Opinion » Rhetoric & Reason

Mobilizing for the win



My 97-year-old father is again sitting in the dark in Santa Rosa hoping a fire doesn't force him to evacuate. This is the third power shutoff to forestall deadly fires this month alone.

To mobilize Dad for disaster, I call several times to ask if he's filled up the car. Has he put together a bag with meds, a change of clothes, water, a phone list, glasses, insurance cards? I figure I've got a 50/50 chance that he'll be prepared when the worst again comes to pass.

It will. It has. Mobilizing in the face of climate change catastrophes is the new normal as we flee violent storms, rising oceans, raging fires, ferocious heat. But this "mobilization" is actually a feeble adaptation, throwing dirt on a crumbling dike, rather than a bold action to change the existential threat itself.

What is that existential threat again? Greenhouse gas emissions from oil, coal, and natural gas are causing temperatures to rise, transforming the livability of Earth. The United Nations' International Panel on Climate Change recently warned that to avoid irreversible damage to all life forms, we need to keep the increase in global warming below 1.5 degrees Celsius.

When it comes to the weather, the United Nations is about as nonpartisan as it gets.

How long have we got? Barely more than a decade. The science is in, evidence abounds—we must change.

And we can change. Our roadmap to a future that is vibrant, just, and climate resilient is the Green New Deal. No, it won't ruin the economy—just the opposite—and it's not a rash of laws to bring about socialism.

"The Green New Deal states values, goals, and actions to address the critical immediacy of global warming," explains Charles Varni, a SLO climate activist. "It's about having a vision, commitment, and game plan."

The centerpiece of the Green New Deal is the transition to 100 percent clean energy by 2030, and banning any expansion of new fossil fuel infrastructure, such as fracking. No surprise, the denialist, pro-fossil fuel Trump administration instead pushes drilling and fracking on federal lands, including those within our county. Happily, SLO city has made a commitment to the Green New Deal by joining Monterey Bay Community Choice, a not-for-profit, carbon-free electricity provider. (SLO County hasn't yet joined up.)

The new deal also calls for investing in public transit, regenerative agriculture, conservation, and restoration of infrastructure, including ecosystems, which sequester greenhouse gases. It may seem banal, but plant trees, folks!

We can mobilize to win the existential contest for survival of the planet. And, when under threat, what people are more self-reliant than Americans?

Varni points out that in 2018, taxpayers provided $26 billion in subsidies and tax breaks to the fossil fuel industry. Instead of propping up oil oligarchs, we could use that money to invest in renewable energy resources, battery storage, transmission facilities, energy efficiency, and conservation.

Eric Veium, chair of the SLO Climate Coalition (carbonfreeslo.org), told me, "America is innovative; I'm hopeful!"

Look outside: Renewables like wind and solar can power our lives without destroying our planet. The Climate Reality Project (climaterealityproject.org) explains that "more energy from the sun's rays strikes the Earth every hour than humanity uses in an entire year." Moreover, renewables are cheaper than fossil fuels—and they don't require protection by American soldiers on foreign soil. In total, renewables save money.

What about jobs? Implementing the Green New Deal could create 20 million jobs, according to some estimates. As SLO 3rd District Supervisor Adam Hill wrote, "The facts in California show the ratio of clean energy to fossil fuel jobs is 5-1; how we produce and consume energy continues to evolve, both in policy but also among our workforce."

How do we get to a green future? It takes private and public sector investment, political will, and personal commitment. Ellen Beraud running for 5th District Supervisor, told me that "the Green New Deal should rise above partisan politics; all levels of government need to engage in the effort."

Vote for candidates like Beraud, who, as Varni says, "believe in science and the need to transform to a renewable economy." The opposing candidate, current supervisor Debbie Arnold, instead supports the fossil fuel industry, voting a hard "no" on joining community choice.

We all need to be climate champions. Consider your driving habits; cut down on single-use plastics; be aware of energy use; when possible, switch to electric appliances and electric power. Even going two days a week without eating meat is effective.

Your climate-conscious actions can inspire friends and neighbors.

"I have an awesome older neighbor, who bought an electric bike after I bought an electric bike," Veium said. "Now, we're constantly sharing our newest clean energy innovations. We're saving money and having fun. It's infectious!"

The Green New Deal calls for a national, social, industrial, and economic mobilization on a scale not seen since World War II. I asked Dad, a WWII Navy veteran, what that was like. He said, "Well, everyone participated. We planted victory gardens; women went to work in factories; we bought war bonds; we staged rallies; industry focused on war resources production. We were determined to win, and we participated in the national effort with tremendous pride."

Exactly. Let's mobilize to win. Δ

Amy Hewes is a grassroots activist. Send comments through the editor at clanham@newtimesslo.com.

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