by Nick Buxton
By unanimous vote at its Tuesday March 10th meeting, the Yolo County Board of Supervisors directed its staff to work with a local group of community advocates to develop a climate emergency response for the County. The vote is a result of several months of active mobilization by community residents from West Sacramento, Davis, Woodland, and Winters. The group formed in the aftermath of the global climate strike in September 2019 that included a 1000-strong climate march in Davis.
Fifteen community members attended the Board meeting to urge the County supervisors to recognize the urgency of the climate crisis and to develop a collaborative emergency response. They acknowledged the progress made in alternative energy and waste management, but said much broader and bolder actions were needed.
Davis mother Lupita Torres spoke of the impact smoke-filled air from the Paradise fire had on her neighbors, especially those with asthma. “My neighbor couldn’t leave her house to buy food. Climate does not discriminate, it affects everyone,” Torres added. “We are close to a tipping point where it will be impossible to reverse and this will have increased costs particularly for those who are marginalized – young people, people with disabilities, people of color, poor white working folks.”
Woodland resident, mother and member of Mothers Out Front, Adelita Serena spoke of the health impacts of toxic air her son experienced from sports practice at school. She pointed to the Coronavirus response as showing the potential for bold action. “Science is demanding proper responses to health emergencies such as the Coronavirus, so science should be listened to on climate change too. This is a test of whether we will listen to science and the evidence of the health impacts of climate change on our communities, especially vulnerable communities, so we can put proper responses in place to deal with and mitigate these impacts.”
Other speakers supporting the resolution included Lucia Kaiser, a Girl Scout leader, two County Board electoral candidates (David Abramson and Linda Deos), Beth Robbins of the local Citizens’ Climate Lobby, farmer Robyn Rominger, retired engineer Mark Aulman, and UCD student Hannah de la Calle.
Board supervisors expressed warm appreciation for the work of the community groups and agreed that the climate crisis needed a bolder response. Supervisor Don Saylor quoted Greta Thunberg’s warning that we must act like our house is on fire, because it is.
Supervisor Jim Provenza said that climate change had much more serious consequences than the Coronavirus and that “drastic action is necessary.” “We have lots of power at the local level, so we can set an example and eventually get the action we need at the federal level,” he added. He urged the County to develop specific goals and ways of continually engaging community members and suggested that every decision by the County should include a climate assessment in addition to a fiscal impact assessment.
The Board proceeded to cast a unanimous vote supporting work on a climate emergency response with strong community involvement.
Speaking after the event, start-up business consultant Scott Ragsdale and one of the coordinators of the effort said, “I think the Board was greatly impressed with the diversity of community members who spoke.. It was really something to see a 3rd year UCD Sunrise Movement volunteer, next to a Latinx mom, a local farmer, and a retired engineer insisting that we must pay attention to the science and take bold action. It all came together yesterday. You couldn’t help but feel the enthusiasm after the unanimous vote by the Board.”
David Abramson, who ran for the position of Board Supervisor in March 2020 under a platform of a “Green New Deal” also welcomed the vote. “A Yolo County Climate Emergency Mobilization is critical as it creates a framework for a rapid and just transition to life-supporting infrastructure and economies within Yolo County. For it to succeed, we will need active collaboration between community members, researchers, farmers, indigenous stewards, policy-makers, financiers, laborers, permaculture designers, and more.”
Lynne Nittler, coordinator of the Yolo Interfaith Alliance for Climate Justice said that, with the adoption of the resolution, “the residents of Yolo County embark on a compelling journey to transform our lives. Together, under the guidance of our own Yolo County government and the various agencies, we can free ourselves from carbon pollution and adopt sustainable ways to live and thrive for all of us, even as we prepare for climate emergencies.”