Youth4Climate’s Level Up Summer Camp Brings Climate Justice Programming to Morse and Hoover High

By Chris Kracha

This July and August, SanDiego350 launched an in-person Youth4Climate (Y4C) summer camp at two San Diego High Schools for the first time, as part of the Level Up program – with support from the SD Foundation and the San Diego Unified School District. This program was created to provide summer learning and enrichment opportunities for students who have less access to these types of programs. The camp was held four days per week, for five weeks at Morse and Hoover High Schools.

At the beginning of camp, we were all still emerging from our COVID bubbles. After over a year of isolation and zoom class, it gets hard to break out of one’s shell! 

But by the second week, we were making jokes, playing games, and doing projects together. The field trips were especially helpful with getting everyone used to being around each other again. On our hike in Manzanita Canyon, I got to know each of the campers much better, and showed them some native plant names and traditional uses. Joel was one student who was really interested in plants, and by the end of the hike, we had gathered handfuls of fragrant fennel buds to take home.

Early on, campers started to realize that living “green”, supporting environmental causes, and getting involved in their communities was easier than they had previously thought. When we played a game of “personal action BINGO”, one camper, Jiyaulei, said she had no idea that so many of the actions she and her sister took at home were good for the environment: They were already using public transit, reusing old food containers for storage, air drying clothes, and more! Another student named Michael had a similar realization, and started to question why so much advertising and corporate messaging focuses on changing the individual actions we take, when everyone in the room was already taking many actions themselves.

In the middle of the camp, we focused on building personal resilience and developing support networks for ourselves among our friends, family, peers, role models, and community groups. This was my favorite part of the camp, because I got to share many of the methods I use to keep myself calm and resilient. Some students benefited from this as well. My co-facilitator Alyssa Nguyen – a high school student at Mt. Carmel High School and active in the Youth4Climate Program – was able to use some of the personal resilience methods to help out a student who came to camp visibly distressed. By the end of the day, we were all playing charades together and there were no tears to be seen.

Later on, we began to explore the common roots between economic and racial injustices and environmental injustices. Ronald and Nafeesa were two students already involved in social justice groups who were able to connect their current efforts to environmental change. Many other students became even more interested after learning that environmental injustices disproportionately impact their communities and communities around them. Once we learned about environmental injustices, we focused on how organizing our communities can combat injustices of any kind. 

By the end of the camp, everyone had made new friends. Melaina, Jiyaulei, Jiyaunah, and Nafeesa were all relieved that they had met fellow students at Hoover High, before they entered high school for the first time in-person! Alyssa and I were a camp counselor dream team by the end of the camp, and we had both become much more confident leading and teaching groups around our own ages. On the last Wednesday of camp at Hoover, we spread out in the grass, munched on vegan banh mi from a local Vietnamese cafe, and played a few rounds of Uno.

The last day of camp was also the last field trip. We traveled to Mission Bay where we had a picnic of vegan burritos and played games, like egg and spoon races in the sand. The campers also noticed all the trash littering the beaches around the bay and we took this opportunity to take action together. We used our trash grabber to clean up the litter around the area. It was inspiring to see the campers so concerned for the wellbeing of wildlife and the oceans. They were so eager to spring into action! We discussed the interconnectedness of the San Diego waterways and the importance of keeping the roads, as well as nature spaces, free from trash. Spending time in nature on a beautiful sunny day at the bay was an amazing way to finish off our camp!

Heat mapping for Climate Justice

Five members of the SD350 JEDI team became heat-mapping scientists for a day on Sept. 13. We volunteered to drive around areas of the San Diego at certain times – starting at 6 am! – with GPS-connected heat sensors. 

It was part of a national Urban Heat Island mapping campaign taking place in nine cities this year.  The project is aimed at making sure cities focus heat-relieving resources on the neighborhoods suffering most from climate change. 

As the climate crisis increases dangerous heat waves, low-income areas with little tree canopy and lots of pavement usually are hottest. The data we helped collect are intended to direct City of San Diego funding to plant trees and provide shaded and air-conditioned facilities where people most need to escape the heat.

Union-Tribune story about the local mapping project said the City’s climate resiliency plan is expected this fall.

The JEDI (Justice, Equity, Diversity, and Inclusion) team members Alex Abrams, David Gangsei, Kathryn Link-Oberstar, Maura Deignan, and Susan Duerksen joined volunteers from Outdoor Outreach and High Tech High to collect the heat data. 

“Code Red for Humanity”: a dire warning from the IPCC and our climate action

By Kathryn Link-Oberstar (fundraising team co-leader), Toshi Ishihara (board member), and Masada Disenhouse (executive director). 

This week, the United Nations’ Intergovernmental Panel on Climate Change (IPCC) released its most grim and decisive climate assessment to date.

In its starkest conclusions yet, the IPCC attributes a definitive causal relationship between human-induced climate change, and intensifying weather and climate events. 

For those of us in the trenches, this is not a surprise, but an affirmation of our worst fears – that inaction and false promises by global leaders and politicians have pushed our climate to its limit. That some changes, like sea-level rise and ocean acidification, are irreversible, and others will take centuries or millennia to reverse. We are on track to exceed 2°C of warming in this century, and unless we take immediate and decisive action now, the goals of the 2015 Paris Climate Accords will be out of reach. 

UN Secretary-General António Guterres characterized the IPCC report as “nothing less than a Code Red for Humanity.” He said “The alarm bells are deafening, and the evidence is irrefutable: greenhouse gas emissions from fossil fuel burning and deforestation are choking our planet and putting billions of people at immediate risk.”

While the report does not discuss the role of the fossil fuel industry in the crisis, the UN Secretary-General didn’t mince words, saying “This report must sound a death knell for coal and fossil fuels, before they destroy our planet.” Despite this, fossil fuel companies – and utilities like SDG&E / Sempra in San Diego – are doubling down on fossil fuel extraction at the exact time we should be ending. 

It is clear that there is no future scenario in which we turn back the clock. However, the report indicates the climate can be stabilized by “strong, rapid, and sustained reductions in greenhouse gas emissions, and reaching net zero CO2 emissions.” We know that only powerful citizen action around the world can stop the fossil fuel industry and stem the tide of devastating climate impacts. 

Now, more than ever, we must push harder and mobilize more people to enact bold climate policy in our region, the country and the world. 

Preventing the worst impacts of climate change relies on mobilizing our communities to stand up and take action. SanDiego350 has been doing this for nearly a decade. We have over 15 volunteer lead teams and hundreds of volunteers. And, as Masada shared on CBS8 earlier this week, in our ten years fighting for climate justice in San Diego, we’ve seen that bold action by individuals, here and around the world, is the driving force for change. 

However, we need to step up our efforts. We must aggressively demand climate action and to hold elected officials and business leaders accountable for taking those actions necessary to securing a livable planet for us, our children and grandchildren. And, we must raise public awareness of the urgency of the climate crisis, climate justice, and what they can do to demand action and prepare for the worst impacts.

We feel that climate change is disrupting the world in our bones. To save civilization we need to fight like hell right now. Together we can create change and stand up for what’s right. We’re grateful to be standing with all of you. 

What is building electrification?


By Jeanne Brown

Building Electrification is the term used when converting all your energy uses to electricity rather than natural gas. “Natural” gas is almost 95 % methane. Methane has a Global Warming Potential (GWP) of 28-36 times that of CO2. San Diego’s Climate Action Plan’s goals will not be achieved without cutting this fuel from our energy budget.So let’s look at how we can achieve this. The most logical change is to make sure that new construction doesn’t include the installation of gas infrastructure.  That will save money in construction, will make those communities safer from explosions and they will never have the inevitable expense of conversion to all-electric. For the rest of us, what could we be doing?

Induction Cooking: This is not your mother’s electric stove! A number of groups, including the Sierra Club and the San Diego Green Building Council, have a free 3-week Induction cooktop trial. Try www.ehomecooktops.com. The scare tactics are that you have to go out and buy a whole new expensive set of cookware. My cast-iron pans worked as well as my wok and one of my fry pans.  It was as sensitive as gas, if not more so. Gas stoves combust and release pollutants to our homes. Children who live in homes with gas stoves have a 42% increase in asthmatic symptoms and a 24% increase in being diagnosed with asthma.

Heat pump heating and air-conditioning: Electric heat pumps move warm air from outside to the inside for heating, and from inside to the outside for air conditioning. They are many times more efficient than natural gas. In San Diego with our relatively mild climate, heat pumps work very well. 

Heat pump water heaters: These water heaters are extremely efficient for electrification as well.There is a $500 instant rebate from SDG&E for changing to a heat-pump water heater and a $300 tax credit from the IRS.

Electric Clothes drying: Electric clothes dryers are one solution. A clothesline is another. The electric dryers vary in efficiency and whether they require 120V or 240V.

Are you a renter and don’t have control over any of this?  What can you do? (1) Be sure to support Community Choice Energy that will allow us to have the choice of clean renewable electricity. (2) Continue your membership with SD 350. San Diego 350 is a founding member of the San Diego Building Electrification Coalition. (3) Volunteer to help us change the codes in cities around our county.There is also more legislation coming from Sacramento. SB 1477 provides $50 million in annual incentives through 2023 to jumpstart the market for clean, low- emission heating technologies.  California’s updated building code requires all new single-family and low-rise apartment homes in the state to have access to renewable electricity. This is the perfect time for us to begin to electrify our homes and businesses.

Want to get involved with electrifying the county? Volunteer at info@sdbec.orgwww.sdbec.org
@SDBECoalition on Twitter, Facebook, Instagram

Celebrating Pride 2021

By Mel Viloria

San Diego Pride, best known for the San Diego Pride Parade and Festival—the largest civic-event in San Diego—also operates as a year-round education and advocacy organization, providing over 30 programs such as Youth Leadership Academy, She Fest, Transgender Day of Empowerment, QAPIMEDA & Latinx Coalitions, Art of Pride, DevOUT and more (if you are in any part of the LGBTQ+ community, there is a space for you in our organization). In addition to our annual festivities, San Diego Pride has donated over 3 million dollars to LGBTQ-serving nonprofits through our Pride Community Grants, making us one of the most philanthropic Pride organizations in the world.

While COVID-19 has prevented us from putting on our normal celebration, we hosted over 38 community events in the month of July 2021, ensuring that our community can celebrate together, but in smaller, limited capacity satellite events. You can view the full list here. On Sunday, July 11, we hosted our Resilient Community march, highlighting that our community has made it out of multiple pandemics, such as the HIV/AIDS pandemic and COVID, while acknowledging that Black trans women are still being murdered at a disproportionately higher rate, and thus, our work for equality is far from over. The Black LGBTQ Coalition, Latinx Coalition, and QAPIMEDA coalitions led the Resilient March last weekend to the tune of 16,000~ attendees that marched from Balboa Park to the Hillcrest Pride flag.

July Member of the Month

Steven Gelb works on the SD350 Transportation Team. We interviewed him to learn more about his valuable contributions to our mission.

How did you first get involved with SD350, and when was that?
Until recently I was involved with the Alternatives to Violence Project co-facilitating workshops with inmates in California state prisons and volunteering at the immigrant/refugee shelter run by Jewish Family Service. When the pandemic arrived those programs closed down.  Last summer, I participated in a SD350 webinar on transportation and afterward received an invitation to join the transportation committee. Bee reached out to me and spoke of the need to have a transportation team member be a liaison to BikeSD. As a passionate advocate of bicycling for transportation and member of BikeSD (and many other bicycle organizations) I was happy to be that person.

What drives your activism?
I have a personal need to be of service to the larger collective we all belong to. It’s a special joy for me to work together with others in a spirit of generosity and community.  The enormity of the climate emergency motivates me to work for the sake of my grandchildren and all life on this planet.

What do you recommend to people who want to have a larger impact through the environmental movement? What do you prioritize in your own activism? 
I honestly don’t feel like I’ve been in the movement long enough to advise others. But I do know that growing a movement is crucial and I admire the democratic, inclusive, and supportive culture of SD350.  I’ve learned from SD350 members with more experience and knowledge, not only about technical issues related to climate change, but also about the political context and how to negotiate it to good effect. It’s not enough to be right on the issues. We have to draw in more people to work with us and build relationships with people who are indifferent or working for the status quo..

Is there anything else you would like people to know about you?
As a teenager I went to the August 28, 1963, March on Washington at which Dr. Martin Luther King gave his “I Have a Dream” speech. That experience has had a lasting influence..

An Interview with Community Organizer Joshua Piedra



Joshua Piedra works at the intersection of labor and environment—a critical area when building coalitions to enact change. We interviewed him to gain more insights into the work he does to further the movement.

What first got you interested in environmental causes? And how do you think that your current work reflects that inspiration?
I developed an interest in environmental issues as I grew up living in communities of color in South Park and City Heights. My family and our neighborhoods have historically been underinvested in and lacked support due to systemic racism. These experiences have made me an advocate centered on equity. A part of my advocacy puzzle is uplifting environmental causes. Effectively addressing the impacts of pollution on our communities, unsustainable infrastructure, and inaccessible community-resources requires that we look at policy through an environmental justice lens. I am currently working as a political organizer at a local labor union and I think that advocating for workers does not stop at uplifting wages and workers’ rights, it also includes ensuring that workers as community members have all the resources they need to thrive in their communities. I believe that our community will not be able to thrive without addressing climate change.

You probably spend a lot of time thinking about the relationship between labor and environmental issues. What do you think is most promising about the current collaboration between those causes, and what do you think could still use some work?
As a region, there has been a progressive shift, a direct result of the hard work of coalitions of community organizations and labor unions. I think this will continue to grow stronger and result in more progressive policies. That being said, there is still a lot of change left to work on. For instance, our society reinforces the belief that there is a distinction between work life and private life. This is not true. For example, policies that uplift worker protections and rights but that don’t address climate change, negatively impact families and our community. At the same time, when policies address climate change but do not uplift worker protections and rights, they also negatively impact families and communities. Fundamentally, community members are also workers with their own lives but these two aspects are heavily intertwined and not separate entities. Our communities will not thrive without equitable policies that holistically uplift the needs of workers and address environmental issues.  

What role do you think questions of climate justice, especially understood intersectionally, have to play in organizing?
Climate justice is the understanding that our current relationship with the environment is negatively impacting the wellbeing of the planet and in turn is harmful to our society. For example, relying on nonrenewable energy sources has led to an increase in pollution and severe weather conditions. These conditions increase health disparities and decrease access to healthy nutrition in our communities, create unmanageable workloads and dangerous working conditions for workers, and puts all of our well-being at risk as a result of stronger storms and frequent wildfires. Whether we like it or not, climate has a direct impact on our communities and we have a direct impact on our climate. If we do not create policies that center equity and holistically address the needs of workers and climate justice, then we only create situations where communities face more barriers to thriving.

Lastly, what advice would you give activists and organizers who are interested in bridging the divides between labor movements and environmental movements? 
We live in a racist and classist system that intentionally makes it difficult for our communities to survive. While climate change will undoubtedly have irreparable harm on our future and communities, a lot of people are currently overworked, underpaid, and too worried about meeting their immediate needs to think about the future or lasting impacts. Everyday people are worried about having enough money for rent, food, healthcare, meeting their children’s needs, and so on. Climate justice is a key piece of the puzzle in order to meet the needs of our communities. If we want to bridge the divide between the labor movement and environmental movement, we have to center people and uplift their stories so that we can create holistic policies that are equitable and address the dangers of climate change. 

Celebrating Juneteenth

By Lorenzo Nericcio

Juneteenth is the oldest celebration of the ending of slavery in the United States. It commemorates the day, June 19th, 1865, that Union soldiers arrived in Galveston Texas to inform the city that the war had ended, and that slaves could no longer legally be held by their enslavers. Though President Lincoln signed the Emancipation Proclamation two years before, the Union could not enforce it in the South until the war was won. 

In the century and a half that followed, the celebration has grown from a local tradition to a national holiday, one that is celebrated annually with feasts, parades, festivals, and prayer.

While the celebration remains an important reminder that a large portion of Americans remained unfree until very recently (and, to be sure, many still remain unfree to this day), and a joyous celebration of the end of legal enslavement, the holiday has seen renewed vitality in recent years. 

The uprising of the Black Lives Matter movement especially brought attention to Juneteenth’s importance. The murders of Breonna Taylor, George Floyd, and countless others have underscored the fact that the fight for justice for the Black community is ongoing, and systemic racism continues to be an active and destructive force in the lives of millions of Americans. Juneteenth, while always a day of celebration, also serves as a call to continue the emancipatory efforts that began centuries ago.

SD350 would like to wish all celebrating members of the Black community a happy Juneteenth, and invite our non-Black members to consider the ways in which they can be better allies in the continuing fight for justice. Our commitment to a just and equitable solution to climate change is inseparable from our commitment to racial justice. To support the empowerment of Black communities, consider donating to the San Diego ACLU chapter, or one of the charities in this list.

Member of the Month: Susan Duerksen

This month, we are featuring Susan Duerksen of the Justice, Equity, Diversity & Inclusion (JEDI) Team, to find out what she prioritizes in her environmental advocacy. 

How did you first get involved with SD350, and when was that?

I don’t remember when I first became a SD350 member, but I got actively involved as a volunteer after I retired from the Center on Policy Initiatives in early 2019.

What drives your activism?

As a secular humanist, I believe we humans are responsible for taking care of each other and the planet. I believe in science, so I’m terrified of the destruction ahead if we don’t change how we treat the earth. I’m also outraged at the destruction already happening to the people around the world who are least to blame for the problem and have the least resources. We have to stop letting corporate capitalism call the shots, always putting profit ahead of human life.

What do you recommend to people who want to have a larger impact through the environmental movement? What do you prioritize in your own activism?

I recommend everybody read as much as you can on the intersection of racial/economic justice with climate – and the importance of unifying efforts. And join the SD350 JEDI (Justice, Equity, Diversity, & Inclusion) team!  The climate crisis is overwhelming, obviously, so just pick one part of it to work on and dive in!  Maybe try something that stretches you beyond your usual realm, for the excitement of learning. I started out helping with SD350 communications, because that’s what I know from my career, but switched to focusing on the JEDI work.  I also have deep respect for everyone working on public policy, which is essential for major change.

Is there anything else you would like people to know about you?

I love fuyu persimmons and have a ton of kumquats and lemons to trade. 

I’m a brutal editor, so please accept my apologies if I ever work with you on writing something, or have in the past. I mean well.

Update: Last Call for the Franchise Agreements

By Heather Hofshi, leader of SanDiego350’s Franchise Committee

By now many of you have heard that Mayor Gloria’s flawed franchise agreements with SDG&E have passed the first round of voting at the City Council. The second and final vote is slated for Tuesday, June 8th, and we urge everyone to turn out and let the mayor and council know that San Diego deserves better. 

So how did we get here? And where are we going next? 

The last energy franchise agreements, which give a utility company the right to use city streets and other property for their infrastructure, and give it a monopoly on providing gas and electricity, were signed in 1970 and expired in 2020. Mayor Faulconer had issued an ITB, an invitation for any qualified energy company to bid, for the new franchise agreements. When the bidding process ran up against the elections last year, then-Council President Gomez put off opening the bids until the new council could be sworn in.

The only bid was from San Diego Gas & Electric, subsidiary of fossil fuel giant Sempra Energy. As our franchisee for the last century, SDG&E has consistently fought any attempts to transition to renewable energy and deal with climate change, charged the highest rates in the state, and repeatedly broken faith with the city in pursuit of their profits. 

The bid was immediately deemed non-responsive by the new mayor, due to the massive changes the corporation demanded. Mayor Gloria instead initiated his own process, which included an early public feedback effort. Many members of SanDiego350, our allies, and the community showed up and consistently demanded:

  • A short term, preferably five years
  • Lower rates for ratepayers and families, especially in communities of concern
  • A strong Right to Purchase clause or “off-ramp”
  • Stronger accountability measures, including penalties
  • Strong commitments to partnering with the City to achieve 100% renewable energy
  • A Climate Equity Fund to invest in communities of concern
  • A serious commitment from the City to explore public power

The terms of Gloria’s new ITB, unfortunately, did not reflect the views of the community. And SDG&E submitted, not a contract with clear terms, but a memo pledging to work with the mayor’s office to negotiate one. Off into the backroom they went. They emerged with a deal broadly similar to Faulconer’s, despite Gloria’s insistence that it was vastly superior.

Of course, as in any business deal, the devil’s in the details, and these devils were particularly wicked:

  • A twenty year deal: ten years with an automatic ten-year extension, complete with a requirement that the City repay millions of dollars if it voted against the extension
  • A supermajority required to vote down the extension
  • No commitment to abide by the city’s Climate Action Plan
  • A payment structure that allows SDG&E to stretch the payments for their ten-year bid over twenty years– and if we leave, they never have to pay the full amount
  • No resolution to the ongoing litigation between the City and SDG&E
  • No payments into the City’s Climate Equity Fund until 2037
  • Climate Equity Fund payments of a mere $20 million over four years, a pittance compared to what SDG&E makes off of city residents

It came to the City Council for the first vote on May 25th. Unfortunately, despite nearly every councilmember and the mayor admitting in their comments that the deal was not a good one for San Diego, it did pass the first vote. Councilmember Elo-Rivera (D9), who had previously cast himself as a champion for both disadvantaged communities and the environment, broke with the other progressive councilmembers to vote in favor of the deal. However, we were excited and grateful to see Councilmembers LaCava, Montgomery Steppe, and Moreno stand up for their constituents and vote no.

Thanks to sustained efforts by our amazing volunteers and everyone who wrote or called in to the council meeting, we were able to move a few Councilmembers to demand some amendments:

  • Climate Equity Fund payments moved up to the first years of the agreements
  • A public power feasibility study in 2022
  • A fund to hold the necessary penalty fees aside in case the City opts to leave
  • A solar access fund, overseen by the City’s Environment Committee, revised to ‘at least’ (instead of ‘up to’) $10M

None of these provisions will happen by themselves. It will be up to us to help keep SDG&E and the City Council accountable for the promises they’ve made. Contact me (Heather) to get involved.

So what’s next? The final vote for this bad deal is slated for June 8th, 2021. Right now is our chance to stand up and let the council, the mayor, and this dirty fossil fuel corporation know exactly where we stand! 

  • If you live in Districts 1, 4, or 8, contact your councilmember and thank them for doing the right thing for San Diegans, and urge them to stand strong
  • If you live in Districts 5, 7, or 9, call and remind your councilmember of the promises they made when we voted for them– all ran on environmental and justice values that they are not living out
  • If you live anywhere in San Diego, make your voice heard! Write or call in to the council meeting, write a letter to the editor of your favorite newspaper, and spread the word on social media. 
  • Find your council district and how to contact your councilmember here.

Find our toolkit with call-in instructions and talking points here!

Thanks to everyone in our amazing community who have carried us this far. Let’s keep going and get San Diego the green future it deserves.