In recent days, we’ve heard reports of Bay Area conservation leaders — including Sierra Club President Michael Brune and PRBO Conservation Science’s Ellie Cohen — getting arrested in Washington, DC, as part of a massive “Forward on Climate” mobilization that culminates this weekend with a rally on the national mall.
The action back East is being led by 350.org and the national Sierra Club. Here at home, 350 Bay Area has organized a rally in San Francisco this Sunday, February 17, from 1 till 3 pm in solidarity with the main mobilization in DC.
The immediate goal is stopping the Keystone XL pipeline, but new legislation introduced this week by Sen. Barbara Boxer (D-CA) will be another focus. The Sustainable Energy and Climate Protection Acts, sponsored by Boxer and Bernie Sanders (I-VT), would essentially introduce a carbon tax.
“It’s nice to have something positive to rally around for once,” says Sven Eberlein, a San Francisco-based journalist who is also organizer of Bike the Math, a bike ride and rally at Chevron’s San Ramon headquarters planned for May 29. “I like to try and inspire people to get involved in climate action by making it a positive thing instead of a scary thing.”
Eberlin interviewed Bill McKibben, founder of 350.org, and asked him what people here could do. “He said ‘Well, Chevron headquarters is in the Bay. You could go to a stakeholder meeting and ask that they become an energy company instead of just an oil company—if they put 25% of their resources into clean energy, it would make a huge difference.’ Since it doesn’t make much sense to drive to Chevron and then protest fossil fuels, I thought a bike ride to their headquarters would be more appropriate.”
Reducing fossil fuel use is far from the only challenge we face. “One big problem for the Bay Area and the state in general is water,” says Andrew Guzman, a UC Berkeley law professor and author of the recently published book Overheated: The Human Cost of Climate Change.
“We get more than half our supply from the Sierra snowpack, which is melting as the climate warms. Right now there’s no plan in place for how California will operate in the next few decades after our main water reserve has been depleted.”
Historically, the Sierra snowpack accumulates and holds water during wet winter months. As spring and summer roll by, the water melts and is released slowly into reservoirs throughout the year. With warming climates, water doesn’t freeze into the snowpack as quickly during the winter and melts faster during the spring and summer, translating into winter floods and summer droughts.
“Once the water in that snowpack melts and washes away, there isn’t any more. The Bay Area will be more or less in a permanent state of drought.”
Guzman’s book deals with the toll climate change will take on humanity. Having studied trade wars, economic recessions, poverty issues, and other major problems of society, he realized that climate change was the number one issue that trumped all else. “I wrote this book for people who don’t like to think about climate change,” he says. “If I’ve done my job, you’ll be convinced you have to do something about it. Participate in 350 events, vote for politicians who want to make good changes, volunteer for or give your money to organizations fighting global warming. We don’t have the option of not acting anymore.”
Lots of folks in the Bay Area would agree. “We’re trying to make the Bay Area a model for the rest of the world when it comes to energy and climate change issues,” says Don Forman of the Sierra Club SF Bay chapter. “No one can do it all, but if each individual gets involved in a way that works for them, it really does make a difference. Changing society takes the participation of everyone.”
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