Young People are Turning our Climate Grief into Hope

Ocean Agency / XL Catlin Seaview Survey / Richard Vevers. (photo links to license).

 

By Peter Sloan

The first week of winter quarter, I was sitting with Erica Ferrer, a doctoral student in Marine Biology at the Scripps Institute of Oceanography, in Muir Woods Coffee House. We had met to talk about the dire situation facing life on planet Earth and what we, as graduate students at UC San Diego, could possibly do about it.

Predictably, I heard myself going off on one of my well-rehearsed climate rants. 25 percent of ocean species directly rely on tropical reefs. The United Nations Intergovernmental Panel on Climate Change (IPCC) 2018 Special Report indicates up to 90 percent of reefs will die at 1.5 degrees Celsius warming. We’re headed for 4 degreesby 2100. And so on.

I finished, a bit bluntly, “The oceans are gonna die. In our lifetime. How do people at Scripps feel about that?”

I regretted my aggressive tone as I heard Erica’s voice twist in her reply.

“It’s devastating…”

There were tears in her eyes but she didn’t look away.

“…to watch what you study die.”

“But,” the young scientist was quick to clarify, “not everything in the ocean is going to die. Not everything on land is going to die. Species will move poleward. And some ecosystems will do better than we expect. We call them bright spots.

“Besides,” Erica continued, “as a professor at Scripps told me, when a doctor is talking to a dying patient’s family, they don’t deliver an obituary. They make a plan for care.”

It’s 2019, and the climate conversation has changed.

Young people coming into our political own today recognize that the political elites of previous generations wasted their opportunity to prevent catastrophic global warming, leaving us forever picking up the pieces of a breaking world. But we also know it’s never too late to impact the future.

Young people, especially young women, are leading the climate movement on every front.

Gen-Z’ers are walking out of school on both sides of the Atlantic, led by figures like Greta Thunberg in Sweden, Anna Taylor in the United Kingdom, and Alexandria Villasenor in the United States.

The plaintiffs in Juliana v. United States, all under 21 years old at the time of the filing, continue to press their case against the federal government for failing to protect them from catastrophic climate change.

And Rep. Alexandria Ocasio-Cortez (D-NY 14th District), the working-class millennial, socialist of color, and youngest woman ever elected to the U.S. Congress, has introduced legislation advancing the Green New Deal, a plan to fully phase out fossil fuels from the United States economy by 2030. The plan pulls public support as high as 80 percent and has become an overnight litmus test for 2020 Democratic presidential contenders. Crucial to Ocasio-Cortez’s breakthrough in Congress has been outside pressure from the grassroots, millennial-led Sunrise Movement.

Coming of age under neoliberal capitalism, an ideology that boasts the dubious accomplishments of driving historic inequality and utterly degrading the living world, Millennials and Generation Z have listened to a young lifetime of empty talk about “our children’s future.” But now our voices are leading the conversation. The future has arrived. We are the children.

In Muir Woods that morning, Erica and I mostly talked about our feelings. It hasn’t been easy lately. I told her I was angry. She told me she was bitter. I told her I was depressed. She told me she was too.

We took time to make space for our grief, our fear, even our despair. But we also talked about hope, and how it’s different from optimism.

“Hope,” writes Rebecca Solnit, “is an embrace of the unknown and the unknowable, an alternative to the certainty of both optimists and pessimists. … Hope locates itself in the premises that we don’t know what will happen and that in the spaciousness of uncertainty is room to act.”

These days, that spaciousness of uncertainty is so wide, it can feel overwhelming. Events of the coming decade will determine the climate future for countless generations to come. When every minute matters that much, the question of what to do each day feels very heavy.

The only thing that lifts that weight for me is remembering that I’m not alone. On climate, none of us have to do everything, but we all can do more than nothing.

That’s why, as Graduate Student Association (GSA) representatives, Erica and I have founded a GSA Climate Action and Policy Committee, or GSA-CAP (as in, “cap emissions”), which any UCSD graduate student can join. Our mission is to strategically pressure the administration to achieve ambitious goals like the full decarbonization of campus operations as quickly as possible.

Undergraduates who want to act on climate can plug into the California Public Interest Research Group’s legislative campaign to decarbonize transportation statewide.

Off campus, San Diego 350 has initiated a nonviolent direct action campaign to “Raise the Alarm” and pressure elected officials to champion the Green New Deal. You can learn more and help plan the actions by attending the kickoff event this Saturday, February 23, in La Jolla.

Every day, more people find their place in the climate movement. Every day, more people find that we can do more than nothing. Every day, more people ask themselves, what can we do next, that we haven’t tried before?

Erica and I finished our coffees and headed over to Scripps. I apologized to my friend as we walked towards the shore.

“I’m sorry, Erica, for the way I was talking to you earlier. You don’t need some guy outside your field ranting at you about how bad things are. I think I just act that way because—”

She finished my sentence for me: “Because you’re hurt.”

I paused and let her words resonate. “I am hurt. And I don’t see that pain acknowledged by a single one of our institutions. It’s 2019 and global greenhouse gas emissions are still rising! It feels like our entire culture is one big act of denial of the things I care about most. It makes me want to scream.”

Erica nodded patiently. “To feel gaslit is a dangerous thing,” she said.

Millennials and Generation Z care too much to stay politically silenced on climate any longer. We are waging the fight of our lives—a fight for the future of life on planet Earth—in our schools and workplaces, in the courts, in the media, in the institutions, in the streets, and in the halls of power. There are tears in our eyes, but we aren’t looking away. We are turning our grief into hope. Our strength, solidarity, and moral authority in this fight are grounded in our shared sense of loss. And that is why I believe that we will win.

Peter Sloan is a PhD student in music and a staff writer for The Triton. This piece is the third part of a series titled Fire Season, which publishes once or twice per quarter. Peter can be contacted at psloan@ucsd.edu.

This piece was first published at The Triton, an independent news source at UC San Diego. Follow The Triton on Twitter and Facebook.  Here’s the original link

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…]

SanDiego350 Attends Earth Fair

By Amy Van Schijndel, SanDiego350

On Sunday, April 23rd, 2017, San Diego’s 28th annual Earth Fair was held in Balboa Park, and it drew more than 60,000 visitors. It is the largest free Earth Day-related event of its kind. The event included environmental issues such as lowering our carbon footprint, climate change, and what to do with our recycled “trash.” Along with Earth-friendly education, the fair provided live entertainment, parades, and plenty of shopping. SanDiego350 hosted three booths that were scattered across the park. Our intent at the fair was to promote not only climate action but the People’s Climate March, which will be held on April 29th.

SD350 Volunteers

Volunteers at one of the three SanDiego350 booths.

One new area to visit this year was Cannabis Village. Hemp can help reduce our carbon footprint. It can be made into many different items including clothes, medicine and building materials. FlippySocks creates a gym sock with a wallet (Sock Wallets™) made out of organic hemp, bamboo and recycled cotton. Elixinol sells Edibites for pets made of hemp oil for health and wellness. Hemptique creates shoes, beanies and a variety of merchandise from hemp made in Romania.

Another section in the park was the Reuse and Repair Area. Malia Designs fights human trafficking by selling purses and wallets made in Cambodia from recycled Cement bags. EarthWell Refill, in North Park, takes clean, empty containers and turns them into refillable bottles of soaps, body care and household cleaners. Habitat for Humanity Restores sells…”new, used, discontinued and surplus building materials and home furnishings…to help build new Habitat homes and divert…materials from landfills.” San Diego Earthworks teaches how and what to recycle which is beneficial since Earth Fair pledged to reuse and recycle all trash thrown away Sunday (termed Zero Waste). [Read more…]

San Diego’s April 29 Climate March: Why It Matters

By Mark Hughes, SanDiego350

(Originally published in the San Diego Free Press on 4/27/2017)

In the recently published book, The Knowledge Illusion, authors Steven Sloman and Philip Fernbach assert something rather disturbing: we rarely think for ourselves. Instead, we patch together our understanding of the world by taking a bit from over here and a bit from over there. If they are correct, it’s pretty easy to see that it’s whose bits we incorporate  that create our worldview (the IPCC or Trump? Hmm.)

Pipelines Leak

Photo courtesy of SanDiego350.

One effect of this absorptive scheme is that we fall into the illusion of thinking we know a lot about the world, when in truth much of what we think we know resides in other people’s heads. A simple example is the zipper. How well do you understand it’s workings? A scoff-able question, no? After all, you likely use them daily. Okay, so try listing all the steps of just exactly how a zipper works. Yeah, me neither. Expertise regarding zipper operation and manufacture exists in someone else’s head; hardly any of us could make one if our child’s life depended on it.

Next point: it’s clear that societal advancements happen at wildly varying rates. The discoveries of penicillin and the polio vaccine resulted in rapid and near universal uptake throughout the population. The abolition of slavery? Taking a bit longer. All three advances improve people’s lives, so why the difference in adoption rates? You may think you know the answer, but before you speak, consider the zipper. [Read more…]

Popular Republican Mayor Praises Community Choice Energy

By Tyson Siegele, SanDiego350

Originally published in the San Diego Free Press

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

Rex Parris and Clean Energy Innovation

Parris

Lancaster Mayor Rex Parris – Source: City of Lancaster

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

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

The Rise of Corporations as Climate Change Allies

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

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

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

Republic of Cloud

Graphic courtesy of the author

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

SECURITY & CLIMATE CHANGE CONFERENCE REVEALS DISTURBING ATTITUDE SHIFT

By Mark Hughes, SanDiego350

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

On February 21, 2017, an audience of approximately 75 attended the Security & Climate Change: Issues and Perspectives conference, held in the Veterans Museum at Balboa Park. Organized and funded by The Center for Climate and Security (with the support of The San Diego Foundation and Skoll Global Threats Fund). The program focused on the threat climate change imposes on world stability, the burden it puts on the US military, and what they, as well as our local and state governments, are doing to plan for the consequences. The conference was followed by a screening of a new documentary entitled “The Age of Consequences.”

Veteran's Museum

Veterans Museum in Balboa Park. Photo courtesy of the author.

The Mayor of San Diego, Kevin Faulconer, started the conference by noting that the city has been diligently working toward sustainability. Evidence of that effort, to name only two, include the city’s enforceable Climate Action Plan (CAP) as well as the largest water recycling effort in the western hemisphere. These projects could not be done without the close cooperation of the military based here (1 in 6 of the Navy’s personnel reside in San Diego, 1 in 4 of the Marines). San Diego, he said, sets the bar, leads the way toward positive, innovative change. [Read more…]

CLIMATE MOBILIZATION RALLY ENERGIZES SAN DIEGANS

By Bill Wellhouse, SanDiego350

The local affiliate of The Climate Mobilization, led by Derek and Nancy Cassady, held a rally Tuesday evening, February 21, 2017 at the Edward J. Schwartz Federal Building on Front Street in downtown San Diego. An energetic crowd gathered at 6:00 PM to protest the Trump administration’s national climate policy and to promote The Climate Mobilization’s solution to the climate crisis.

Rally Stage

Rally stage. Photo by Bill Wellhouse.

The group’s primary mission is to induce the federal government to adopt a World War II-style mobilization to bring the nation to zero greenhouse gas emissions within a decade. This effort, they state, will revitalize American jobs and boost the economy.

Approximately 500 people attended the event. Music provided by the Swamp Critters bookended the event. Speakers at the rally underlined the urgency of combating climate change, and these included three third graders from Mt. Everest Academy. They reminded the audience, to enthusiastic applause, that they were going to be the recipients of the decisions we make today. Other speakers included representatives from labor (International Brotherhood of Electrical Workers), the Native American community, and local community organizations. Wesley Clark Jr., son of General Wesley Clark, the former general and NATO commander, served as the event’s keynote speaker. Mr. Clark emphasized the need for immediate action regarding climate change, saying we are risking nothing less than extinction with the course the world is currently pursuing. [Read more…]

Climate Change – An Islander’s Experience

By Shanty Asher

(Originally published in the San Diego Free Press on 2/23/2017)

I am a proud Pacific Islander. Over the years, I have witnessed and stood alongside many of my fellow islanders and leaders, combating climate change and its impacts on the islands. Though the percentage of people in the US believe that climate change is real and human-caused is rising, it still only amounts to around half. I have no doubt that if Americans had seen what we have seen, had lived what we have lived through, I believe that percentage would be higher. Much higher.

Sandy beach 1991

Kosrae’s Sandy Beach from 1980’s. Photo courtesy of Kosrae Environmental Agency.

Today, I will share that story with you through an islander’s lens and maybe, just maybe, my story will paint a different picture of climate change; one that you may not have heard before; one that you can relate to because it is not a scientific prediction, but based on actual events.

As an islander, I see climate change’s impact and destruction on its face; it is already happening on our islands. I see it; so I believe that the climate has changed and continues to. As a Christian, I believe God is in control and I, so as many of my fellow islanders, must have faith and not question His work. Indeed, these are difficult and sensitive waters to navigate. Therefore, I will not attempt to dispute any of these views. Today, I only wish to raise a civil inquiry because I have witnessed too much and my empathy demands that I be concerned and speak out. [Read more…]

COUNTY SUPERVISORS CONSIDER COMMUNITY CHOICE AGGREGATION STUDY

by Mark Hughes, SanDiego350

(Originally published in the East County Magazine on 2/19/2017)

On Wednesday, 2/15/17, the San Diego County Board of Supervisors entertained public input on their Comprehensive Renewable Energy Plan (CREP). Four SanDiego350 members: David Harris, Ken Brucker, Larry Emerson, and myself provided comment. Our primary message was to urge the supervisors to approve spending $200,000 on a Community Choice Aggregation (CCA, also known as Community Choice Energy) feasibility study. The completion of this kind of study is typically done prior to establishing a CCA program in the county – and SD350 believes that a CCA program would produce lower power costs, higher renewable energy content in the electricity we buy, and provide a stimulus for building more renewable energy production facilities.

County Admin Building

County Administration Building. Photo courtesy of the author.

SanDiego350 is not the only proponent of a county CCA. The consultant that the county hired to provide the CREP determined that a CCA would have a “high return on investment” Table 4-3. To make things even more clear, in Table 6-1, the consultant listed the top priority items in order of importance. The CCA feasibility study was considered the most important of the top priorities. County Staff concurred with the County’s consultant and similarly made the preparation of a CCA feasibility study their top recommendation (page 18/19 staff recommendations). In addition, the cities of San Diego, Solana Beach, and La Mesa, to name only a few, are also looking at setting up CCA programs in our area and we support them all.

[Read more…]