Environmental scientists, researchers, advocates, and policy makers descended upon Sacramento’s downtown district last week for the 2017 California Climate Change Symposium. The symposium served as a forum for veteran researchers, scientists, and newbies like myself from across the state and from across multiple disciplines, to share their research.
I really don’t think the timing could have been better.
With the assertion that global warming is still up for debate among the Trump administration’s top leaders, the symposium felt like an oasis of thoughtful discussion on safeguarding California from our planet’s changing climate. Emerging research ranged from drought and water management, to ocean acidification and hypoxia, to rising sea levels.
A sense of urgency and a need for climate facts as opposed to “alternative facts” was interlaced throughout the plenary sessions, making the significance of constant discussion about climate change even more clear and evident. Save The Bay Executive Director David Lewis served as a panelist for a lunch session titled, “Communicating Science to California Public & Policymakers.” Lewis stressed the importance of focusing communication efforts on local and state elected leaders.
“How many people in the room talk to elected officials? You need to push them to do twice as much twice as fast, and the ones who aren’t doing anything, you need to push them to do something now,” said Lewis. “It can be your local city council member who can do things in your town to mitigate greenhouse gas emissions and to prepare for adaptation. That’s where we need to focus our communication.”
Communication is central to what I do here at Save The Bay. Every day my team and I look for new tools and tactics that will inform and educate our grassroots community about threats to the Bay. It’s my job to make science and data sexy to an audience that is being bombarded with sensational content every single minute. This poses both a challenge and an opportunity to reach audiences across the spectrum. Climate change is certainly a hot topic at the center of a contentious debate between those who have made environmental advocacy their life’s work, and those who would rather rest on “alternative facts” to further their own selfish political agendas. I left the symposium ready to find new ways to engage our audience in the issues surrounding climate change, and introduce them to some of the groundbreaking research I had the chance to observe.
Understanding the science that safeguards California will become more urgent than ever before as we move closer into the unprecedented aftermath of a Trump presidency. Developing programs, strategies, and policies that will reduce greenhouse gasses and encourage adaptation to rising sea levels on the state and local level will remain crucial to California scientists and advocates.
Saving the Bay by Sustaining the Bay: A Year of Firsts…
This year has been decorated with big wins for the Bay. Highlights of 2016 include the historic passage of Measure AA, Prop 67, and nine of 10 local ballot measures we endorsed for the first time in Save The Bay’s history. While November’s election is a setback to environmental progress at the federal level, our 2016 accomplishments give us momentum here at home, where local and regional victories will be more important than ever.
In early 2016 we published a visionary 2020 Strategic Plan, which maps out our ambitious path to healthy wetlands, Bay Smart communities, and a region that is resilient in the face of climate change.
We installed 107,239 plants at sites around the Bay, creating important habitat for native and migrating birds.
Save The Bay was instrumental in passing Proposition 67, a statewide bag ban that will keep billions of plastic bags from polluting our ocean, communities, and waterways, and Proposition 56, which will reduce the flow of toxic, plastic cigarette butts into our waterways.
For the first time in Save The Bay’s history, we endorsed 10 local ballot measures that will contribute to a cleaner, healthier Bay and more sustainable Bay Area. With our support, nine of these measures were passed by voters.
Our 4,830 volunteers contributed nearly 15,000 hours to shoreline restoration projects, and we provided 2,500 local students with hands-on volunteer opportunities.
Culminating a decade of planning and preparation, we passed regional Measure AA, which will generate $500 million for the restoration of Bay wetlands. Thanks to our tireless advocacy, more than 70% of Bay Area voters supported Measure AA.
Working with nearly 40 cities and counties across the Bay, we created Bay Day, one official day for our entire region to celebrate San Francisco Bay. In its inaugural year, Bay Day reached over 2 million Bay Area residents.
Save The Bay and our supporters successfully advocated for a ban on outdoor smoking at Sunnyvale bus stops, shopping areas, festivals, and farmers markets. Our success will help protect wildlife from toxic, plastic cigarette butts, and are a model for other communities.
We removed 7,200 lbs. of trash from the Bay shoreline, making our marshes cleaner and healthier.
We launched Save The Bay’s new Bay Investors Council, bringing together Bay Area leaders and influencers who support Save The Bay financially and introduces the organization to new friends. We hosted our inaugural Bay Investors Council event on Bay Day with a catamaran sail on the Bay.
Download the PDF version of our 2016 Accomplishments here.
YESTERDAY Save The Bay and Clean Water Action traveled over 3,000 miles to Hartsville, South Carolina and unfurled a 30-foot banner outside the headquarters of Novolex, the world’s largest manufacturer of single-use plastic bags, demand that Novolex cease its efforts to defeat California Prop. 67, which voters must pass this November to uphold the state’s existing ban on single-use plastic bags.
Novolex is the biggest spender among the out-of-state plastic bag manufacturers that have put more than $6 million into their attempt to overturn California’s ban on single-use plastic bags, according to the latest figures issued by Secretary of State Alex Padilla.
Companies including South Carolina-based Novolex, Texas-based Suberbag Corp., and New Jersey-based Formosa Plastics have formed a California ballot initiative committee deceptively called The American Progressive Bag Alliance to coordinate their efforts to overturn bag-ban legislation, SB 270, which was signed into law by Governor Jerry Brown in 2014.
The industry funded the signature drive to put SB 270 on hold and place it before voters as Prop. 67, and is now working to defeat it. The industry also placed a competing measure, Prop. 65, on the ballot to confuse voters.
California’s state-wide law follows more than 150 local bag bans in the state, and the American Progressive Bag Alliance has also paid Washington, D.C.-based lobby group the American Legislative Exchange Council (ALEC) to push for preemptive bans on local bag bans in Georgia, South Carolina, Idaho, and Wisconsin.
“We gathered 50,000 signatures from our supporters in California, asking Novolex to keep its dirty out-of-state money out of our politics, and we wanted to present them to Mr. Bikulege and ask him to withdraw his financial backing for overturning the ban,” said Matt Davis with Clean Water Action, speaking in Hartsville, SC. “We don’t like that Mr. Bikulege and his friends are hiding behind D.C.-based front groups as they profit from killing California’s wildlife, but he won’t even meet with Californians to hear our point of view.”
Novolex representatives said Bikulege was unavailable, but the environmentalists were able to speak briefly with the company’s vice president for sustainability, Mark Daniels. Daniels refused to accept the Californians’ petition or to reconsider the company’s strategy of attacking California’s environmental protections.
The environmentalists then unloaded thousands of plastic bags collected from California shorelines, waterways, and households, and displayed childrens’ drawings of wildlife threatened by plastic bags.
“We’re asking Novolex to take back some of the toxic trash they generate here in California, and to stop undermining California’s environmental protections,” said Cyril Manning with Save The Bay, speaking in Hartsville, SC.
“Californians are tired of out of state companies trying to influence our elections and despoil our environment. We will vote Yes on Prop. 67 to uphold the country’s first statewide ban on plastic bags, and vote No on Prop. 65, the industry’s deceptive attempt to undermine our state’s bag ban,” said Manning.
Inspired by the efforts of the California campaign groups, Rep. James E. Smith Jr. (D-Richland County) has now pledged to introduce a statewide bag ban bill in the South Carolina House of Representatives, modeled after California’s law.
Rep. Smith said: “This demonstration has inspired me to make South Carolina better by introducing a single-use plastic bag ban here. Our state’s businesses know better than to chase short-term profits at the expense of the environment.”
Several Sierra Club leaders local to Hartsville, provided on-the-ground support for the priest, and local environmental leaders from the South Carolina Coastal Conservation League, South Carolina Sierra Club, 5 Gyres Institute, Savannah Riverkeeper, and Charleston Waterkeeper joined California conservationists and added their voices demanding that Novolex stop meddling in west coast politics, thwarting South Carolina Home Rule, and jeopardizing important conservation legislation in communities all over the country.
Will out-of-state companies like Novolex keep both their trash and money out of our California election? Well, that remains to be seen. But what we can do as California citizens is make our voices heard loud and clear once again, and vote YES on Prop. 67 on Nov. 8!