Sep 25, 2019
By Tyra Benoit
On October 9, 2017, my life changed forever. Our home in Santa Rosa was consumed by the Tubbs Fire. When our insurance company arranged for us to stay at the Dry Creek Inn, I became a temporary resident of Healdsburg.
As a climate refugee with an uncertain future, I was heartened by the generosity of Healdsburg residents. Chefs at local restaurants served us meals. At the Corazón Free Store, the support from the community was amazing. After a few days at the hotel, complete strangers took us in, sharing their townhouse on Grove Street for six weeks until we found a more permanent place to live in town. The shock and grief I felt was tempered by the fact that we were now housed in such a remarkable, caring community.
This past spring, we made a decision to purchase a replacement home in Healdsburg. As I walk around town, I am grateful for my new community but I am concerned about its future. I hope that the Healdsburg City Council will address the threat of climate change by passing a Climate Emergency Resolution and developing a strong plan for its implementation. The cities of Petaluma, Windsor, and Cloverdale have already adopted these resolutions and the County Board of Supervisors passed one on September 17.
Across Sonoma County, an online petition has been launched to encourage elected officials to declare a Climate Emergency. If you would like to add your name to the petition, please do so at change.org. Search for “Support Equitable Climate Emergency Action in Sonoma County” and join almost 2500 signatories as of September 22. According to the Climate Mobilization Project, 221 million people across the world are now represented by more than 1000 local governments that have declared a Climate Emergency. Over 7000 colleges and universities have also joined the struggle.
You can also write the members of the City Council or better yet, attend the October 7 meeting and let them know why you think this is urgent.
Consider the following facts: July 2019 set records for the highest temperatures ever recorded across the world. Heat waves have become much more frequent. 2018 was the 42nd consecutive year with temperatures above the 20th-century average. Globally, the three hottest years in recorded history were 2016-2018.
Millions of people and thousands of communities across the world have been severely impacted by climate change just like Santa Rosa was in 2017. Wildfires are only one example but they are everywhere — as far north as Alaska and above the Arctic Circle. The fire season in the American West is now 105 days longer than it was in 1970.
There are other consequences of these higher temperatures. The permafrost and glaciers are melting at a rapid rate. On June 17, 2019, four billion tons of ice melted in Greenland IN ONE DAY. Ninety-three percent of the extra heat in our atmosphere goes into our oceans and this can lead to the extinction of species and kill coral reefs. Warmer air holds more water vapor which causes stronger and more deadly hurricanes, tropical storms, and flooding. Sea levels rise. Atmospheric rivers become more frequent. Scientists now predict that extreme rainfall events are four times more likely to occur today than they did in 1980.
In 2018, the Intergovernmental Panel on Climate Change (IPCC) stated that we have twelve years to address this crisis or we will have crossed the point of no return. We must keep global warming to less than 1.5 degrees Celsius (2.7 degrees Fahrenheit) and we have already raised it by one degree Celsius. Another .5 degree rise will lead to catastrophic changes around the world. https://www.ipcc.ch/sr15/
That is why fighting climate change must be our top priority and it must be confronted with immediate action.
After the Healdsburg City Council passes a Climate Emergency Resolution, the hard work of implementation begins. It will succeed only if local citizens educate themselves and work together toward a just and equitable transition. We must incorporate new ways of thinking into our strategic planning and consider changes to the way decisions are made. Policies, projects, and purchases should be viewed through the lens of climate Impact. Reaching zero net emissions within ten years is critical.
Future generations are depending on us.
Retired SRJC Dean and History Instructor
Climate Reality Leader
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