying life sustaining ecological systems.  Aly showed the short video, “The Story of Stuff,” which illustrates the problems created by a consumer economy very simply.  Matthew described his action “Occupy the Farm” at Berkeley, which shows how urban farming is the type of solution that creates an ecological economy. I felt these young adults presented effective activism and direct action protest from a deep understanding of what we need to do to move toward an ecological society.

Climate conference: Lummi Nation witness_salmon_graphicC

At UUA’s Public Witness, members of the Lummi Nation taught us about their struggle to save their ancestral lands from a major coal port.

Direct action is a powerful way to advance the climate movement.  I think witnessing and learning from our indigenous partners struggling to defend their land can be just as powerful.  The UUA  invited the Lummi Nation to speak at the “Public Witness” for social action.  The Lummi Nation is fighting the largest coal port on the West Coast at Cherry Point in Puget Sound. Elder Jewell Praying Wolf James and his daughter Shamania James shared their story of totem pole making, and rallying people to protect their land from trains and coal supertankers.  Elder James carves 19-foot totem poles as a symbol of protest against the fossil fuel industry, and conducts ceremonies across the country. What a powerful way to bring ancient teachings to thousands of people! Elder James spoke of fossil fuel companies entering their ancestral land without permission, and bulldozing their sacred wetlands.

Shamania James of Lummi Nation addressing the UUA conference for Public Social Witness

Shamania James: “Learn what fulfills your heart and pursue it bravely, even if it scares you a little.”

For me, the greatest wisdom came from a visibly nervous young Shamania, who said, “I have pretty severe anxiety, but I just want to tie the video to the message. To learn what fulfills your heart, and to pursue it bravely, even if it scares you a little bit.  My hands go up to you.”  Shamania showed her music video, “This is My Life.”

Climate conference: Speaker Kathleen Moore's book shows that climate change is fundamentally a moral issue.

Conference speaker Kathleen Moore’s book shows that climate change is fundamentally a moral issue.

Some of the most powerful ideas I heard were presented at the next workshop, “A Moral Response to Climate Change.”  Kathleen Dean Moore, editor of Moral Ground, Ethical Action for a Planet in Peril, explained how moral arguments operate in the public debate. Moral arguments must have two dimensions. First, they must be grounded in fact. Second, however, they must also look at those facts in terms of right or wrong, good or bad. As Moore puts it, “Not only is causing climate change destructive and incredibly stupid; it is wrong.”

I think the Pope’s encyclical turns the debate on climate change to “what we ought to do,” and not “whether it is scientifically proven or not.” Moore gave us the ultimate analogy about the moral dimensions of climate change: She called the fossil fuel economy’s exploitation of the planet and the species that inhabit it the moral equivalent of a slave economy.

Right after Moore’s talk, I received a pleasant surprise showing connections between the two climate conferences. I asked a question at the microphone, and I looked to my right.  Sitting a few rows over I found a fellow climate conference junkie!  Christina Conklin is an artist and ecological thinker in the Bay Area, who sat next to me at most of the workshops at the Pando conference. We talked and agreed that we had a lot to share with others from the two conferences. Another connection between conferences was author David Korten who wrote “When Corporations Rule the World.” Korten spoke at both conferences, and his message reinforced the need to move to ecological economics. Finding others like me who attended climate conferences back-to-back shows me how climate change motivates people; I’m glad I’m not the only conference junkie.

Climate conference keynote speaker Cornel West with James

I met Cornel West at a book signing after his Keynote Address. Every climate activist should listen to Dr. West’s speech on how moral integrity is critical to the success of social movements.

As the final days of the UUA climate conference approached, I wondered how the concluding keynote address would wrap things up.  I must say, I was blown away by the dynamism of the General Assembly keynote speaker Cornel West. In the tradition of Martin Luther King, West lifted oratory to an art form. I felt transported back to the sixties with West’s style and energy.  I suggest that anyone participating in a social movement listen carefully to Dr. West’s speech. He identifies four key elements that a successful movement must have: integrity, honesty, decency, and virtue. A movement, no matter how just, will fail to engage public imagination if it lacks these elements.  The civil rights movement was first a spiritual and moral movement that touched our humanity.  West criticizes today’s market-driven culture that emphasizes smartness and dollars over wisdom. West says, “Let the phones be smart, we have to be wise and aspire to integrity.” In struggles for justice, West adds that the “condition for truth is to allow suffering to speak.”  Thrilled by Cornel West’s message, I bought his book and waited an hour-and-half in line for the signing and personal greeting.

Well, I’ve shared the highlights of my trek through two climate conferences. These experiences of the climate movement inspired me on many levels. The best part was spending time with fellow SanDiego350 friends, but also connecting with so many other organizations. I got to see so many people working to save the climate: Pete Seeger in his last video message; Bill McKibben telling us about the breadth and successes of the global climate movement; Vandana Shiva and Wes Jackson showing us how to grow food sustainably; John Cobb and Kathleen Dean Moore reminding us that climate is a moral issue; young activists like Elizabeth Mount putting their bodies on the line; native people like Shamania and Praying Wolf James standing up to the coal industry; Cornel West’s thundering call for social movements with integrity.

I learned a lot about what we can do, as well. It really comes down to the old saying, “Think globally, act locally.”  We need global solutions like re-shaping economics and agriculture. We also need local activism to stop the fossil fuel companies. We need to partner with allies like the Lummi Nation.  SanDiego350 is right on track with our efforts in public policy, planet-based diet, fracking, and raising public awareness.

These climate conferences enabled me to imagine change for the future. I’m an idealist, so I feel like the future generations are cheering all of us at SanDiego350 to work together and find out what energizes us. I’m eager to continue to grow the movement right here in San Diego!!

 

Guest blogger James Long is an accountant for the City of San Diego.  He lives in El Cajon with his wife, and looks forward to traveling more when he retires.  James joined SD350 to do something for a future that is threatened by climate change.  Working together with others is the way for him to have hope for that future.

Notes from a Climate Conference Junkie, Part 1

by James Long

Folk singer Pete Seeger, age 94, at his home on the Hudson River, where he was interviewed for Pando Populus.

Folk singer Pete Seeger, age 94, at his home on the Hudson River, where he was interviewed for Pando Populus.

I started my journey singing with Pete Seeger and ended it three weeks later with the fiery intellectual Cornel West! I just got back from Pando Populus in Claremont, California, and the Unitarian Universalist General Assembly in Portland, Oregon. After 25 to 30 lectures — together with great music, stimulating presenters and a lot of new friends — I’m ready to get down to the business of local organizing for climate action.  But first, I’d like to share my notes about these inspiring conferences. I’ll tell you about Pando Populus this time, and the UU Assembly in a second posting.

What is Pando Populus?

"Seizing an alternative" logo from the Pando Populuus conference.

“Seizing an alternative” logo from the Pando Populuus conference.

The name Pando Populus refers to a Utah aspen grove that may be the oldest and largest living organism on Earth.  “Above ground Pando appears to be a grove of many individual trees.  Underground they are interconnected through a single root system — sprouts of the same tree.”  Pando Populus, the environmental organization, has adopted this name as symbolizing the interconnectedness of all living things.

The Pando conference started with a welcome message from Pete Seeger, recorded on video a few months before his death. We all sang along with what must be one of his last performances of, “Where have all the flowers gone?”

Bill McKibben delivers an impassioned keynote address.

Bill McKibben delivers an impassioned keynote address at the Pando Climate Conference.

Keynoter Bill McKibben

350.org’s Bill McKibben keynoted the conference by laying out the global response to the climate catastrophe.  On June 4th, the air in the hall crackled with electricity as McKibben described climate movements around the world.  From Africa to India to the Pacific Islands, he brought us images of vulnerable people of all colors and creeds, standing up to demand action on climate change.  Addressing the conference theme, “Toward an Ecological Civilization,” McKibben laid out  350.org’s successes in stopping fossil fuel infrastructure with protests like Keystone Pipeline and the growing oil divestment campaign.

James Long, Keith Mesecher, and Sadie MIzisin with Bill McKibben after Bill's keynote address

Keith Mesecher, James Long and Sadie Mizisin with Bill McKibben after Bill’s keynote address

What a thrill to meet Bill McKibben after his conference address, and accompany him to the airport the next morning after a radio interview.  I witnessed first hand how tirelessly he works for the climate movement.

Pomona's Urban Mission Church hosted SD350 and our LA counterparts..

Pomona’s Urban Mission Church hosted SD350 and our LA counterparts.

That evening, I returned to  Urban Mission Church where  fellow SD350ers — Ashley Mazanec, Dwain Deets, Michael Brackney, Keith Mesecher  — stayed four nights with new friends from LA350. Pando climate conference organizer, Sadie Mizisin, had graciously arranged lodging at the church for us. We enjoyed the warm hospitality.  The Urban Mission Church hosted a dinner on our behalf, where church members came to welcome us.

For me, our Pando Populus group shared a “mini-retreat” experience where we lodged, ate and bonded over shared experiences; it was where we engaged with professors, artists, bloggers, and climate activists from around the world.  Theologian and author Philip Clayton came just to meet us at Urban Mission Church, because he wanted to share how churches can build resilient communities by planning urban farms.

Biodiversity and Agriculture

Vandana Shiva, world renowned Indian environmental activist.

Vandana Shiva, world renowned Indian environmental activist.

Another highlight of the conference was the energizing eco-feminist Vandana Shiva, who gave a breathtaking  plenary address. Shiva, originally trained as a particle physicist, has redirected her efforts towards issues more directly affecting her people. She spoke about the devastating effects of industrial agriculture on India.   She sees industrial monoculture farming as a “violent agriculture that sees all life as an enemy,” tying such agricultural methods to the patriarchal mindset of the west.  In contrast, she says polyculture farming can heal the planet and still grow enough food for the world while increasing biodiversity. Shiva stressed that the solution to climate change lies in the earth itself, in the living soil. Demonstrating this, she was exuberant, saying “species are flowering … one study says there are six times more pollinators on our farm than in the forest next door … the more we give to the earth, the more she gives to us.”

Then, focusing on the monoculture vs polyculture struggle in the US, Shiva warned us about a dangers of The California Seed Law, AB2470, passed in 2014.  (A member of SoCal350 had alerted Shiva about the law.) Polyculture seed breeding, which is the key to sustainable agriculture, is criminalized by AB2470. The law declares that the success of the state agriculture depends on industry research (as opposed to breeding seed by farmers) and potentially makes only industrial monoculture seed available for sale in California. To take action against this law, we of SD350 can exert some influence: Pressure on California Assembly Speaker, Toni Atkins, may be the most effective way to abolish,or at least change this law.

San Diegans at Pando Populus

San Diego's Lee Van Ham, Director of  Jubilee Economics and the One Earth Project

Lee Van Ham, Director of Jubilee Economics and the One Earth Project and a San Diegan, attended the Pando Climate Conference.

I encountered so many interesting “Pando Populists.” Fellow San Diegan, Lee Van Ham, director of Jubilee Economics for One Earth. talked to me while Bill McKibben was giving a television interview. Lee hosts a monthly podcast promoting practices, ideas, and stories for living economically. Lee has been a long time advocate for sustainability and changing our economic system.  Lee’s team is producing a series of 20 interviews filmed at Pando Populus Conference, including Bill McKibben.

The high point of the conference came Saturday afternoon when Ashley, Michael, and I presented a paper, “SanDiego350 Activism”.  We had an audience of about 30 people in our workshop where we presented for 15 minutes.  We had a unique presentation, emphasizing hands-on organizing, We gathered the room into a circle and opened with an ice breaker.  Then we each in turn spoke about SanDiego350 history, organizing, and our team structure. I really hope we communicated our passion to those who attended our workshop.

Community Development

Poster for the Richmond Project's Breakthrough Communities

Poster for the Richmond Project’s Breakthrough Communities

I also want to tell you about an amazing session on Environmental Racism with Dr. Paloma Pavel and Carl Anthony, co-founders of Breakthrough Communities Project in Oakland.California. They developed a blueprint for statewide planning tools (SB 375). In the city of Richmond, community leaders across racial lines collaborated with leading transportation and urban planners. The community leaders presented their own development plan, and the local regional planning agency adopted it. What a different story from SANDAG.

SDC12292

Keith and I got so deep in discussion, we kept getting lost on our way to the next session.

Not everything was peachy keen, but mostly for the best of reasons.  One difficulty I had was trying to get around the Claremont campus.  My friend Keith Mesecher and I were often getting lost between sessions.  We debated ecology, economics, Buddhism, and philosophy, and got disoriented so we couldn’t find our way to the next session.

Ecological Economics

Philosopher and environmentalist John Cobb, Jr., co-founder of Pando Populus

Philosopher and environmentalist John Cobb, Jr., co-founder of Pando Populus,spoke at the climate conference.

The best line in the conference came on Saturday morning.  Theologian John Cobb Jr, and economist Herman Daly spoke on the topic Ecological Economics for an Ecological Civilization.  When asked about modern economists, Cobb said, “Theologians can do without God much better than Economists can do without Growth.” (Find at 8:57 on the video.) Ecological Economics is based on rejecting “growth” as the goal to organize our economy.  Conventional economists consider the only viable economic model to be one based on growth and maximizing profits for big corporations. They ignore the costs of excess CO2 in the atmosphere in pursuit of growth. According to John Cobb Jr., the discipline of economics seems more like a dogmatic religion guarding growth and profit for corporations. I had to laugh with appreciation at the plain-spokeness of the 90-year-old architect of the Pando conference,who is so obviously a loved and respected  figure among the ecological crowd.

Sustainable Agriculture

Photo: Land Institute

Photo: Land Institute

The Pando conference ended Sunday with the encouraging research of Wes Jackson, director of the Land Institute.  Jackson’s motto, “If your life’s work can be accomplished in your lifetime, you’re not thinking big enough,” is how he has lived his life. He’s worked the last 40 years on a project to create a sustainable agriculture by learning from nature.

At the Land Institute, ecologists explore ways to replace annual grains, oil seeds and legumes with perennial plants so the soil stays intact, and create bio-diverse farm fields.  Perennial crops mean the soil is not tilled and replanted every year, like annual crops.  The result is that roots can grow longer and develop a much more resilient soil.  (See photo at left.) As the seasonal patterns change with climate change, perennial plants are more resistant to drought.  Longer roots mean more organic carbon sequestered from the atmosphere to the soil. Jackson reports that perennial high-yield grain varieties can be developed just like annual grains.

This approach to developing grains for harvest circles back to the beginnings of agriculture and civilization 10,000 years ago.  Such an ecological transformation is a metaphor for the climate movement.  We must similarly re-think the root of every activity of modern society with a goal of sustainability and cooperation with the planet.

Pando Populus Conference AdThe Pando Climate Conference by no means promised a future without problems for humanity. But Pando did inspire us to look carefully at the problems and come up with systemic solutions and ideas to create an ecological civilization.

This climate conference was not the end for me.  In the next blog, I’ll talk about the second conference I attended in Portland Oregon, right after Pando Populus.

 

An invitation to our San Diego readers:  SanDiego350.org is sponsoring a Climate Chat on Thursday, August 27th at 7PM at the First Unitarian Universalist Church in Hillcrest.  Author James Long and others will be sharing their experiences and Pando’s vision for an ecological civilization.  For more information and to make a reservation, follow this link.

Guest blogger James Long is an accountant for the City of San Diego.  He lives in El Cajon with his wife, and looks forward to traveling more when he retires.  James joined SD350 to do something for a future that is threatened by climate change.  Working together with others is the way for him to have hope for that future. 

 

La Mesans Demand an Effective Climate Action Plan

By Joan Raphael

La Mesa residents in the audience hold signs showing support for a strong Climate Action Plan

La Mesa residents in the audience of the Planning Commision hearing hold signs provided by SD350 to show support for a strong Climate Action Plan.

On Wednesday, June 3, concerned citizens came together at a hearing of the La Mesa Planning Commission to press for a stronger Climate Action Plan (CAP). Many of those who came to speak were volunteers with SD350. The hearing turned out to be an uplifting reminder of what regular folks working together can achieve.

California’s cities are creating Climate Action Plans, following executive orders from Governors Brown and Schwartzenegger to comply with state targets for reducing greenhouse-gas emissions pursuant to provisions in the 2006 Global Warming Solutions Act (AB32). Citizens at the hearing noted that La Mesa’s draft CAP includes no fixed timelines or mechanisms to quantify reduced emissions, and relies largely on promoting voluntary measures such as installation of solar power by individuals and businesses.

Nicole Capretz speaks

Climate Action Campaign’s Nicole Capretz speaks to the La Mesa Planning Commission about the legal hazards of an inadequate Climate Action Plan.

Nicole Capretz, Executive Director of Climate Action Campaign, who developed the City of San Diego’s highly praised CAP, added support to the SD350 volunteers’ and other La Mesans’ voices.  She pointed out that the La Mesa draft-CAP’s lack of measurable, enforceable provisions and timeline for implementation renders the city vulnerable to expensive and time-wasting legal challenges of its CAP.

Volunteers from SanDiego350, speaking on their own behalf as citizens of La Mesa, added that the city could learn from the legal troubles of San Diego County and SANDAG, who were sued in court and lost because of the inadequacies of their CAP.  They urged the Planning Commission to craft a CAP that would not siphon taxpayer dollars away from services and would be a genuine effort to reduce greenhouse gas emissions.

La Mesan Angela Deegan encouraged the commissioners to aim for 100 percent clean energy by offering Community  Community Choice Aggregation (CCA), also called Community Choice Energy.  CCA would allow the City of La Mesa to   procure electricity generated from renewable sources and deliver it through existing transmission lines.  Community residents and businesses would have the choice of buying electricity from a La Mesa CCA or from the utility.  Deegan emphasized that with CCA, La Mesa can achieve higher greenhouse gas reduction goals and also provide more competition in the local energy market, giving consumers a choice they don’t now have.

Co-organizers of SD350 volunteers, Jean Costa and Angela Deegan stand with Masada outside La Mesa Council Chambers before the start of the hearing.

SD350 volunteers and La Mesans Jean Costa, Masada Disenhouse and Angela Deegan (l-r) preview the messages they will deliver to the city’s Planning Commission.

Masada Disenhouse, co-founder of SanDiego350, noted that Governor Brown has issued a new executive order increasing the state’s emissions goal to 40 percent below 1990 by 2030.  (The previous goal had an extended target date of 2050.)  Disenhouse concluded, “The Governor’s recent executive order sends a clear message: We need to act boldly today.”

After all the speakers had voiced their concerns, the commissioners voted unanimously to send the draft Climate Action Plan back to staff for reconsideration in light of the information provided at that evening’s hearing.  While this is clearly a small victory for citizen action, the battle for a strong La Mesa Climate Action Plan has not yet been won.

The CAP hearing opened with Margaret Meade’s inspirational words: “Never doubt that a small group of thoughtful, committed citizens can change the world; indeed, it’s the only thing that ever has.”  In closing, Commissioner Jim Newland praised the citizen speakers for their participation in the democratic process.  La Mesans, it is clear, will be watching to see that their new Climate Action Plan does indeed pass muster.

 

Guest blogger Joan Raphael is a Youth Services Librarian for the City of San Diego. She hopes that the kids she has seen grown up will have a better future because climate change has been ameliorated.

A similar article entitled “La Mesans Call for Effective Climate Action Plan, Planners Vote to Reconsider City’s CAP” has been published in the Communities section of the East County Magazine.  Click on the link for this and other La Mesa news.

 

San Diegans Say No to TPP Fast-Track

Activist participation numbered in the fifties as the event got under way

Activist participation numbered in the fifties as the event got under way and grew as members got off work and were able to join the rush-hour rally.  Here, as the rally was winding down, many gathered for a group photo.

Wednesday, May 27, SanDiego350 joined forces with the Sierra Club, Climate Action Campaign, Environmental Health Coalition and others to urge local Congressman Scott Peters to vote against fast-tracking the Trans-Pacific Partnership (TPP) trade agreement.  Our message: TPP is bad for people, bad for the environment, and bad for the climate.

Rounding a bend on La Jolla Shores Drive, UCSD commuters met SD350 placards and banners.

Rounding a bend on La Jolla Shores Drive, UCSD commuters met SD350 placards and banners.

Underscoring that TPP-climate connection, the backdrop for the rally was world-class climate-research center Scripps Institution of Oceanography, located in Peters’ district.  Activists positioned themselves at a strategic bend on La Jolla Shores Drive, where commuters would come face-to-face with colorful placards and banners, as they wound down the hill from UCSD.  Messages such as “Rep. Peters, Lead on Climate Change”  and “TPP -> Climate Change” elicited waves, thumbs up, and honks of approval from passing cars.

TPP’s negotiating partners include twelve nations that represent 40 percent of the world’s  economy. Environmental groups are concerned because the trade agreement’s dispute resolution provisions and the secrecy surrounding the terms of the agreement will undermine democratic processes needed to protect the environmental, health and labor laws.

While addressing the crowd, Masada turns to engage SD350 members Ashley Mazanec and Dave Engels

While addressing the crowd, Masada turns to engage SD350 members Ashley Mazanec and Dave Engels.  Kali Gochmanosky  catches the scene on video.

SanDiego350’s Masada Disenhouse voiced the concern that “85% of the people writing this deal come from lobbying groups representing massive corporations whose primary concerns are not climate change or the rights of workers.”  Also of grave concern is the secrecy surrounding the trade document: Congress members, who must vote on whether to fast-track the trade deal, may only review the document under highly restricted conditions.

Speaking on behalf of the Sierra Club, Davin Widgerow warned, “TPP would give large multi-national corporations the right to sue governments in private, non-transparent trade tribunals over environmental regulations that corporations allege would reduce their profits.”  Canada was sued under a similar provision in NAFTA and ordered by a tribunal to pay $5 million to Ohio-based S.D. Meyers in a case involving the disposal of toxic waste. Germany is currently being sued for $4.6 billion under an EU trade agreement over its decision to phase out nuclear power.  These payouts to large corporations will ultimately be paid by taxpayers.

Kath Rogers speaks to the crowd.

Kath Rogers gestures to the crowd as she emphasizes local effects of the Trans-Pacific Partnership.

Kath Rogers, Operations Director for Climate Action Campaign, added that local governments, too, can be subjected to litigation, which will inhibit enforcement of environment and labor laws. The TPP, Rogers predicted, “will make it more difficult for local governments like San Diego to pass their Climate Action Plans,” which under California law they are required to do.  Rogers appealed to Congressman Peters to remember his connection to his community, where he has been a climate action leader.

Peters' Chief of Staff Maryanne Pintar hold a "petition" for a theme of flushing the TPP down the drain.

SD350 participated in other anti-TPP actions.  Here Peters’ Chief of Staff Maryanne Pintar holds a “petition” for a theme of flushing the TPP down the drain.

While the speakers were rallying the crowd, social-media savvy activists tweeted and facebooked photos and messages, according to a plan designed especially for this event. Placards displayed Congressman Peters’ office phone number and active hashtags for passersby.  Especially popular with the activist crowd were selfies with the SIO campus, the seaside town of La Jolla, and the blue Pacific in the background. That spectacular backdrop was a reminder to all of us how important it is to protect our beautiful world from the threat of misguided policies, like the TPP.

The event was a huge group effort, SD350 members showed their generous support of climate action by helping in many ways.  They’re documented here by photographs taken by Bill Avrin, Bonnie Funk and Masada Disenhouse.

Sue Zesky and Hugh Moore paint a banner with letters large enough that passing drivers can easily see their message.

Sue Zesky and Hugh Moore paint a banner with letters large enough that passing drivers can easily see their message.

Emily Weir emcees while Angela Deegan scouts for tweeting opportunities.

Emily Weir emcees while Angela Deegan scouts for tweeting opportunities.

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

SD350's Michael Brackney and Sierra Club's Anelli Ford share their concerns about the fast-tracking the TPP.

SD350’s Michael Brackney and Sierra Club’s Anelli Ford share their concerns about the fast-tracking the TPP.

Volunteers hold placards for Sierra Club's Davin Widgerow.  Kali gets his speech on video.

Volunteers hold placards for Sierra Club’s Davin Widgerow. Kali gets his speech on video.

 

 

 

 

 

 

After the rally is over, Sue. Masada, Paul and Bill help load up signs and gear.

After the rally is over, Sue. Masada, Paul and Bill help load up signs and gear.

 

Placard-holders silhouetted against the Pacific Ocean remind us that it’s a beautiful world that deserves protection from threats like TPP.

Signholders silhouetted against the ocean.

Signholders silhouetted against the Pacific Ocean.