Pat Carr: The climate crisis is upon us – what will our leaders do?

Strike or not, action for the climate takes work and there are lots of everyday choices

You may have heard that a group of young people from around the world have called for a strike on behalf of the climate on Friday, Sept. 20. 

People of all ages, in countries around the globe, will leave their jobs, schools, and homes — walking out to demand action to prevent climate disaster.

Local youth will hold a rally at the Arcata Plaza at noon, and an adult-organized rally is set for the County Courthouse in Eureka, 3 p.m. to 7 p.m.

As a gray-bearded supporter of this movement, I’ll be there. Across the globe, I hope to see an ocean of faces raising a tide that sweeps climate action into law and wipes a huge worry from the lives of today’s youth. 

But not everyone can go to a rally. Among the majority of Americans concerned about climate change, many, perhaps most, have commitments they can’t walk out on, even though they want to make a difference.

For those people I want to talk about how we can strike for the climate — even when we may not be able to join the strike. 

First, we have to abandon the idea that we’re powerless. Yes, each of us are only one of billions of people on Earth, but so is Donald Trump, and he’s sure had an impact. 

Seriously, even if the only thing we do is reduce our personal impact on the climate, we Americans are lucky that our relative wealth has given most of us room to make a difference. 

Our average personal climate impact is roughly 198 times that of someone living in Mali in West Africa. We contribute to climate change like we’re each a small West African village. Among developed nations, our personal impact is still more than triple that of the average citizen of France.

As far as personal steps to take, people often think of keeping their thermostats low and turning off lights. These are great, but in Humboldt, as in the nation at large, it’s our driving that’s the single largest Greenhouse contributor. Carpooling, bicycling, taking the bus all strike a blow against climate change. 

So do electric cars. Tax credits have made EVs comparably priced to fossil fuel cars. Federal tax credits expire this January, but California’s credit will remain. 

Humboldt EV drivers strike a double blow against climate change because much of our local Redwood Coast Energy Authority (RCEA) power comes from renewable sources — and customers can “opt up” to 100 percent renewable for just an extra penny a kilowatt hour by calling RCEA at (707) 269-1700. It’s like having your own solar panels, but cheaper.

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We can also strike out some carbon emissions by composting. When yard and kitchen wastes go to a landfill they create methane, a potent greenhouse gas. But composting those wastes allows them to decompose methane-free. When added to a garden, compost then increases the soil’s ability to lock up carbon from the atmosphere. 

But to really strike a new path for the climate we have to convince public officials to change laws and policies. Again, we’re lucky to live where we do. Nothing is happening these days in Washington to stop climate change, but the same isn’t true in Humboldt. 

Last March the RCEA board supported a goal to provide county residents 100 percent renewable electricity by 2025. It’s one of the most aggressive plans of any electric provider in the nation. 

Looking further ahead, Arcata City Councilman Michael Winkler has encouraged the city to ban the use of natural gas within city limits by 2035. Under this plan, Arcata would provide incentives to aid residents in making the transition to renewable electric heat and cooking. 

The City Council has adopted this as a goal, not yet enacted as law. Are you ready to tell Arcata’s City Council — or your own council or the Board of Supervisors — that this plan is a great idea? Or urge them to make it easier for people to get around without burning more fossil fuels? 

The climate strike is a great way to send a message that people are fed up with inaction. But whether I see you at the strike or not, we face a lot of work to beat this crisis. It’s time we roll up our sleeves.

Pat Carr lives in Arcata and is a member of 350 Humboldt (, a local climate action organization.



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