Reflections on the Intersection of Climate Change, Justice, and Equity

By: Toshi Ishihara, SD350 board member and member of the Transportation Committee.

Climate Change is real, and we know that the world needs to come together to reduce and eventually eliminate greenhouse gas emissions to prevent the worst impacts of Climate Change. The challenge from shifting from our fossil fuel-based economy to one powered by renewable energy is a huge challenge in our political environment both domestically and globally. Unfortunately, the above was my entire limited understanding of the climate change problem when I started volunteering with SD350 in the fall of 2018. The  equation was simply “GHG Emissions = Climate Change”.

But, then things changed. About a year ago, upon a request from SD350, I started working with the San Diego Transportation Equity Working Group. SDTEWG is a coalition composed of the Environmental Health Coalition, City Heights Community Development Corporation, Mid-City Community Advocacy Network, the Center on Policy Initiatives, and San Diego 350. Each of these organizations, except SD350, are deeply rooted in environmental justice communities, communities of color, and other communities of concern. The coalition works to influence local governments and public agencies to provide convenient, affordable, and equitable solutions to their communities’ needs of transportation while addressing climate injustice. 

Since “Justice” and “Equity” were not commonly used words at the companies I worked for except as in “pay equity”, my learning curve as a new member of the SDTEWG planning group was extremely steep. However, as I learned little by little the environmental injustices that those communities had been struggling with for generations, it became clear to me that as a climate change advocate I needed to study and work on the intersection of climate change, justice, and equity and also to look at the climate change actions and solutions from a different perspective. Climate solutions that only reduce GHG emissions are no longer acceptable to me today.

Pushing for 100% renewable energy, emission-free transportation systems, and fightingthe fossil industry are good goals that will uproot the major cause of climate change and help the renewables industry flourish. 

But, what then? A superficial transfer of wealth from the fossil fuel industry to the renewable energy industry (especially given how many fossil fuel companies are accruing financial interests in the renewable sector) won’t change systemic economic inequity or environmental justice. 

It would be naive to think that renewable energy companies, once they gain dominant political influence and financial power, won’tl continue to exploit communities of concern as the fossil fuel industry has for decades. 

While some environmental organizations have accepted this tradeoff as a necessary evil to bring atmospheric CO2 levels down to 350ppm, I am proud that SanDiego350 has stood with environmental justice groups to demand solutions that prioritize frontline communities and equity. 

I very much enjoy working with the SDTEWG folks, and I regard them as my teachers on the intersection of climate change, justice, and equity. They may not think they are teaching me, but I am definitely learning some very important life lessons.

SD350 Interfaith Team Addresses Faith and the Climate Crisis at Seaside Center for Spiritual Living

On May 27th, Philip Petrie and John Michno of the SanDiego350 Interfaith Team presented a free climate change workshop, entitled “Faith and the Climate Crisis,” at the Seaside Center for Spiritual Living in Encinitas. Phil and John organized the workshop with Sandy Atkinson of Seaside Center’s Earth Care Ministry, along with other representatives of the Interfaith Coalition for Earth Justice (ICEJ). The San Dieguito Ministerial Association sponsored the event along with the Seaside Center.

The People Behind the Presentation

Phil, an artist by vocation, is a founding member of SD350. He co-leads SD350’s  Interfaith Team, the work of which includes giving workshops on climate change to diverse faith communities around the San Diego area. He also helped found the ICEJ and co-founded Simpler Living, a creation care ministry at St. Paul’s Episcopal Cathedral. [Read more…]

SANDAG Reform Bill Now on Governor’s Desk

Credit: slworking2 / Flickr

By David Harris, SanDiego350
(originally published in the San Diego Free Press on September 27, 2017)

A bill to reform the San Diego Association of Governments (SANDAG) has made its way past both houses of the State legislature and now awaits the Governor’s signature. AB 805, introduced and sponsored by Assemblymember Lorena Gonzalez Fletcher, would change the structure and voting process of the SANDAG Board of Directors. The Board consists of elected officials from 18 cities and the County.

Gonzalez-Fletcher held a press conference this past week to urge the Governor to sign her bill. The legislator was joined by San Diego Councilmember Chris Ward as well as councilmembers from Encinitas and National City. Gonzalez-Fletcher was surrounded by two dozen supporters, including members of the Quality of Life Coalition, Environmental Health Coalition, and SanDiego350.

[Read more…]

2017 People’s Climate March

by Celeste Oram and Mark Hughes

2017 People's Climate March

People marching in San Diego. Photo by Greg Lowe.

On April 29th, 2017, SanDiego350 and partner organizations put on our local version of the People’s Climate March. This march was held last in 2014 and around 1,500 people participated. This year, the goal was to double that number, but that’s not what happened. Instead, the rally and march drew over 5,000 people. A success by any measure, and that was matched by the tens of thousands across the country and across the world who took part in the collective march. There is no doubt our demands on our leaders to respect science in general and climate science in particular, to get in step with nearly all the rest of the world, was heard. Perhaps our voices were even loud enough to break through the walls that separate some people’s alternate worlds from ours. This is critical, because while our collective knowledge makes us powerful, our individual ignorance makes us dangerous. And one day’s march, no matter how many people take part, will not solve the problem. Only sustained presence, sustained demands, will impel our leaders to act on our demands and on the needs of our planet and the life it sustains.

–Mark [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…]

San Diego 350 Calls on Senators Feinstein and Harris to Reject Trump’s Climate Denier Cabinet

By David Harris, SanDiego350

Originally published in the San Diego Free Press on 1/26/17

Two weeks ago, a sign-wielding crowd of 150 people gathered together in front of the downtown Federal Building to deliver an urgent message to California’s two Senators: reject four nominations made by President Trump to key cabinet-level level posts. Why? Because all four of these men deny the scientific consensus on human-caused climate change.

SD350 Cabinet Nominee Protest

Protesters rally against Trump’s Cabinet Nominees. Photo by Chris West.

At the peaceful but spirited rally, speakers Diane Takvorian of the Environmental Health Coalition and newly elected Councilmember Georgette Gomez called upon Senators Diane Feinstein and Kamala Harris to reject Trump’s nominees. “I know how much California has done and plans to do to reduce greenhouse gas emissions,” stated Takvorian, “and I know Senators Feinstein and Harris support this progress. That’s why it’s now so critical for them to take a vocal, principled stand and oppose these climate denying nominees who value corporate profits over our communities.”

[Read more…]

SD350 Impressions of the Downtown Women’s March

The International Women’s March was held on Saturday, January 21st, 2017. More than 670 sister marches were held around the world, in countries and places as diverse as Belarus, Ghana, Iraq, Vietnam, and Antarctica. All in all, an estimated 4.8 million people took part, all marching to declare that women’s rights are human rights, to demand justice for all, including the environment.

SD350 Women's March

SD350 members take part in Women’s March. Photo by Bill Wellhouse.

It all started on one computer, with Theresa Shook asking 40 Facebook friends what if they descended upon Washington DC around Inauguration day to make their demands known? The next morning, she awoke to find that 10,000 people had signed up. The event(s) only escalated from there, in true democratic fashion. One person, indeed, can make a difference.

[Read more…]

The Truth of the Matter

Originally Published in the San Diego Free Press on 11/24/16

by Mark Hughes

One of humorist Will Rogers’ signature lines was: “Well, all I know is what I read in the papers.” In subtext, he’s saying he trusted what he read, so it seems reasonable to believe that in those days newspapers lived and died by getting the story right. What a simpler time; if Will was reading papers and the Internet and watching TV today, depending on the sources he chose, some to much of what he learned would be either misleading or just plain false. The information portal guardians have been overrun by hordes bearing rocket-propelled innuendo, guided missile conspiracy theories, and bandoleers bristling with self-serving lies. But that was only the first wall to fall. In this country, those hordes are no longer raging outside governmental gates; soon they will be the government itself.

Welcome to the newest incarnation of the world. The rules, as they always do, have once again changed, and the eternal response is demanded: what do we do about it? How do we live now?

Let’s start with a review of the situation. Truth, in both the social setting and as science’s burnished product, took a hard beating in this election cycle. But perhaps that was an almost foregone conclusion, obvious once recent history is examined from a certain angle.

[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…]