By Susan Schwartz, Friends of Five Creeks
Looking at Hurricane Sandy’s catastrophic complex of storms, and the overwhelming scientific evidence for climate change, it has never been clearer that with regards to our environment, everything is connected to everything else. I mean this as a harsh reality of nature, not a heart-warming sentiment.
Friends of Five Creeks deals with streams, watersheds, and natural areas. But perhaps the best thing to do for these now is to stop dumping carbon dioxide, methane, nitrous oxide, and ozone into the air. Efforts to reduce pollution in the Bay and streams, restore habitat, and protect wild species could easily by swamped by rising sea levels, drought, floods, erosion, and ocean acidification, among other consequences of increases in these greenhouse gases.
Conversely, some of the most effective ways to mitigate these effects of climate change are to restore wetlands (lessening wave damage), protect habitat (both forests and prairies store carbon well), and slow urban runoff (lessening flood flows while reducing pollution).
I hope we will all take another hard look at how we can lessen our climate change “footprint.” For most of us, there are myriad remaining ways to do our share–from keeping tires inflated or eating less red meat to powering our homes with solar panels that also juice up electric cars.
But individual life-style changes alone will not halt climate change. Laws that lead to efficient and creative engineering are essential. In this sense, California’s cap-and-trade carbon exchange could be the year’s most important positive action for water and watersheds.
Also essential are national action and international cooperation. And with climate change low on agendas in most states, Washington DC, and most nations, it seems clear that citizen activism is needed. This might or might not follow forms developed for civil rights or anti-war activism. Letters and emails, support for compact development and transit, local purchase of clean power (community choice aggregation), pressure for stock divestment, boycotts, and demonstrations are on the table. Whatever you choose to do may seem trivial compared to the problem, and it will be very difficult to be sure that it’s the right thing. But it is essential that you do it.
Photos (from top): Stege marsh on the Richmond shoreline of SF Bay; students at Alice Fong Yu School collect water from a rainwater cistern to care for their vegetable garden; a volunteer plants a rush along Baxter creek to improve bank stability.