November 19, 2015 – Volume 17, Issue 5: Path to Positive

In This Issue

Flanigan’s Eco-Logic

Climate Day Los Angeles: The Path to Positive

This is an Urgent Matter of Public Health

Dr. Alex Hall and the Local Climate Reality

ecoAmerica and Translating the Message

Governance and Leadership

The Power of the People

Flanigan’s Eco-Logic: The Path to Positive

Made me a bit proud frankly. Brethren of Los Angelenos gather at the Cathedral of Our Lady of the Angels on Friday, November 6th to focus on climate change and mitigation, and to send a clear and deliberate signal to the Conference of Parties (COP-21) this December.
KCET Reporter Val Zavala warmly welcomes the group and talks about KCET’s partnership with Climate Resolve. The latter provides content for the KCET website. She popularizes climate change and mitigation beautifully. “We can start  here… even on a very personal level.”

The group was brought together by Jonathan Parfrey and his team at Climate Resolve, in partnership with ecoAmerica, the day was rich in participation, networking, learning, sharing, and motivating, with learned updates on the climate reality and mitigation progress. The day was also about sending a strong, broadly based, and cogent message in the form of a declaration to the COP in Paris.

It’s important to recognize Jonathan Parfrey in the LA climate equation. The gathering was a function of his inclusive style, his humble magnetism. Today he was appropriately recognized by many leaders in attendance.  Jonathan has a strong resume and a deep conviction. As Executive Director of Climate Resolve, his focus is on the local impacts of climate change and how to prepare, how to adapt, and how to demonstrate global leadership. Jonathan is a partner with EcoMotion in Climate Smart Schools. Hats of to him and to his team. The Cathedral was an apt setting for the day.
So why do we care, posited Jonathan: “We’re facing a sea change in the way that our natural world operates.” There will be human suffering.  We have a moral imperative, but there’s another side of this he explains. We also have an opportunity to make our city better. This is transformative. Right now, LA is the poster child of sprawl and smog. Imagine the multiple benefits of sustainability, such as better transit and a better quality of life.

Climate Day Los Angeles: The Path to Positive

This is an Urgent Matter of Public Health

The Path to Positive conference was sponsored by Dignity Health, a massive, nationwide health care provider. Linda McDonald was most eloquent. Environmental sustainability is now one of Dignity’s primary goals. ” We view climate change as a public health issue.”

She also spoke to the need for climate action to be especially attuned to the poor and underserved, those that suffer the consequences of environmental pollution and climate change the most. As the Pope said in his encyclical, the climate is a common good. Now “we are called upon to be the catalysts” of action.

Kevin DeLeon joined the gathering by video. He is passionate and clear about the profound role of government, and the state legislature in particular. He focuses on SB 350 that accelerates renewable energy goals, SB 535 that brings cap and trade to communities most impacted, and SB 767, an LA Metro bill to increase bikeways and electric buses. These are great steps toward global leadership. “What we do here matters, because the world is watching us closely.”

Dr. Alex Hall and the Local Climate Reality

The group begins by getting rooted in local fact, the science and local impact. UCLA’s Center for Climate Change is all about solutions. Its mission is explicit about practical use. Dr. Alex Hall of UCLA presented his research on downscaling climate models to show local impacts. He takes global models with coarse resolution down to neighborhood scale, a 1.2 mile resolution. His research shows variability within the region and certainly helps to start conversation about local mitigation and adaptation.

UCLA measures indicators such as temperature, heat days, and seasonal wildfire acreage, overlaid with business-as-usual (BAU) and aggressive mitigation scenarios. In the BAU, Hall says that we’ll see temperature rises of 4 – 5 degrees F by mid-century, and a doubling of “very hot days,” temperatures over 95F.  It will take until the end of the century for the mitigation scenario to reach a sustainable state.  BAU would increase temps by 7 – 9 degrees by the end of the century. “That’s a very different world” says Hall.

Five Major Sectors Need to Collaborate

Climate Day presented each sector’s values to the climate mitigation and adaptation amongst the sectors. For instance the faith community, “We’re people of faith world. There needs to be, and speakers pronounced that there will be collaboration amongst the sectors. For instance the faith community. We need to build the critical mass, to create a new normal. We need to translate climate change and action to the scriptural and biblical language. Action speaks across the board: The faith community must step up.”  catching the vision…. And we’re going to leave even more committed to be better stewards of the environment.

The health community spoke about asthma and local criteria pollutants. Many of the sickest people can’t afford to go to where the air is clean. They don’t have that luxury; many lack “the wealth of time” to leave work or family to attend a conference such as the Path to Positive. Children are the canaries in the mine of environmental damage.

Vice Chancellor Wendell Brase of the University of California at Irvine is full of hope. His campus has committed to a comprehensive 50% energy reduction and is very much on track. Brase reported that the goal was set because of a conviction; no one knew how it would be achieved. UCI partnered and got places with efficiency and solar and is now within 2% of its stretch goal.

Brase spoke proudly about the academic community’s “open-source” posture, allowing solutions to be replicated and scaled quickly. The professor was clear that it was on the academic sector and its community mission: “You should hear from us.”

Lauren Faber, Deputy Chief Sustainability Officer for the City of Los Angeles, was enthusiastic about the City’s new and first sustainability plan. It provides “an architecture for integration” and is complete with goals for energy, water, transit, etc. For water, the pLAn calls for a 20% reduction by 2017, now nearly achieved. The City is saving 3 billion gallons a year through toilet replacements, rain barrels, sprinkler timers, and more. The pLAn calls for more solar and 1,000 public EV charging stations by 2017… with nearly 700 already in place. Los Angeles is demonstrating leadership, and embraces its responsibility to share its solutions. The City’s massive street lighting change-out program has been shared with and replicated by cities across the country and around the world.

LA’s business community is also stepping up in a big way, finding great opportunities in the state and region’s eco-mandates. The City is hugely proud of t he LA Clean Tech incubator (LACI). Michael Swords speaks to its remarkable 4-year run, and its new 60,000 square foot center. Its new downtown center includes energy efficiency and smart grid labs, wet and dry labs, and CEO counseling for its green small businesses. Its own innovation and success is being recognized nationally and around the world. Its leadership council is its connective tissue. LACI already has satellite campuses in the Silicon Valley and Northridge. He has a good vantage point: Michael Swords spoke about the false choice between environment and economy.

Throughout the day there was a deliberate and refreshing sharing of viable solutions for local sustainability, from mass transit to drought-tolerant planting and rain barrels, to restoring ecosystems. During the breakout sessions, each sector had time in the group process to share and record practical solutions that can be implemented now. For instance, new forms of lighting systems feature “predictive path of travel,” turning on and off lighting intensities as you progress on a path. Digitized and computerized health care systems cut carbon with online patient records easily accessible by all doctors.

ecoAmerica and Translating the Message

Bob Perkowitz the executive director of ecoAmerica welcomed and enlightened us all. He focused on the positive. Last year, 60% of utility capacity was renewable. Just this morning, Obama’s announcement on Keystone. Earlier in the week, the nation’s largest utility, PG&E, threw its support behind the Clean Power Plan. We’ve decoupled growth and pollution. Thirty-nine major corporations – including Walmart and Starbucks — have pledged to be 100% powered with renewable energy. These are exciting developments.

“And look at the players,” noted Bob: The Pope, President Barack Obama, Governor Jerry Brown, and locally Mayor Eric Garcetti. That said, only 3% of Americans talk about climate change regularly. A whopping 74% talk about it only periodically. It is not front and center of popular thought and concern and action.

So now let’s get real on our global footprint, he implored. Only two-tenths of a percent of global GHG emissions come from LA. Our footprint is almost inconsequential. Right? Wrong. Everyone on the planet knows about LA. In terms of cultural leadership our influence is huge. How well we lead and make LA sustainable will have disproportionately large effects.

ecoAmerica offers perspectives and talking points on how to get people engaged. They are available for free online. Perkowitz noted that “Americans follow their tribes; they trust who they trust.” We need to work with their tribes – their churches, trade associations, clubs, neighborhoods – and we need to connect on common values to set the stage for awareness and action. “This is not about sacrifice”…. It’s about creating a new and better reality. (Later the faith-based group disagreed. This is about sacrifice. Faith can promote this, that the materialistic, gross consumption era on Earth must now be over.)

Perkowitz says we need to inspire younger participants trusted messengers, their heroes (actors musicians, athletes, etc.) Health professionals are trusted and thus uniquely poised to help with planetary healing. The medical process of “approach, diagnose, and treatment” must be applied to climate change and mitigation. The education sector is part and parcel of profound change, developing sustainable technologies, investigating new systems for a sustainable society.

Governance and Leadership

Former Deputy Mayor for Energy and the Environment, Romel Pascual presented his perspective, that, “LA is ready to come together, to collaborate, to have this conversation on climate.”  He explained that LA has a history working on environmental issues at the local level, notably cleaning the air. “LA is one of the best places on Earth.” And we have a lot of haters out there. We’re known for smog, traffic sprawl,… but we are surprisingly collaborative and poised for great success.

Pascual explained that we have a dynamic infrastructure that can enable great things: Los Angeles owns three of the largest companies in the world. LADWP is the largest municipal utility in country. The Port is massive, the Airport one of country’s busiest portals. He’d been to the Copenhagen COP, and at Rio +20… “We can shape what other cities do. LA is the model.”

And we learn from others too. Ciclavia was borrowed from Bogata. Now we have car-free days downtown. We have urban parks, “a party with a purpose.” We’re five years old in LA with 15 events under our belts so far. It’s all part of the new normal. We’re creating alternative transportation based on walking and biking and taking the train. “That’s different from my generation when all is knew was,” said Pascual, “I want that Corvette!”

Megan Sahli-Wells is a Culver City Councilmember with a passion and vision: “It’s not about the future, it’s today…. We need a deeper commitment…. As a leader I need to change my community and have a global impact. Culver City is home the largest urban oilfield in America.” Sahli-Wells is working to stop the local oil extraction, and to stop climate change at its source.

Hector De La Torre, State Assemblyman and CARB Board Member, noted that this issue has gone from being an environmental issue, to now being embraced by all sectors. “The climate issue is tied to the survival on the planet. Everybody needs to be part of it.”  Hector talks about his home community, South Gate, and the need for carefully crafted messaging. That means addressing immediate environmental issues such as diesel pollution. Most climate change messaging has not been effective for people who are trying to survive day to day.

Glendale Councilmember Laura Friedman was articulate, passionate, and drew great applause. She noted that “the importance of this is obvious to us… but it’s not so important to a lot of others out there.” She told a story of being at a conference in Asia and being affronted for her remarks about the need for transformation to a sustainable state. “How dare you Americans,” was what she heard loud and clear. How dare you, after your gluttonous ways, to tell us how to be sustainable.

Friedman speaks passionately about her own awakening and how “Our responsibility is so much greater…. Yes, given the history, we have to do much more than our share. We need to be the absolute leaders in every way… to take responsibility for what we have created.”

De La Torre brings us down to Earth. There will be opposition to our sustainability position. For instance, oil companies spent more money lobbying this past year in California than they did the year that they supported AB 23, the unsuccessful attempt to overturn AB 32 the Global Warming Solutions Act of 2006. People need to be engaged, and to stay attuned to the political process.  “The only thing that beats [oil company lobbying muscle] is real people, people who vote.”

The Power of the People

On Climate Day, over 600 participants came to express their collective support for action, to send a message from Southern California and Los Angeles. Participants were engaged and refined a declaration calling for deep commitments in Paris. The declaration represents each of the key sectors of society… faith, health, education, government, and business. Each sector and its participants a) refined the declaration’s preamble and b) crafted sector-specific language. Our voice of millions was unified.

Thanks to Jonathan Parfrey and his coalition building, Los Angeles is going to solve the climate mitigation puzzle, profitably, and with equity and justice for all. In Los Angeles there is a strong sustainability movement afoot. This is the local voice. At the end of the day it was reinforced with a group photo and great cheer. And we’ve only just begun.