San Diego Unified Calls on Pension Funds to Divest from Fossil Fuels

Originally published in the San Diego Free Press, August 25th 2016

The San Diego Unified School District’s (SDUSD) Board of Education unanimously passed a resolution on July 26th calling on the California State Teachers’ Retirement System (STRS) and the California Public Employees’ Retirement System (PERS) to divest their investment portfolios of stocks in fossil fuel companies. Recognizing the threat of global warming, the resolution also supports last year’s state legislation, SB 185, which requires PERS and STRS to divest from coal stocks. Most of SDUSD’s employees belong to these huge retirement systems.

San Diego Unified School Board Members and Superintendent Cindy Marten at the July 26 meeting.

San Diego Unified School Board Members and Superintendent Cindy Marten at the July 26 meeting.

SanDiego350 and other proponents believe that San Diego Unified is the first school district in California to pass such a resolution, joining the California Federation of Teachers, the Unified Teachers of Los Angeles, and other organizations who have publicly called on CalPERS and CalSTRS to divest from fossil fuel companies. San Diego Unified serves more than 130,000 students in pre-school through grade 12, has over 13,000 employees (including nearly 6,000 teachers), and is the second largest school district in California.

The resolution is a sign of growing momentum for fossil fuel divestment locally – only a couple of months ago the UC San Diego Academic Senate passed a similar resolution urging the UC Regents to divest the University of California’s investment portfolio of stocks in fossil fuel companies. The resolution recognizes the threat of global warming and UCSD’s pioneering contribution to climate science. It also acknowledges the risk to the UC endowment and pension funds from the prospect of falling fossil fuel stocks. The UC system also made the decision to divest from coal and tar sands in 2015, and earlier this July, CalSTRS voted unanimously to move $2.5 billion in assets to a low-carbon index fund.

The move isn’t only about transitioning from fossil fuels to clean energy to reduce carbon emissions – A report last year showed that PERS and STRS had lost $840M from coal stocks during the 2014-15 fiscal year, and $5.1B in fossil fuel stocks overall.
[Read more…]

San Diegans Voice Concerns to State Officials About Air Quality, Environmental Justice, and Climate Change

Originally published in the San Diego Free Press, July 28th, 2016

What do you get when you bring together 120 environmental activists and residents from environmental justice communities in a room with a dozen state regulators? If you’re lucky, dozens of ideas for incentivizing renewable energy, improving public transit, and protecting neighborhoods from toxic industrial fumes.

This is exactly what happened on July 14th when the California Air Resources Board (CARB) sponsored a workshop on climate change at the beautiful new Cesar Chavez campus in Barrio Logan. Local residents, whose voices are rarely heard by policy makers in Sacramento, came out in force to speak out about air pollution from local industry, the need for better transit options, and the impacts of climate change on communities already impacted by poor air quality. [Read more…]

North County Coastal Cities’ Progress On Clean Energy Initiatives

Originally published in the San Diego Free Press, June 23rd 2016

During the past year, the San Diego North County Coastal cities have taken steps forward in implementing their Climate Action Plans (CAP) and studying Community Choice Energy (CCE) initiatives, which will enhance their ability to significantly increase their use of Clean Energy in the future.

Three of the cities – Encinitas, Carlsbad, and Del Mar – have formally approved their Climate ActionPlans. The Encinitas Climate Action Plan was approved in March 2011. It was not tied to a General Plan and therefore had purely voluntary measures. This month however, the Encinitas City Council voted to draft a new, enforceable Climate Action Plan as mitigation for the housing element of their General Plan and to allocate $100,000 towards its development.

Encinitas June 15th 2016 City Council Meeting

Encinitas June 15th 2016 City Council Meeting (Photo courtesy of Climate Action Campaign)

The Carlsbad Plan was approved in October 2015. Del Mar’s recently-approved Climate Plan included the goal of achieving 100% renewable energy by 2035, thereby following the example put forward by the City of San Diego CAP last year. Solana Beach has recently formed a Climate Action Commission to develop their Climate Action Plan, and Oceanside has also recently started to develop their Climate Plan as well. Having these Climate Action Plan documents approved and in process is a good indication that the five North County cities will all have strong climate action goals to significantly reduce their carbon footprint.

Many of the efforts to support and review the Climate Action Plans and to promote Community Choice Energy [Read more…]

Social Media and Climate Change Activism

Social media seems to be everywhere these days with over a billion people on Facebook, Twitter, Instagram, Pinterest, Snapchat and other social media platforms. In fact, it’s hard to overstate the power of social media in our society.

For the issue of climate change to be front and center in the lives of everyday Americans and people around the world, we can leverage the benefits of social media in connecting like-minded people and creating a larger awareness of the climate change crisis. Anyone even mildly interested in social media can learn how to better use it as a tool to spread the word about climate change. Here are some ways social media can increase awareness of climate change and maybe even spur people to become involved in climate change activism at some level:

  • Change how people view climate change by posting images, facts, statistics and hyperlinks to relevant articles and by featuring in your posts people who are taking positive steps to address it.
  • Create engagement with friends/followers and shares/likes – people want to be engaged and feel connected. That’s why social media is so popular.
  • Build a support network around this issue – create a web of people to spread the word to their friends and followers and follow this issue that they care about, thus building bigger networks of change-makers.
  • Extend the reach of your posts to people beyond your usual circle by including relevant hashtags and tags.
  • Possibility of post going viral – viral posts have upwards of thousands or even millions of views, shares, and likes. With that kind of visibility and exposure, more people will start to contemplate your climate change message who might not otherwise even be aware of climate change.

[Read more…]

San Diegans in LA Action to Break Free from Fossil Fuels

Originally published in the San Diego Free Press, May 26th 2016

Over a two week period earlier this month, a wave of
Break Free from Fossil Fuels mass mobilizations was held around the globe. The first action saw hundreds of people peacefully shut down the UK’s largest open cast coal mine in Wales. In the Philippines, 10,000 marched demanding the cancellation of a proposed 600-Megawatt coal power plant. In Australia, 2,000 people shut down the world’s largest coal port for a day, with kayakers blocking the harbor entrance while others blocked a critical rail crossing. In Anacortes, Washington, over the course of three days, thousands converged by land and water at the site of two oil refineries. They marched, led by indigenous leaders, and held an overnight sit-in on the train tracks that led to over 50 arrests.  

These were but a few of the many Break Free actions in the campaign which was organized by 350.org with support and participation from a wide range of international, national and local organizations including the Center for Biological Diversity, National Nurses United and the United Church of Christ.

Figure 9 -BillMcKibbenWithSanDiegans AtBreakFreeLA

San Diegans with Bill McKibben – sporting his SD350 tee-shirt – at the end of the march

Closer to home, Los Angeles was the venue for a Break Free from Fossil Fuels action for people from all over California. Los Angeles is the biggest urban center for oil production in the nation and the Porter Ranch neighborhood was recently the site of the largest methane leak in U.S. history from SoCalGas’  Aliso Canyon gas storage facility.

The LA event started with a rally at City Hall which included high-profile speakers Bill McKibben (co-founder of 350.org) and businessman, philanthropist and environmentalist Tom Steyer, plus speakers from many local groups, including Save Porter Ranch and STAND LA – a group dedicated to ending neighborhood oil drilling in LA. McKibben reminded us of our “brothers and sisters around the world who right now are standing with you.”  He talked about the worsening climate crisis – recent loss of coral reefs in the Pacific and the heatwave in Southeast Asia. He said it’s important we turn up the heat and demand real leadership from Mayor Garcetti and Governor Brown, saying we don’t need them to do a “pretty good job”, we “need them really out in front treating it [climate change] like the crisis that it is.” [Read more…]

San Diegans’ Letters to the Editor About Break Free from Fossil Fuels Campaign

Dear Editor,

Many San Diegans participated in last weekend’s Break Free From Fossil Fuels rally where thousands marched in solidarity to demand oil, coal, and gas be kept in the ground and move to 100 percent renewable energy sources. I admonish the Union Tribune for not covering this event because it was not deemed “local” or newsworthy.  The protesters are part of a worldwide event in which demonstrators converge in different cities to break free from the “chains” of fossil fuels.  Los Angeles, home to the biggest center for urban oil production, practices dangerous oil extraction in some neighborhoods with disregard to the health and safety of the people and for the environment.  Los Angeles elected officials should commit to a Climate Action Plan similar to the steps of San Diego’s CAP, which aims to reduce the greenhouse gas effect and work to create a fair, equitable and sustainable future.

Connie Castro

Mira Mesa

__________________________________________________________________________________

***Published in the Union Tribune May 18th 2016***

Dear Sir/Madam,

I participated in the Break Free from Fossil Fuels rally in Los Angeles yesterday.  I was one of almost a hundred San Diegans participating. This was part of a global wave of actions in the US, UK, Philippines, Germany, Nigeria etc, calling for us to rapidly transition away from fossil fuels to put the brakes on climate change.  It’s really important we get action on addressing climate change, which is threatening humanity on so many fronts and already creating climate refugees – including from island nations and low-lying parts of the U.S.. [Read more…]

San Diegans joining L.A. Break Free from Fossils Fuel rally – their stories

By Norma-Jeanne Hennis

Originally published in East County Magazine, May 9th 2016

On Saturday, May 14th, many San Diegans will head to Los Angeles Break Free from Fossil Fuels logoalong with thousands of other Californians to participate in a mass rally in downtown L.A. to Break Free from Fossil Fuels.

It will be one of several mass mobilizations around the globe this month calling for an end to fossil fuel extraction. These rallies will be advocating to keep coal, oil and gas in the ground, an end to environmental racism, and transitioning to 100% renewable energy. The wave of global Break Free mass mobilizations kicked off last week when hundreds shut down the UK’s largest open cast coal mine and 10,000 marched in the Philippines for a rapid transition to renewable energy.

In Los Angeles, rally participants will be calling for keeping California oil in the ground. CA is currently the 3rd largest oil producing state in the nation! Participants will demand an end to drilling next door to homes, schools, and businesses in Los Angeles and the Central Valley, and investigations to prevent fossil fuel disasters like the massive gas leak at Aliso Canyon. Speakers at the rally will include 350.org founder Bill McKibben and philanthropist Tom Steyer.

I asked some of the people going to the rally with local grassroots climate action group SanDiego350, to tell us why they chose to participate and also for their thoughts on the climate crisis and how they address it in their lives.

Christy Bulskov, mother of two, environmental activist and avid conservationist from Encinitas [Read more…]

Make Every Day Earth Day : How to Fight Climate Change Year Round

By Hutton Marshall / SanDiego350.org

Originally published in the San Diego Free Press on May 5th 2016

Last month’s annual Earth Day reminded people all over the globe of the importance of our planet’s health to everyday lives and to survival of future generations.  Locally, thousands swarmed Balboa Park to celebrate the popular Earth Fair San Diego.

Earth Day plays a larger role than sending a powerful message about the necessity of environmental protection and sustainability. More directly, it attracts countless volunteers in San Diego and beyond to spend the holiday working toward creating a healthier planet and pushing back against forces that are rapidly changing our climate.

Unfortunately, for many volunteers, Earth Day may be the only day of the year we get out and work to combat climate change, despite widespread understanding of the need for action. This happens for a number of reasons. Finding free time to contribute to environmental causes in between our jobs, families and ever-growing list of obligations may seem impractical, but we all have an opportunity to make a difference. Almost every person, no matter how busy or chaotic their lives may be, can find a way to take meaningful action. Here are ways that we at SanDiego350 suggest. [Read more…]

Learning from the Best & Worst U.S. Public Transit Systems

From Portland’s TriMet to Atlanta’s MARTA

Originally published in the San Diego Free Press on March 31st 2016

Not all public transportation systems are created equal. Across the country, there’s a huge gulf between bumper-to-bumper black holes like Los Angeles versus cities like the subway-happy New York City, which boasts 660 miles of rail transit.

Many of the cities we now see as pinnacles of functional transit became that way out of utility. New Yorkers, for example, have come to see their expansive subway system as a way to escape fierce blizzards and even fiercer rush hours.

Today, however, many cities have come to see public transit as an important tool in growing in a sustainable, environmentally conscious manner. The 2015 and 2016 climate change reports increased the importance of efficient transit. [Read more…]

TransNet Tax Increase – SANDAG Course-correct Opportunity

Originally published in the San Diego Free Press on February 25th, 2016

A region doesn’t become environmentally friendly by accident; it does so through careful, ambitious planning with the good of future generations in mind. In this regard, the San Diego region now finds itself at a crossroads.

Through the San Diego Association of Governments (SANDAG), the region’s planning agency, we now have the opportunity to begin realizing an environmentally friendly future in the San Diego region for many years to come. SANDAG recently announced that it will consider putting forth a ballot measure that will increase the TransNet sales tax by half a cent. Pending voter approval, such an increase would mean billions of additional dollars for transportation projects in coming decades. Although SANDAG may do the opposite, this money should be spent on projects that will mitigate climate change and protect San Diego’s most vulnerable populations. [Read more…]