It’s so easy these days to get either distracted or depressed by the daily barrage of orange madness raining down on us, ranging in significance from hopelessly vapid to humanly atrocious. Coupled with what seems to be an ever sprawling and accelerating onslaught of social media on our senses, an almost instinctive reaction I witness in myself as well as many of my friends is to want to hide in our cocoons and withdraw from public discussion of important issues altogether. What good is another deep dive into the ignorant policy manifestations of a deranged mind when all it does is get your blood boiling?
Whenever I get into this space I remind myself that the temptation to check out because of the perceived futility of it all existed long before the current occupant of the White House and his wrecking crew slithered onto the scene, and will continue to be beckoning long after they’re gone.
Just take climate change, an issue so complex, protracted, and wrought with dynamics ostensibly out of my own hands that it had me flirting with despair long before the Chinese-hoax barker ever got to appoint shady climate deniers and coal-industry lobbyists as EPA chiefs. And while there’s no denying that the current (mal)administration represents a new nadir in its brazen nihilism towards all things human and vibrant and alive — at least in my 30+ years in this country — it is also true that a lot of the current disasters like the burning Amazon forests, record heat waves across the globe, and a melting arctic full of microplastics aren’t easily pinned on just one bad actor.
The good news in all this, if any, is that for those of us who refused to stick our heads in the sand before the orange hot air balloon started to stink up the place, there really is no good reason to do so now. The structural challenges to curbing global carbon emissions to where future (and at this point in the game, current) generations will have a fighting chance at life on a habitable planet were always going to be daunting, ever since we (and the fossil fuel industry) have known the trajectory we’re on.
So while the spiteful buffoonery of bailing from the Paris Climate Agreement or sabotaging Obama’s fuel economy standards is undoubtedly a major setback on the road to progress, it doesn’t really change the task at hand. In fact, if there’s anything this moment in history teaches us, it’s that the need for action towards systemic change has never been more urgent. Immediate, concrete and strategic action in service of big picture transformation, I’ve found, is not only what the battered planet needs from us, but it’s also the antidote to the frustration-induced inertia beckoning with each new outrage du jour.
It’s why I decided to volunteer this year with 350 Bay Area Action, the branch of 350 Bay Area that tracks and advocates for meaningful climate bills passing through the California state legislature each year. As we all know, things that happen in California eventually catch on across the country (or alternately, block federal overreach), so your personal impact of getting involved in the sausage making of state legislation is instantly multiplied by a factor of 50.
As part of the communications team (I post and update the latest action items, action toolkit, and letter templates on the legislative page) I get to amplify and carry to fruition the work of the many amazing volunteers who have been tracking bills as they get changed and amended (current list of priority bills here). A few of these bills have now passed muster, and with just a couple of weeks left till the end of this year’s legislative session (California Legislature comes to an end September 12!) there is a mad scramble underway to push them over the finish line, i.e. get them passed through both the Assembly and Senate before getting signed by the Governor.
Right now there are three bills that need immediate help from YOU:
- SB 54 & AB 1080 to reduce single-use plastic packaging and products. The SB54 & AB1080 companion bills require manufacturers and retailers in California to reduce single-use plastic packaging and products by 75 percent by 2030. After 2030, all single-use plastics sold in the state would need to be compostable or recyclable, making plastic resale value sufficient enough to be economically worth recycling.
- SB 210 to require trucks to pass smog tests. SB210 requires the state Air Resources Board to develop a smog check program for heavy trucks similar to the program that has existed for decades for cars and light trucks. This is a critical air pollution control bill, climate bill (reduces emissions and black carbon) and an important environmental justice bill to protect communities with disproportionate exposure to truck emissions.
- SB 1 to protect California environmental standards from Trump’s rollback of federal laws. SB 1 would make current federal clean air, climate, clean water, worker safety, and endangered species standards enforceable under state law, even if the federal government rolls back and weakens those standards, as he has already attempted to do with the Endangered Species Act.
We need ALL OF US to help push these critical bills over the finish line! The best way to do that is to call, send a letter, or tag your state representatives TODAY!
To call your rep, check out the 350 Bay Area Action toolkit.
To send a letter, all you have to do is go to the following links, provide your name and address, and hit submit, and the letter is on its way to your Assembly member and Senator (SB1 coming soon, check for updates here).
FB, tweet or otherwise tag your reps (mine in SF are @Scott_Wiener & @DavidChiu, find yours in the toolkit) with the following sample tweets:
SB54 & AB1080
I’m proud to support #SB54 + #AB1080. If they pass, California has a huge opportunity to dramatically reduce single-use plastics by 2030. Call your state representatives, tell them to vote YES on both! #YesonSB54 #YesonAB1080 @350BAA #CAMustLead #CloseTheLoopCA
California lawmakers should implement a smog check program for heavy duty trucks & buses like we already have for cars… Pass the test or get off the road. The state’s air quality and the health of our residents are at stake #SB210 #YesonSB210 #CAMustLead @350BAA
Resist #Trump and keep our air, water, and wildlife clean and protected! Tell the CA State Assembly and @GavinNewsom to support SB 1! #SB1 #SupportSB1 #endangeredspecies @SenToniAtkins @GavinNewsom @350BAA
There are more fun action items in the toolkit but these are some quick and simple steps that will have a huge impact.
Watching Greta Thunberg sail into New York City as I’m writing these lines serves as a perfect inspiration to recommit myself to the small acts of change that can ripple out and magnify in scope yet unknown to me. It reminds me of a quote by Vaclav Havel that I’ve always come back to, especially in times of doubt and inadequacy:
“Hope is not the conviction that something will turn out well but the certainty that something makes sense, regardless of how it turns out.”
Cover photo by Timothy Minezaki