By Dr. Peter Andersen
It is with great sadness I report the death of environmental activist George Courser.
George was one of the San Diego community's leading conservation advocates, and he worked tirelessly on behalf of our environment. People would often describe George as warm, welcoming, tireless, open, kind, and collaborative, but those wonderful qualities did not prevent him from taking on cities, counties, and developers as a ferocious and unrelating champion for the environment.
George served as chair of the Sierra Club San Diego Conservation Committee, and held a half a dozen other Sierra Club leadership roles in San Diego and California. He led four successful lawsuits against a flawed Climate Action Plan for San Diego County, successfully led opposition to numerous major San Diego projects that circumvented the CEQA process, prevented sprawl housing developments, fought environmentally dangerous General Plan Amendments (GPAs), and helped in countless community environmental fights.
In additon, George founded the environmental justice committee for Sierra Club California and provided weekly newsfeeds at both the local level and state level. These actions protected some of the most vulernable Californians from environmental pollution and potential health impacts, and was an important part of the environmental movement's effort to diversify and welcome new advocates into important environmental coalitions.
As a result of George's relentless efforts on behalf of the environment, he was awarded the prestigious Sally and Les Reid Award for Conservation from Sierra Club California.
George's family has asked that gifts on his behalf be made to Sierra Club San Diego.
By Richard Ram
Due to several last-minute scheduling conflicts, our September club meeting has been moved to Wednesday, Sept. 29th, at 6:30 p.m. As always, our on-line check-in will begin at 6:15 p.m.
Join us on Zoom to hear our panel of special guest speakers discuss the Farm System Reform Act, as well as local efforts to mitigate the traffic and pollution impacts from development, along with reports on wildlife and climate action.
General club meetings are always open to both members and guests, but we encourage you to join if you're not a member, or two renew if your membership has lapsed. You coin or renew your membership at sdcdea.wildapricot.org.
Impacts of Industrial Agriculture
Over the last 50 years, our nation's agricultural system has transformed from one based primarily on smaller farms and pastures, to one increasingly consolidated under the control of titanic corporations like Smithfield, Tyson, Cargill, and Perdue. The emergence of Concentrated Animal Feeding Operations, or CAFOs (commonly referred to as "factory farms"), has brought 99 percent of farm animals in the U.S. – some 10 billion animals overall – under the hooves of these large-scale industrial agricultural facilities, whose focus is solely on producing the most products at the lowest cost.
With the decline of small farms that had maintained some connection with the animals and the land, we've seen the rise of horrific animal cruelty, resultant pollution in our waterways, and rural landscapes defiled by animal waste, increased Greenhouse Gas Emissions (GHGs), exploitation of factory workers, zoonotic diseases such as the avian and swine influenza viruses, and widespread blanket use of antibiotics and growth hormones.
The Farm System Reform Act
The Farm System Reform Act, introduced into the U.S. Senate by Senator Cory Booker (D-NJ), with co-sponsoring Senators Elizabeth Warren (D-MA) and Bernie Sanders (I-VT), and introduced in the House by Representative Ro Khanna of California (D–Fremont) would overhaul our broken agricultural system by moving us toward one that is more humane with higher standards for animal welfare, worker safety, and addressing industry consolidation and unfair practices – the first step being a moratorium on factory farms.
To better inform us and spark action on this critical legislation, our featured speaker will be Rebecca Wolf, senior organizer with Food and Water Watch, who will give a presentation on the impact of factory farms and the promise that this bill holds to put an end to dangerous practices that causes harm to our environment, animals kept in this system, farm workers, and consumers who are often kept in the dark about how their food is raised and what's in it.
Click here for a current list of organizations endorsing the Farm System Reform Act.
We'll also get a presentation on how local leaders are implementing measures designed to mitigate impacts of development upon traffic and pollution, discuss the outcome of the recall election, and updates on President Biden's broken pledge to protect wolves by maintaining a Trump administration decision keeping them off the Endangered Species List, the student strike for climate action, and the groundbreaking decision by the city of Berkeley to divest from animal agriculture.
See you there! Here's the Zoom link:
Meeting ID: 892 7975 3162
Plastic bottles and containers have become ubiquitous in our society. The plastics industry and our consumerist economy assure us that everything is okay--just put it into the recycling bin. But what's really happening with what we put into our recycling bins? Many of us are aware that the global recycling business has been turned upside down in recent years, as China, which had for decades taken in about half of the world's discarded recyclable materials, instituted a 2018 ban on the import of most plastics.
Since then, plastic waste has begun piling up like never before, and exporters of plastic recyclables are having a harder time finding countries willing to take them in. U.S. municipalities that used to see some net profit from recycling are now paying to get rid of all the waste. To get more insight and answers about all of this, we'll hear from Nicole Kurian, policy analyst with Californians Against Waste. She will present to our club about the California Recycling and Plastic Pollution Reduction Act that will appear on ballots in November 2022, and other items of pending legislation in Sacramento to attack the problem of all this waste.
We'll also get updates on the pollution in the Tijuana River Valley, our board's opposition to a problematic large solar farm proposed for the area near Jacumba Hot Springs, and about how you can get involved with local efforts to defeat the recall and stop an extreme anti-environmentalist Republican takeover of the governor's office.
The meeting will be on Zoom with check-in beginning at 6:15 PM; we'll come to order at 6:30 PM
>>>Zoom link: https://us02web.zoom.us/j/86870364786?pwd=bUNRRzEwRy9pcUlIbXE1RXpra3g4UT09
Meeting ID: 868 7036 4786
Say you're "going" on Facebook!
At our executive board's most recent meeting, we reviewed the proposed JVR Energy Park, a massive 650-acre solar farm that would nearly surround Jacumba Hot Springs, an unincorporated border community in the Mountain Empire of far southeastern San Diego County. In consideration of the immediate harm this project would do to sensitive habitats and a wildlife corridor, as well as the negative impacts on the local community, our board voted unanimously to oppose this project.
We have submitted a letter opposing this project to each of the county supervisors in advance of the vote scheduled to take place at the County Board of Supervisors meeting this Wednesday, Aug. 18. We're re-publishing this as an open letter for our members and the general public; click here to view our letter.
The club's executive board opposes the project for a variety of reasons. As environmental activists and advocates we recognize the incredibly critical importance of building new clean power infrastructure, but we cannot in good conscience recommend the approval of this project as proposed.
It would have significant negative environmental consequences for air quality; biological resources; cultural resources, and more, including disrupting a wildlife migration corridor. In addition, aside from small cash payouts to specific local groups, there would be little benefit provided to the community of Jacumba. None of the power generated on site at the JVR facility will supply the local community.
We urge you to take part in this public hearing and express your concerns as well. It begins at 9:00 a.m. at the County Administration Center, 1600 Pacific Highway, Room 310.
Click here for the meeting agenda; Item #1 is Noticed Public Hearing: JVR Energy Park Major Use Permit.
Click here to submit an e-comment on Agenda Item #1
The project has received the recommendation of the San Diego County Planning Commission on a 5-2 vote (Planning Commissioner and SDCDEA founding president Tommy Hough spoke in opposition to the project).
As San Diego County commits to meeting climate action goals, we must focus on how we achieve those goals. We cannot set the dangerous precedent of ignoring both environmental and community concerns when expanding our clean power infrastructure.
SDCDEA Advocates Against CA Recall at San Diego County Green New Deal Alliance "Celebration for Climate, Jobs, and Justice"
It was great seeing many of you at Balboa Park this past Saturday for the San Diego Green New Deal Alliance "Celebration For Climate, Jobs & Justice" event. So many groups were present: among them, San Diego 350, Climate Mobilization San Diego, Extinction Rebellion San Diego, and San Diego Coastkeeper, as well as many representatives of labor, education, city services, housing, and community activist groups. We'd like to thank our own past and present board members Maleeka Marsden and Galena Robertson of Climate Action Campaign for taking the lead on putting this event together, and to all those who volunteered their time and efforts to make this happen.
And much appreciation for the United Women’s East African Support Team (UWEAST) who provided the delicious vegan and vegetarian Ethiopian food, and Mar & Mur for providing a bounty of incredible cookies!
In this bleak setting of the IPCC's Sixth Assessment Report delivering a "Code Red For Humanity" warning, mass extinction of species, and growing economic inequality our local alliance delivers a sense of hope--when we come together with those of common dreams and concerns, we find that we are ready to meet the challenges ahead. A more sustainable and equitable San Diego for the next generation is possible, but only if when we work together to overcome the obstacles and demand what is right.
Democrats for Environmental Action Board Condemns Padre Dam Water Shut-Off Decision
FOR IMMEDIATE RELEASE
Despite record-breaking heat waves in the western U.S. brought on by worsening impacts of the climate crisis, the Padre Dam Municipal Water District has voted to reinstate late fees and water shutoffs for delinquent customers, many of whom are only just beginning to recover from the COVID-19 pandemic. The decision puts countless East County residents at risk of being without water during an extraordinary, and deadly, crisis of heat and drought.
On Saturday, the executive board of San Diego Democrats for Environmental Action (SDCDEA) called on the Padre Dam Municipal Water District to reverse course, agreeing the decision is exacerbating a growing environmental and social justice issue. Several SDCDEA board members called the Padre Dam Water District decision "callous."
It's unconscionable that four of the Padre Dam board members would think it's a good idea to reimpose late fees, and even worse, water shut-off measures at a time when East County residents face life-threatening temperatures," said Cody Petterson, outgoing president of San Diego Democrats for Environment Action. "With this action the board has made it abundantly clear how little regard they have for the people and communities they represent."
Like other water districts throughout California, the Padre Dam Municipal Water District had suspended late fees and water shutoffs for non-payment during the COVID-19 pandemic.
But on a 4-1 vote earlier this month, taken at the height of a punishing heat wave and persistent drought, the district's board elected to resume late fees and discontinue water service for residents who have not paid their bills. Padre Dam Director Suzanne Till was the lone vote in opposition.
Till said in the July 15th issue of the San Diego Union-Tribune, "I don't want families worrying about water during the hottest part of the year, which is August and September." Till had previously asked the board to hold off on reinstating late fees and shut-offs at least until school resumes, where children have access to water and air conditioning.
The majority of the board, however, placed greater importance on recouping some of the $528,000 in outstanding monies owed from past due accounts, despite California Governor Gavin Newsom's recent announcement the state is making $2 billion in assistance available for past-due water and utility bills.
Padre Dam Municipal Water District, which serves Santee, Alpine, Crest, and other East County communities, will resume charging late fees on unpaid utility bills as of Aug. 1. The district has also indicated it will resume water shutoffs for non-payment beginning Oct. 1, thereby setting the stage for an environmental justice conflict in an area of the county home to many residents and farmers struggling economically due to COVID-19 pandemic.
East County resident Bonnie Price, who e-mailed the board to urge its members not to reimpose late fees and water shut-off measures, says the district could better use its resources to connect residents with the utility bill relief offered by the state, and perhaps assist residents in completing the required paperwork to access state funds.
"It's the hottest time of the year. You can't have people worrying about water," said Price, who does not live within the Padre Dam Water District. "The board simply kept saying, 'We run a business here. This is a business. We can't allow people to get away with not paying bills.' It was patently obvious they're not concerned about the people they represent."
Chartered in 2014, San Diego County Democrats for Environmental Action seek to foster active interest in the Democratic Party, encourage greater support of the California Democratic Party environmental platform, contribute to party leadership and responsibility, provide a constructive role for volunteers in Democratic politics, promote an activist base, and assist and enable Democratic candidates to run for office and win on environmental and conservation principles.
The Passing of the Torch
By Richard Ram
At our club's executive board retreat this past weekend, I was selected by my peers to serve as the interim president of San Diego County Democrats For Environmental Action. I'd like to thank my fellow board members for their confidence in me, and their commitment to working with me in the ongoing process of building our club into a powerhouse of passionate advocacy for environmental issues, and their commitment to working with Democratic candidates and elected officials who will champion those causes.
I would like to also recognize and thank our immediate past president Cody Petterson for his tireless dedication in organizing our club meetings, doing the critical outreach to elected officials and allied organizations, and exemplifying service and leadership in ways that far too often have gone unnoticed.
If you've not gotten to know me, I've been a member of the club since 2015 and began my service on the executive board in 2016 – first as director of communications, and more recently as the club's V.P. for programs and outreach.
My youth was spent in Bakersfield, California, in the southern San Joaquin Valley, where I became acutely aware of the public health impacts of pollution from the surrounding oil fields and refineries, and the devastating cancer clusters that arose among children of farm worker families living near fields where they were exposed to widespread spraying of pesticides. I saw that these industries gave heavily to local Republican politicians who were completely indifferent to issues of environmental justice and the trashing of our planet, even as the residents of their districts were getting sick and dying.
As I evolved into an environmentally-concerned citizen and advocate, I also became aware of how much the meat and dairy industries pollute our air and waterways, contribute heavy amounts of greenhouse gases, inflict unspeakable violence and suffering within the walls of factory farms, and use the government to lobby for ever-increasing consumption of their products by a population where the top causes of death and medical expenses are from degenerative diet-related diseases. I've been a vegetarian since 1991 and vegan since 2012, and you will often hear me speak on issues related to animals and humane legislation.
While I've been a frequent contributor and member of various environmental and social justice organizations over the years, my first foray into any political organization was with the formation of a local San Diego group supporting former Vermont governor and presidential candidate Howard Dean in 2003. This was motivated by my disgust with the Bush-Cheney regime's determined, and ultimately unpopular, unilateral war in Iraq, and Dean being (at the time) the only candidate with any momentum speaking out against the war.
I continued attending joint meetings of Democracy for America (DFA) and Progressive Democrats of America (PDA) for several years, where I first got to know many of the members involved with this club. I'm a graduate of San Diego State University with a degree in communication, I work in government services assisting our public, and I live in the Serra Mesa neighborhood of San Diego in a home I share with my wife, daughter, and cat.
The challenges ahead are many, and we will all need to work together to address and fight for the myriad of issues we care about – in the face of special interest lobbyists and "friendly fire" often coming from our own side of the trench. With our team of energized board members and your committed involvement, I'm certain we will be able to grow and diversify our club's membership, further educate and propagate on important issues affecting our planet and its inhabitants, support committed environmentalists in getting elected to office, and continue living up to the "Action" in our club's name.
San Diego Pride photo by Maria Cerda.
Georgette Gómez photo by Roberto Torres.
This Wednesday's San Diego County Democrats for Environmental Action general membership meeting will include an update from Encinitas Mayor Catherine Blakespear, who serves as the Chair of SANDAG, and a panel discussion on the future of the San Diego regional food system.
As SANDAG chair, Mayor Blakespear has navigated an often challenging course at the nexus between coastal and environmental protection, climate action, housing, and transit. We'll hear about the environmental work that has occupied her since her last visit to the club, and the challenging road ahead.
And while the COVID-19 pandemic has exposed and exacerbated the deep inequities, inefficiencies, and disarticulations of our regional food system, it has also provided a renewed impetus to collaborate to improve the quality, equity, and sustainability of food in our region.
Joining us for a discussion on the challenges facing the many segments of our food system, and the most promising opportunities for transformation, are:
Executive Director of the San Diego Food System Alliance
Elly has led the development of San Diego County Food Vision 2030, released early this month, which lays out a bold plan for transforming our regional food system around matters of equity, sustainability, and resilience.
Co-Founder of Solidarity Farm and the Foodshed
Solidarity Farm is a regional leader in regenerative farming, agricultural carbon sequestration, food aggregation and distribution, and youth and student engagement.
General Manager at Ponce's, Board Member at San Diego Business for Good, National Strategy Director for RAISE High Road Restaurants
Mikey is a long-time friend of the San Diego County Democrats for Environmental Action (Ponce's hosted out first three club anniversary events) and one of the region's foremost advocates for local food sourcing and rights and dignity of restaurant workers.
Director of Nutrition Services at Sweetwater Union High School District
Eric has been pioneering transformative approaches to integrating schools with local farms and communities, and ensuring fresh, high quality, locally sourced meals for Sweetwater Union's students, many of whom face challenges of poverty, housing insecurity, and discrimination, and are disproportionately dependent on the district's food services.
Our meeting will come to order at 6:30 p.m. You can access the Zoom link here.
Click here for the Facebook event page for Wednesday's meeting.
By Cody Petterson
So, we did a thing today. The San Diego County Board of Supervisors voted unanimously to develop a Regional Sustainability Plan to help achieve the most ambitious climate action goal of any jurisdiction in the state of California: zero carbon by 2035.
I won't even try to thank each of the thousands of people who made this happen — you know who you are — but I want to specifically thank the hundreds of people who submitted comments or showed up today and spoke. Thank you above all to Supervisor Terra Lawson-Remer and Vice Chair Nora Vargas for authoring the board letters, to Chair Nathan Fletcher
for opening the breach, to Supervisors Anderson and Desmond for their support, to county staff, to our incredible District 3 team, and to our District 1 and 4 counterparts. Thank you to the voters of San Diego for casting their votes for a new direction for our county and our communities.
I'm thankful above all for the opportunity to have a small hand in mending the fabric. To watch my kids playing outside, in their innocence, and be given the chance to repair their world. There will be days of sadness, frustration, anger, humiliation. Days when we're alone.
But not today. Today we were together, happy, tired, mending.
Photo by Bruce Bekkar
By Cody Petterson
It is right that we celebrate today. That we set aside our worries, disappointments, and reservations, and celebrate our deliverance.
Tomorrow, however, as we survey the wreckage left by the Trump Administration and begin to imagine how we will rebuild, and how exhausting and difficult that task will be, we should remember that the contradictions that fueled Trumpism remain — deep in our society and economy — and that they will continue to destabilize our nation until we have faced them and resolved them.
The San Diego County Democrats for Environmental Action, as our name suggests, is dedicated to one thing above all: environmental action. But the calamity that Americans brought upon themselves these last four years has reinforced a powerful lesson: we will not save our open spaces, our biodiversity, our climate, without saving our communities.
The only thing that returns nations to equilibrium is movement. The only thing that will meet and overcome the fossil fuel industry, the sprawl development industry, the arms industry, Wall Street — in short the enemies of life on earth — is movement. The only thing that will defeat our own personal and collective inertia and complacency is movement.
And by "movement" I do not mean small groups of disaffected, self-satisfied loners, isolated from and disdainful of their neighbors and co-workers and communities. I mean movement that emerges from the concrete, lived experience of a people. To the extent that we, as activists, organizers, and advocates, can foster movement, it is through active, intimate, intentional participation in the life of our communities. Movement has no roots. It borrows our roots for its nourishment. And by "roots" I mean relationships. And by "relationships" I mean full, loving, helping, understanding, time- and energy-consuming relationships.
There is no climate movement. There's not even an environmental movement, just as there are not, properly speaking, "environmental" relationships. We can no longer fight to save a canyon or a species, or stop a pipeline or a wall, and then go home to the opportunities, and advantages, and assets we have hoarded. We cannot stand against an environmental injustice with communities of color or of concern, or with our Indigenous sisters and brothers, and then let them return to their poverty and we to our prosperity.
The natural system will not return to some semblance of equilibrium so long as our human communities are out of equilibrium. And human communities—our nation—will not return to equilibrium without equality. To the racial inequality that has always plagued us, we have added an increasingly obscene and insurmountable inequality of wealth and income. We have a government committed, above all else, to protecting and increasing the wealth of the wealthy. A government that over the last half century has facilitated the expropriation of half the wealth of middle-income families and its redistribution to the wealthy. Not only can that not continue, it cannot stand.
We will fulfill this nation's promise of equality, or we will suffer more, and more competent, Trumps. And destroy our habitat, and biodiversity, and planet in the process.
Today is not a perfect day, but it is good day. It is certainly a day worthy of celebration. After the curse of the last four years, and in spite of the hard years ahead, it is a blessing.
Photo by Tommy Hough
The blog component of San Diego County Democrats for Environmental Action welcomes content from SDCDEA members, guests and leadership.