What Just Happened?

Or, some reflections on what the local election results mean for the climate movement 

By Masada Disenhouse, SD350 Executive Director

So… now that we’ll have a new president who lists climate change as a top priority (though we may yet need to fight for our votes to count), let’s focus on what happened in local elections, and what the results mean for us as climate activists. 

Overall, significantly more progressive and pro-climate-action electeds will be taking their seats at the city and county level in the next month, giving us many opportunities to get some of the policies we need enacted. Definitely something to celebrate! Here’s why it matters and what changes and opportunities we expect to see: 

The San Diego County Board of Supervisors flipped Democratic 

  • Who won: 
  • Why it’s important: The County Supervisors oversee the needs of 3.3 Million county residents (and directly govern nearly 500,000 people who live in the unincorporated county—including yours truly). They control a budget of $6.5 Billion. They also manage courts, jails, public health and public lands, and have a strong say in regional transportation and housing.
  • What could change: 
    • Environmentalists can finally stop suing (third time’s the charm?)—and the County can stop spending money defending its terrible climate action plans (over $1M in taxpayer dollars to date). We can all get down (finally!) to developing an effective, accountable Climate Action Plan that gets us to 100% renewable energy. 
    • Environmental justice and air pollution control initiatives via the new Air Pollution Control District can help the health department take a more active role on climate. 
    • End new sprawl developments and prioritize infill and affordable housing. 
    • Switch from opposing to supporting transit and prioritizing communities of concern at SANDAG and MTS.
  • Of interest: 
    • In 2010 San Diegans voted to enact term limits for the County Supervisors. Those term limits put us on a path to the changes we’ve seen, with progressive candidates replacing conservatives who held their seats for (literally) decades. 
    • We have room to grow: LA County just elected its first all female Board of Supervisors

The San Diego City Council went from 6 Democrats to 8 Democrats

  • Who won: 
    • Todd Gloria will be the next Mayor of San Diego. San Diego’s groundbreaking Climate Action Plan was developed under Todd’s iMayor leadership (and Todd spoke at our People’s Climate March in 2014). 
    • Council: In District 1, Joe LaCava won. Joe is a cofounder of our partner Democrats for Environmental Action. In District 3, Stephen Whitburn won. In District 5, Marni von Wilpert won. In District 7, Raul Campillo won. In District 9, Sean Elo-Rivera won. Sean is ED of our partner Youth Will. 
  • What could change:
    • All five incoming councilmembers are democrats (three of the races were between two Democrats) and almost all of them consider climate change a top priority. Combined with a Democratic Mayor, we’ll have a lot better chance of getting stronger climate policies.
    • This all means that the City’s representatives on key regional boards like SANDAG and MTS are more likely to share our priorities. With the County Supervisors and new representatives from other cities that shifted progressive, this adds up to a massive power shift on the SANDAG Board. We should see big changes on transportation, as the next Regional Transportation Plan is underway. This is something we’ve been fighting for since our organization started in 2011. 
    • It won’t all be smooth sailing though. There are many other critical issues, a funding crisis (because of COVID), and some of the CMs were elected with help from labor or other interests which don’t always support the climate policies we do. Mayor Gloria just chose someone from the Chamber of Commerce to be his Chief of Staff. We’ll keep working to push for equity and workers as well as reducing GHGs, and building a coalition.
  • Of interest: 
    • SD350 met with the five new councilmembers as part of nonpartisan visits with all the candidates over the summer, and will be scheduling follow-up meetings to build relationships with the CMs and their staff shortly. 
    • We’ll get a feel for how progressive the new CMs are by seeing who they choose as Council President – their very first vote when they get sworn in on December 10th. SD350 is supporting Monica Montgomery Steppe to be the next Council President (add your name!), and urging the CMs to vote for her. Which CM chairs the environment committee will also be important to us. 

Other Races and Propositions

  • Who won
    • Congress: Sara Jacobs won in the 53rd district. She and most of the other candidates supported a Green New Deal and climate action at the candidates forum we hosted with partners back in February. The work we did on the Green New Deal, including sit-ins at the prior congressmember Davis’, led to this result. Darrell Issa won in the 50th district. He received a climate change denier award in 2013, and ran in the 50th district after losing the seat he held for decades in the 49th district to Mike Levin in 2018.
    • It’s looking like SD350 member and ally Jack Shu won a council seat in La Mesa and ally Marcus Bush won a council seat in National City (these haven’t been called yet). 
  • Of interest: 
    • Pia did a full write up on how our proposition recommendations fared (hint: it’s not pretty). Californians were not nearly as progressive in voting on the props as they were in voting for candidates. Why? Complex, nuanced, disputed props. Huge amounts spent to misinform (Prop 22 was the most expensive ever, >$220 million)—and wealth inequality leading to anti-tax sentiments at all costs. 
    • The 2010 initiative that changed California to a “top two primary system” has significantly increased single party general elections (mostly Dem-on-Dem west of the 125). 
    • You’re not alone. It is seriously time to retire the electoral college

Bottom line: We’ll have more opportunities to advance climate solutions in San Diego County in 2021 and we’ll need your help more than ever. So roll up your sleeves. Let’s get to work!

Update: SDG&E plays hardball on Franchise agreements

Amanda Ruetten, Policy Organizer & Masada Disenhouse, Executive Director

This week has been a whirlwind. On Monday we got the news that San Diego City Council President Georgette Gómez sent a memo to Mayor Faulconer stating that she will not docket the Mayor’s bad Franchise Agreements deal and was instead requesting a one-year extension. That would mean the franchise agreements would be in the hands of our next City Council and Mayor (something the Union Tribune applauded). 

But then last night we learned that SDG&E is playing hardball with our energy future, and refusing to negotiate a one year extension

As you know, we’ve been working to ensure the City gets a good franchise deal that allows us to meet our climate, equity and just transition goals. To that end, we’ve met with San Diego Councilmembers, given public comment at Council meetings, and submitted over 1,200 petition signatures. 

We are committed to stopping this bad franchise deal and secure our clean energy future. We will continue to reach out for your support, and with your help we will prevail. 

For more information about the franchise agreements see our Explainer.

Replace your Gas Appliances by 2035

By Angela Deegan

Fast forward to the year 2035 in San Diego. We’ve achieved our goal of a 100% clean power supply. All our electricity needs are supplied by carbon-free power. We’re proclaiming we’re a carbon-free city. But half the energy in our homes is still from burning natural gas?  

Half of California residential energy use is “natural gas” – a fossil fuel. If in 2035 we’re still using gas for space and water heating in our homes, we will have failed. We will have missed a huge opportunity to tackle greenhouse gas (GHG) emissions and worsening climate extremes – which we could easily have done by switching our gas appliances to electric. 

We must make the switch from fossil-fuels to electricity. It’s how we leverage the clean electricity goals that groups like SanDiego350 and many others have worked so hard to put in place. This concept of using 100% clean power for everything is referred to simply as “electrify everything”. It is key to slashing our greenhouse gas emissions and fighting against worsening climate extremes. “Everything” means everything that currently uses fossil fuels – like cars, buses, small engine lawnmowers, emergency generators, you name it! Inside the home, it means gas appliances. 

We’re in a climate emergency. Here in California, it’s all around us – more destructive wildfires, longer fire seasons, hotter heat waves, coastal flooding. Continuing to add greenhouse gases to the atmosphere will only make it even worse.  

Clean electricity is generated from renewable sources such as wind, solar and geothermal – not fossil fuels, like coal and gas. San Diego and many other California municipalities have committed to 100% clean electricity by 2035. 

We’re well on our way towards the 100% clean electricity goal. In 2019, California’s electricity supply was 63% carbon-free. Each year as we approach the 2035 deadline, our power supply must get cleaner. If we can reach 100% clean electricity much sooner than 2035, all the better. 

Let’s learn about how, by making smart decisions and planning ahead, you get the most out of this clean electricity in your homes.

The Opportunity

The easiest way to cut GHGs emissions from the home is to replace gas-burning appliances with electric ones.

In new homes, gas-burning appliances are the default. This commits the new homeowner to decades of natural gas use. It needs to change and is changing.  In fact, many cities in California and around the U.S. are introducing bans on gas connections in new homes

In existing homes, the challenge is to change to electric appliances powered by clean grids. This is where individual homeowners can make a real difference.

Gas appliances and pollution

Don’t be under any illusions about “natural gas”. No matter what fancy, expensive gas advertisements tell you, it is not “clean natural gas.” It is dirty. In California, most of it comes from fracking, which causes environmental destruction, polluting both water and air. Natural gas leaks frequently from storage facilities and from pipelines. It leaks as the highly potent, planet-warming GHG, methane.  When it’s burned, it emits carbon dioxide, a GHG that remains in our atmosphere for hundreds of years. 

There’s yet another reason to free your home of gas usage. Besides greenhouse gasses, natural gas combustion also causes other types of pollution in and around your home. The pollutants include carbon monoxide (CO), nitrogen oxides (NOx), volatile organic compounds (VOCs), particulate matter, and formaldehyde. These are linked to various acute and chronic health effects, including respiratory illness, cardiovascular disease, and premature death. 

Gas appliances vent the pollutants to the outside of the home, with one exception – gas stoves/ovens. These release combustion pollutants directly inside the living areas of the home This is a major reason why the air inside the average home is dirtier than the outside air.

From Effects of Residential Gas Appliances on Indoor and Outdoor Air Quality and Public Health in California, UCLA Fielding School of Public Health, April 2020

Appliance Replacement

So how do we go about replacing our gas appliances with efficient electric ones? There are two approaches:

  1. All at once – perhaps as part of a home remodel
  2. As gas appliances need replacing

Most of us will make the switch when our gas appliances need replacing . But it means we have to “go against the grain.” When replacing old appliances homeowners usually replace “like for like.” When shopping for a replacement HVAC system, sales technicians often won’t even offer an electric option unless you specifically request it.  They’ll *more* likely suggest a more efficient gas appliance than the one you’re replacing.

But the goal is not to use gas more efficiently, it’s to eliminate gas. You don’t do that by installing a new high efficiency gas furnace or water heater. You do it by switching to an electric appliance. 

By installing any new gas appliance, you lock into decades more of carbon emissions, so insist on electric!

Best electric options

Each gas appliance we replace with an electric one means that much more clean electric power needs to be produced. And that’s a good thing. But it will be difficult. To reduce the power needed, minimize the resources required to generate it (e.g. heavy metals for solar PV panels) and make it easier to meet our GHG reduction goals, we must ensure that our homes are well-insulated and the electric appliances we install are efficient.

Heating/drying – Heat Pumps

For those homes with gas furnaces and water heaters, these two appliances account for over 85% of the home’s gas use. The modern electric replacements for these use heat-pump technology. 

Heat-pumps work by transferring heat rather than burning fossil fuels to create heat. This makes them more efficient. In fact, a heat pump generates two to four times as much heat from the same amount of electricity as the older-style electric resistance heaters. 

A heat-pump water heater in the author’s garage

A heat-pump HVAC system is an all-in-one system that works as an air conditioner in the summer, and works in reverse to heat the home in the winter. To heat the home, it transfers heat from outside to inside while to cool, it transfers heat from inside your home to outside. 

Heat-pump water heaters and dryers work on the same principle. 

Heat-pumps for space heating and cooling come in two basic forms. Split systems are similar to the standard ducted systems, where the air is delivered through ducts into the different rooms. Then there are ‘minisplits’ which are also becoming popular. These still have the outside unit, but allow homeowners to use several cartridges inside the house. They don’t use ducts. Instead, the cartridges are placed right in the room, so they blow hot or cool air depending on the need, to condition the room. Some people like these because it allows them to heat or cool one room or area at a time.

SanDiego350 volunteer, Wendy Mihalic remotely controls a mini-split HVAC system cartridge in her home. Photo by George Jiracek

To appreciate the value of heat pumps, consider the energy savings. The standard electric storage water heater is estimated to use 3,500 kWh per year. By contrast, a similar heat-pump water heater is estimated to use much less power – 1,000 kWh per year.

Since heat-pumps use outside air to heat, whether we’re talking about heat-pump water heaters, or space heaters, they work most efficiently in warmer climates so they are perfect for California.

Heat-pump dryers come with some added bonuses over gas dryers:

  • They don’t require ventilation so are easier to install
  • They dry laundry at low temperatures, so they are gentler on clothes

Cooking – Electric ovens with Induction Stove tops

Even stove technology has changed. Unlike the standard electric burner, gas burners are more responsive to temperature control. But now we have an electric option that surpasses that – induction stove tops.

With induction, the pan is heated directly – rather than the burner first and then the pan. This greatly reduces the risk of burns. It also makes for a faster, more efficient way of cooking than even with gas. And it means your kitchen stays cooler while cooking. Induction compared to gas: more control, better response time, and a healthier, cleaner kitchen

Be aware that, since induction is based on electromagnetism, your pots and pans must be magnetic. If a magnet sticks to it, it’s induction-ready. Bear this in mind next time you’re buying pots and pans.

SD350 volunteer, David Harris, cooking up something delicious on his portable induction stove. Photo by Elaine Dorsey

Weatherize your home

It’s important to review your home’s energy efficiency before purchasing new home heating/cooling systems. If your home is well-sealed and insulated, it will take little energy to heat and cool it.

Is your home leaky? Does it have adequate insulation? Do your HVAC ducts leak, and are they properly insulated? Addressing such issues reduces the amount of heat needed to heat the house. A well air sealed home also leads to better inside air quality.

To cut water heating costs, hot water pipes should be insulated. Insulated pipes result in less loss of heat as water passes through them. This allows the water heater to be set at a lower temperature, saving energy.

Take advantage of ‘Time of Use’ Pricing

California utilities generally charge customers using ‘Time of Use’ (TOU) pricing. Under these pricing plans, electricity is cheaper outside of the late afternoon and evening period – generally the hours of 4pm to 9pm. 

Most modern heat pump systems can be programmed, enabling you to leverage TOU pricing for cost savings. Just program the devices to do the bulk of their work (heating or cooling) during the hours preceding high price periods, then program to turn down during peak pricing hours.

Heat-pump water heaters can also be programmed to take advantage of TOU pricing – i.e. to heat water when electricity is abundant and cheap. This is like having a battery for your water heating – in that you can store the energy. It also constitutes a big advantage over ‘on-demand’ water heaters. Because those systems don’t have a storage tank, when you need to use hot water is when you must heat the water.

 Screenshot of App showing water heating schedule for  the pictured water heater

Wiring considerations – plan now

The electric versions of the four common household gas appliances – HVAC, water heater, stove, dryer – typically require 240 volt power sources. If you make the switch, you’ll be using less energy overall, but more electricity. So ensure your circuit-breaker box has adequate capacity and that you have 240 volt outlets where you’ll need them. Ideally upgrade the circuit-breaker box all at once – to save money. And if your pocket-book allows, this would be the perfect time for you to install solar PV panels too! 

Don’t be caught unprepared when you need to replace your gas appliance. If the wiring is in place, it may take a couple of hours to replace a gas furnace with an electric furnace. If it isn’t, too often, it can take several days to get someone to install the wiring. Many families won’t go without hot water for a few days, so they end up replacing gas with gas – committing to another decade plus of gas use.

Ending the Natural Gas Age

It has been said “The Stone Age didn’t end for lack of stone, and the oil age will end long before the world runs out of oil.”

So too must the age of natural gas come to an end. Our ever-cleaner power supply provides us with the means to this end. We must take full advantage of it to squeeze out as much GHG usage as we possibly can. Only when we switch to it for our appliances and our transportation will we make the deep GHG cuts that are necessary. 

There are many difficult tasks ahead in eliminating GHG’s. Replacing our gas appliances isn’t one of them. That’s the easy part. The “no brainer”, “low hanging fruit” part. We’ll still be using the same basic equipment. Your hot water will still reach the shower at the same temperature, your HVAC will still send heat through those same ducts to heat your home in winter. The difference is you’ll now be using modern technology to produce clean heat, rather than burning fossil fuels, and helping our planet in the process.

SanDiego350’s Youth4Climate Summer Camp

By: Hannah Riggins, SD350 Youth Volunteer

SanDiego350 recently launched the Youth4Climate (Y4C) Summer Camp to introduce climate activism techniques while allowing campers to discover their people, power, and passion. Designed for high school and college-level students, Y4C was first conceived in May, during the initial COVID lockdown, and is currently halfway through its second session of the 2020 Summer. The planning team consists of a diverse group of adult and youth volunteers, with each separate committee spearheaded by at least one youth activist responsible for administering weekly meetings and delegating tasks to other committee members.

Y4C Structure:

The curriculum development team, led by Kate Vedder, develops the goals and weekly content, as well as the assigned projects, discussion questions, challenges, and journal prompts. Managed by Izzy Lee, the production team produces educational webinars and complementary promotional videos. Meanwhile, Adelka Hancova’s promotional team generates social media content and supplementary materials. Meisha Meyers and Alexa Castruita, youth volunteers, and Jennifer Phelps, an adult volunteer, organize the Sunday meetings as the leaders of the overall coordination and volunteer coordination team.

Y4C Camper Experience:

By the official start date for Session 1 (June 29, 2020), 39 individuals had registered. Each camper began the 4-week session with a welcome packet. The packets were designed with each detail thoughtfully considered, down to the 100% recyclable packaging. In each packet, campers discovered SD350’s custom DIY Handbook – “Fight like a climate activist”, as well as “sneak-peeks” of the week ahead, from positive energy tea to herbaceous plant clippings. Certain items in the welcome packet symbolized an aspect of how we as humans are connected to the Earth. Guided emotional resilience exercises, inspired by Joana Macy’s teachings, empowered campers to use their connections to each other and to the Earth to channel passion toward climate activism. The exercise included deep breathing and a focus on self-compassion.

Y4C Impact:

Youth are often susceptible to burnout, facing many stress-inducing pressures of contemporary life alongside the ordinary difficulties of coming of age. The primary goal of Y4C is to help youth climate activists find their place within the movement. For that reason, the content design team placed extra emphasis on emotional resilience. Another key goal of Y4C is to cultivate an environment in which campers can build a network of relationships. Y4C wants young climate activists to know that they are not alone—that their voice is heard—and intentionally connects them with peer activists.

Kate Vedder, a rising senior at Point Loma High School, stated that, “It is so amazing to be surrounded by passionate activists and to be in this community the camp has created. This camp is extremely empowering and has shown me how to be the best climate activist I can be!”

Alexa Castruita, a rising junior at Hilltop High School in Chula Vista, wrote that, “joining the planning group and actually being a part of the camp has opened up my eyes to so many perspectives on the world and has helped me develop more empathy for people. The camp is an amazing way to learn and advance in your education of important issues.”

Session 2 kicked off in early August and includes roughly 50 campers from 6 states. We will do what we can to continue the momentum in these unprecedented times, knowing that we are all in this together.

Explore Y4C: Website; Instagram; Youtube.

Plastics Bills SB 54 / AB 1080, Explained

By: Jill O’Keeffe, SD350 Legislative Intern

What is the plastic problem?

Single-use plastics dominate our everyday lives: from your morning coffee cup to grocery store bags. After one use, most of these products and packaging will go directly to landfills. Here, they will sit for the next thousand years.

About eight million metric tons of plastic flow into the oceans around us choking sea turtles and entangling fish each year1. In our oceans, plastic poses a major threat to ecosystems and to humans2.

The threat of plastics on our climate begins with their initial production. Plastics are made from petrochemicals, which support a greater dependence on the oil industry and fossil fuels. Decreasing global plastic demands will allow communities to distance themselves from fossil fuels and toward greener, renewable sources.

How can SB 54 / AB 1080 mitigate human health and environmental impacts?

SB 54 / AB 1080 were introduced and amended by Senator Ben Allen and Assembly Member Lorena Gonzalez respectively. The bills are supported by nonprofit and environmental groups including the Surfrider Foundation, the NRDC, the Sierra Club, and 350 groups across California.

These bills establish a comprehensive framework to:

  • Reduce 75% of all single-use plastic packaging and products sold or distributed in CA by 2032
  • Make all single-use packaging and products recyclable or compostable after 2032
  • Encourage in-state manufacturing using CA-generated recycled material

Benefits of eliminating single-use plastics include:

  • Sustain healthy oceans and protect marine life: Plastic pollutes the ocean from the surface to the seafloor. Without intervention the amount of plastic flowing into the ocean yearly will likely triple by 20403.
  • Achieving our clean energy goals: These bills are a key step to pivot CA closer to its green energy goals by mitigating plastic generated. Currently, plastics production currently accounts for nearly 4% of global fossil fuel production.
  • Creating thousands of green jobs in California: Single-use plastics sustain a lower job market. CalRecycle estimates if met, the state’s in-state infrastructure recycling goals could generate 110k jobs in addition to the existing 120k employees in recycling today.
  • Reduce COVID-19 waste boom: As corporations usher a surge of single-use plastics into our homes during the pandemic, it’s more important than ever to ensure that those items are recyclable or compostable, and to innovate to put reusable systems in place.
  • Protecting our frontline communities: The increasing surge in plastic use exacerbates health risks from production predominantly in communities of color or low-income communities.

How can YOU take action?

Call Your Representatives: Urge your state legislators to protect our environment, health, and economy by supporting SB 54 and AB 1080. Click here to confirm your lawmaker.

For more information and resources visit our Plastic Bills Toolkit.

Learn more about Single-Use Plastics:

Members of the Month: A Youth Perspective

Members of the month: Megan Phelps, a fourth year UC Davis student and content volunteer; Claudia (Alexa) Castruita, a Hilltop High (Chula Vista) junior and Coordination Team member; and Isabelle (Izzy) Lee, a Baldwin School (Pennsylvania) senior leading the Production Team.

Interviews conducted and condensed by SD350 Volunteer Lorenzo Nericcio

This month, SD350 has selected three Youth Volunteers as the Members of the Month. Each helped coordinate and run the Youth4Climate (Y4C) summer camp—currently in its second session of the 2020 Summer—to help teens get more involved with the policy and outreach necessary to mitigate climate injustices in their communities.

Our three members of the month are: Megan Phelps, Claudia (Alexa) Castruita, and Isabelle (Izzy) Lee. The interview that follows has been lightly edited for clarity.

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

Megan: I got involved with SD350 when helping contribute to the Fight Like a Climate Activist Handbook that my mom (Jennifer Phelps) was writing last year. I then contributed to the Youth Summit this past spring. My heavy involvement really started with the Y4C Summer Camp!

Alexa: I first became involved with SD350 when I attended the Youth Climate Summit in my freshman year of high school in 2019. Recently, I became further involved when I joined the Youth Climate Leader weekly calls and eventually the Y4C Summer Camp Planning Team.

Izzy: I’ve been involved with SD350 for a couple of months now. During quarantine, I’ve been able to explore and pursue my interests more deeply. After learning more about climate change, I was determined to join a climate action organization, and I’m glad I found SD350!

What drives your activism?

Megan: My concern for the lives of people around the world and the biosphere that will be impacted by the destruction of climate change gives my activism purpose and meaning. I’m equally motivated by the people in the climate movement and the feeling that I can be creative in my activism!

Alexa: I’m driven by the feeling that, although as a Latina I represent a group who experience various disadvantages, I still have privilege and owe it to my community and all other BIPOC communities to use my own voice to amplifying those of others without a platform to speak for themselves.

Izzy: Coming from conservative background, I never really thought about activism. But, when I joined SD350, I realized that activism is a form of expression of passion about particular issues. My views have now changed, and I hope that others will join us in the fight for a more sustainable future!

What is your role within the Y4C Summer Camp, and how has this experience helped develop your leadership as a youth climate activist?

Megan: I have worked on the content team and have helped put on weekly live sessions, parties, and socials. Y4C has given me hope to see how strong, capable, and creative young people are. It’s a relief and an inspiration to see how the campers take the challenges and run with them!

Alexa: My role in the Y4C Summer Camp is as one of the co-leaders of the Overall Coordination team, which oversaw the work of the other teams in a way; it definitely taught me more about my capabilities as a leader, and pushed me to be more responsible and thoughtful of others.

Izzy: As a member of the planning team, I’ve been helping to prepare the Y4C Summer Camp for the past couple of months. I’m also the leader of the Production Team and a member of the Promotion Team. This has shown me how powerful and effective our voices can be in the climate movement.

What else would you like people to know about you?

Megan: I am so happy and feel so lucky to be alive during a time when I can enjoy so many beautiful things about the earth—the ocean (where I love to swim and bodysurf), great food (which I love to cook), birdsong, frog croaks, the smell of the SoCal sage, and my great family and wonderful friends (who support me in my activism and personal growth)!

Alexa: I’m always open to learning from my mistakes and am really passionate about what and who I love. I don’t believe environmental justice can be achieved without social justice, and I hope to one day live in a world where everyone is kinder to each other.

Izzy: I’ve been a certified scuba-diver since I was 12 (five years ago). I’ve always loved the ocean and been passionate about ocean conservation. After learning how increased carbon in our atmosphere affects the ocean’s acidity levels, I became more interested in learning about climate change. I’m really glad I joined SD350, and can’t wait for more to come!

Food Vision 2030

What’s your food vision for San Diego County? What food issues do you care about? Share your thoughts on the FV2030 community engagement platform!

By: David Pearl, SD350 Food & Soil Committee Member

Our friends at the San Diego Food System Alliance are hard at work on Food Vision 2030, a plan for transforming San Diego County’s food system over the next ten years. In their own words, “The goal of Food Vision 2030 is to inform planning, policy, program, and investment opportunities that improve the food system in San Diego County.”

SDFV2030 is now in the community engagement phase, and they want to hear from you! Visit the community engagement platform to provide feedback on the region’s food system and what you would like to see reflected in the ultimate vision.

If you want to focus on the intersection between climate and food, there is a section specifically for that.

We hope you’ll take the time to make your voice heard.

Discussing a Just Recovery from COVID-19

Panelists Rebecca Rojas, Dr. Kyra Greene, Sonja Robinson, Carolina Martínez, and Dr. Amrah Salomón were brilliantly moderated by Madeleine McMurray.

By: Louise Potash, SD350 Communications Volunteer

Within a week of joining SanDiego350, I found we were hosting a panel discussion on a just recovery from COVID-19. I myself have been confronting these questions and feeling daunted by the enormity and complexity of our current and future systemic challenges.

The Facebook Live discussion brought together a diverse group of experts: Rebecca Rojas (SD350 Board Member), Dr. Kyra Greene (Center on Policy Initiatives), Sonja Robinson (NAACP and SUN Host), Carolina Martínez (Environmental Health Coalition), and Dr. Amrah Salomón (Writer, Artist, Educator, and Activist for Indigenous and Tribal communities). Panelists contributed their expertise in policy initiatives, climate justice, environmental health, and Indigenous and tribal communities, to address issues and opportunities in the wake of the COVID-19 pandemic.

How do we tackle environmental justice issues?

COVID-19 has given us an unfortunate but important opportunity to grapple with the potential economic and societal reorganization presented by this moment. The communities most directly affected by COVID-19 are the very same ones most affected by the climate crisis, social injustice, racism, economic injustice, and other adverse public health injustices. So, a truly just recovery from COVID-19 must address these intersecting issues.

The panelists also asked the audience to grapple with questions such as:

  • How has the San Diego tourism economy exploited land and people? 
  • What kind of labor do we envision in a just society?
  • How do we build a future for those who have historically been denied a future?
  • How can we shift to creating non-oppressive relationships between communities?

What would a just recovery look like and how do we get there?

The panel reminded us that while “recovery” implies a return to a previous state, the prior economic status quo was not healthy or just for all. Rather, we must re-imagine an economy with sustainable climate opportunities focused on communities of color. Moving forward, the needs and opinions of our frontline communities should be considered in the solution. As we restructure, we must engage with and listen to these community members.

To do so, we must be bold and push the dialog for regional change. Panelists suggested working with, and financially supporting, social movements based on intersectionality and voting on both local and national issues.

How can we as climate activists use this discussion to become engaged and effect change?

The panelists’ knowledge and experience were not only extensive and impressive, but I was most appreciative of their wisdom to ask questions of the audience and to ask us to be active participants. As to how we as climate activists can take action, the panel reinforced the importance of actions such as lobbying, petitioning, and voting.

This work is not new. This moment simply feels new in the light of the COVID-19 pandemic. We must always continue working toward a reimagined society and economy that eradicates the injustices felt by underserved communities. The resounding remarks from the Just Recovery Panel tell us that recovery cannot be a return to previous conditions. Instead, a true just recovery must redesign a new normal that supports communities at the forefront of current environmental, racial, economic, societal and health injustices.

We Can Shape San Diego’s Next Climate Action Plan

Image Source: The City of San Diego

By: David Harris, SD350 CAP/CCE Committee Chair

The City of San Diego released its landmark 2015 Climate Action Plan (CAP). The Plan’s established goal of 100% clean energy by 2035 served as a model for many other cities.  It included specific goals to reduce greenhouse gas emissions from electricity, vehicles, solid waste, and other sources. Now, as the fifth year of CAP implementation is nearing completion, the City is launching a community driven process to update its CAP.

The City has made substantial progress toward meeting its clean energy goals. In 2019, the City formed a joint powers authority, San Diego Community Power (SDCP), with Encinitas, Imperial Beach, La Mesa, and Chula Vista. SDCP is a Community Choice Energy (CCE) program that will launch in Spring 2021. In its charter, SDCP includes worker protections, equity provisions, and a commitment to local renewable energy generation.

Unfortunately, the City has made slow progress in meeting its ambitious mode-share goals for transit, bicycling, and walking in a timely manner due to the expenses required to implement change in such a large-scale sector as transportation. 

Moving forward, it is necessary for the City to consider social equity issues in the planning process as many lower-income community members rely on public transport to get to work and school. In addition, public health in communities of color has been adversely impacted by freeway expansion projects.

How We Can Take Action!

The City of San Diego is inviting the community to participate in the process to revise and update its Climate Action Plan (CAP). This is an opportunity for the SanDiego350 community to get involved with three easy actions: 

  1. Complete the City of San Diego CAP survey to share your personal climate priorities, ideas, and choices. If you would like recommendations on how to answer the survey questions, here is an easy to use template.
  2. Join the SanDiego350 CAP Workshop on August 11 @ 7:00pm to learn more about the CAP and what SanDiego350 and other climate hub organizations will be advocating for in the CAP update. Register here.
  3. Participate in the City’s CAP Community Forum on August 13 @ 12:00pm. This is our opportunity to advocate for stronger goals and better policies that will enable the City to actually meet aggressive emission reduction goals. Register here.

This week will be an opportunity to learn how we can truly make a difference for the future of San Diego. The time to raise our voices for a better climate future is now!

Intersecting Causes in Environmental Justice

Image Source: Josh Hild, Pexels

By: Lorenzo Nericcio, SD350 Communications Volunteer

Those interested in environmental causes, like ecological protection or climate change mitigation, often consider issues of racial or economic justice as separate causes: While we work to protect the environment, others labor against systemic oppression. Though it has never been entirely true that they are separate, it is even less so now, and recent events have highlighted how inescapably intertwined these two issues have become. 

The concept of intersectionality allows us to understand the connections between environmental issues and those of racial justice. Each of us lives at the intersection of multiple identities: racial, economic, gender, ecological, and so on. Each of these identities becomes, in an oppressive system, a way by which a person might in some cases experience injustice, or in others, privilege. 

Systems of oppression built around one form of identity often spill over into others. For example, people of color more often bear the burden of environmental degradation, as explained by this 350.org article on the intersectional effects of climate change. This realization—that Black and Brown people are often first on the front lines of rising seas and temperatures—forces those in the environmental community to confront the fact that focusing solely on the environmental effects of climate change is not enough; one must also understand its intersectional social effects. 

Environmentalists of color have renewed their arguments for an intersectional approach in the wake of protests responding to the police murders of George Flloyd, Breonna Taylor, and countless others. In the pages of the New York Times, Black environmentalists called on the environmental community to address these issues more prominently in their advocacy. And many environmental institutions have listened, committing to fight for racial justice alongside the environmental causes they champion.

While this may be a new concept for some in the environmental community—and especially for those most privileged—it’s important to note that for people of color, fighting for their right to a safe, clean, and ecologically sound place to live has long been part of the fight for justice. Our contemporary conceptions of environmental justice owe their development to Black leaders, a history discussed in this article, also from 350.org

For those new to the environmental justice movement who wish to become more effective advocates and activists, it is important to start by learning. As a White person or other person of privilege, you should focus on becoming an ally: someone who is not the direct subject of oppression but who stands with and supports those who are oppressed. The first step is listening to the needs and views of those who directly experience oppression, as described recently by a guide in Vox. By listening, understanding, and acting strategically, environmental activists can learn to become effective allies, and stand in solidarity with those fighting for racial and environmental justice. 

If you’re interested, please take the time to read the articles linked within this piece. Additional readings are linked below: