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:

The 5 Big Moves to Sustainable Transportation

Image Source: Photo of Traffic with Smog from the EPA.

By: Bee Mittermiller, SD350 Transportation Committee Leader

The San Diego Association of Governments (SANDAG) is working on a 2021 regional transportation plan they have nicknamed “The Five Big Moves.” We must speak up to make sure this plan prioritizes transit over highways.

Although these 40-year plans are updated every four years, what we know of the next plan indicates a marked departure from SANDAG’s highway-centric past plans and could shift our transportation system for years to come. To understand how important this current planning phase at SANDAG is, it helps to know the composition and recent history of the organization.

SANDAG has a large staff led by the Executive Director, Hasan Ikhrata, but ultimately its decisions are determined by a Board of Directors—members representing all 18 local cities’ city councils and the County’s Board of Supervisors. They are appointed by each city council and the supervisors. So the decisions they make reflect local politics. 

Tens of billions of dollars of public tax dollars are spent in the San Diego area for public transportation, which includes the automobile system, the public transit system, and the bicycle system.

Gary Gallegos was the Executive Director before Mr. Ikhrata was hired. However, in August of 2017 he resigned from the position in disgrace. What led to this was the failure of Measure A on the 2016 ballot, which would have increased the sales tax by a half cent for additional revenue for SANDAG. An independent investigation concluded that SANDAG had intentionally misled the public about internal calculations that raised significant doubts that the levy would actually deliver its promised $18 billion over 40 years, and also showed that the existing “transnet” sales tax was failing to meet estimated revenues, creating significant shortfalls in the budget.

Meanwhile, tension had grown between those in urban centers who wanted to focus almost exclusively on new mass-transit projects and those in suburban communities who wanted to focus on highways and auto-centric planning. Politicians and environmental groups—including the Cleveland National Forest Foundation, the Sierra Club, and then Attorney General, Kamala Harris—were especially disgruntled with SANDAG’s plan under Gary Gallegos’ leadership. In 2011, these groups sued SANDAG, but were ultimately overruled by the Calofornia Supreme Court.

When Hasan Ikhrata became the new Executive Director in December, 2018, he inherited the plan being developed under Gallegos that was based on revenue projections that proved to be overly optimistic. That plan was unaffordable and unable to meet the State requirements for greenhouse gas emission reduction.

An extension was granted to allow SANDAG time to start the planning process all over again. The Board of Directors has been approving the plan, now called “The Five Big Moves,” at each vote along the way, but as the deadline approaches, some of the members are pushing for more highway projects that they claim were “promised” and necessary for safety. If they do add more highway lanes, greenhouse gas emissions will increase, and thereby jeopardize the ability of the plan to meet or exceed the State targets for cleaner air.

By law, the public has the right to give input during the planning process. Our voices are needed to let the members of the Board of Directors know that we support “The Five Big Moves” as the best way to solve our transportation problems and the urgent problems of climate change.

SanDiego350 has the unique opportunity to meet with SANDAG’s Executive Director, Hasan Ikhrata, to discuss the most pressing issues in regional transportation and climate change. Join us virtually on Wednesday July 22nd at 7:00 pm by registering here.

Flex Your Power: Help SD350 Push for Climate Smart Legislation

The SanDiego350 community gathers at a previous training event. The most recent Legislative Training was held virtually due to current circumstances.

By: Jill O’Keeffe, SD350 Legislative Intern

SanDiego350 is working hard this summer on state legislation. We kicked off the effort to organize meetings with our legislators this past Sunday, June 28, at the Legislative Training where SD350 members met virtually to learn how to combat climate change with legislation and which bills are currently priorities. 

The SD350 community, members from several 350 groups around the state, and individuals from affiliated organizations gathered for the event. Attendees heard presentations on the bills that SD350 is advocating for this year, how bills become law in California, and advocacy best practices. 

Nine bills were highlighted within the presentation. Among the 2020 California climate bills are AB-345SB-54, and AB-1080. AB 345 would require a 2,500 foot buffer between new oil drilling sites and homes/schools/businesses. Even now, with oil demand down, the governor is approving new drilling sites in California. We need to protect working families from the toxic environment created by oil drills. California Climate bills AB 54 and AB 1080 are both two-year bills that would move California toward eliminating 75% of single-use plastics by the year 2030. The mandated recycling proposed by these bills would reduce greenhouse gases in both production of materials and degradation of said materials if put in landfills or littered rather than recycled.

The presentation included two social justice bills: Senate bills AB-1460 and AB-3121. These bills target racial equity by advocating for an ethnic studies requirement at all California State Universities and by creating a task force to develop a plan for reparations for African Americans, respectively. AB 1460 and AB 3121 will improve exposure to cultural and social justice history and begin to address the disparities of a shameful history. Racial and economic justice are indisputable and essential to climate justice. We, as advocates for climate justice, must strive for a world where people of color have a safe and healthy future on this planet.

SD350 will be urging legislators to think big and invest in systemic changes that will allow us to reduce carbon pollution and prioritize frontline communities and workers. There needs to be a change in our economy that focuses on justice, both racial and environmental, while expanding the scope of cleaner energy. Elected officials need to be reminded that even during this uncertain time, many people are still dedicated to bettering the future for this country. By joining these legislative trainings the SD350 community will help press legislators to invest now in a more sustainable future.

The training was a resounding success with many motivated community activists. The legislative training slide deck can be found here

What you can do: 

  • Contact local state legislators and ask them to support the important bills above. Call Senator Atkins (619-645-3133) and Ben Hueso (619-409-7690)and tell them to support AB 345, which protects residents near oil and gas extraction sites.
  • Contact Amanda at Amanda@sandiego350.org to learn how to get involved with advocating for these bills—via meetings, calling our legislators, attending trainings, and more!

SD350 Builds Power with Community Budget Alliance

By: Joe Wainio, member of SD350’s Coalition Team.

SanDiego350 has been a member of the Community Budget Alliance (CBA) for four years. CBA is a coalition of local organizations advocating for the interests of immigrants, low-income workers and communities of color. It mainly becomes active during the period when the mayor and city council consider the annual city budget (March-June), lobbying for more funding for its member organizations’ priorities.

Participating in multiracial, cross class coalitions such as CBA is a strategic way to build the power we need to challenge the 1%. Without a fundamental realignment of political forces in our country, away from those who put profits before people, we won’t be able to create a more just society, including taking action to prevent the worst impacts of climate change.

Currently, levels of economic inequality are near historic highs. Americans in the top 0.1% of income earners capture over 196 times the income of the bottom 90%. Racial disparities exacerbate the unfairness even further.

Our country was built on and still reflects the legacy of white supremacy. In 2016, median wealth of white families was about 10 times that of Black families and 8 times that of Latino families.

COVID-19 has demonstrated health and employment disparities, as well.  Black people are dying at rates almost 3 times those of whites. A study by SANDAG showed that unemployment in Logan Heights had reached 37.5% in early May, while in Rancho Bernardo it was “only” 20%.

Political inequality follows as a logical consequence of this economic inequality. According to research by Martin Gilens and Benjamin Page, “the preferences of the average American [on federal government policy] appear to have only a miniscule, near-zero, statistically non-significant impact upon policy.” Meanwhile, big corporate lobbyists have no problem getting their agenda enacted.

By engaging in the fight for equality with our allies, we build relationships and trust and expand the progressive movement for change. Fighting side by side with the Community Budget Alliance, and in other cross-class and multiracial coalitions, is the only way to build a movement strong enough to challenge the status quo.