On Thursday morning of last week, with just four days left of their summer vacation, West High School Seniors, Maddy Gilmartin and Jesse Padilla, joined South Bay 350 Climate Action Group Organizer, Joe Galliani, to sit down with their 66th Assembly District representative, David Hadley’s staff members, and talk about the most significant climate legislation ever offered by a state. Jesse, Joe and Maddy have a sense of urgency about responding to climate change.
Maddy and Jesse were attending their very first meeting at an elected representative’s office and this was their first time volunteering to help get bills they believed in passed. They knew that Assemblymember Hadley is a Republican, is considered unlikely to vote for the bills and generally supports the Western States Petroleum Association pro-fossil fuel positions. But they had done their research and were prepared to hold their own. And that they did in a one-hour long, cordial discussion with Hadley staffers, Sarah and Brandon.
We started our meeting by bringing that morning’s news to the table. That very day’s story in the LA Times said,
Steve Nerem, a scientist at the University of Colorado, Boulder, said that about one-third of the rising sea level is a result of the ocean expanding as it absorbs heat trapped by greenhouse gases and becomes warmer. Another third comes from melting glaciers, and the rest comes from the melting of enormous ice sheets in Greenland and Antarctica.
We didn’t need to read that day’s paper to know what’s happening and neither do the members of the California State Assembly or Senate since the nonpartisan Little Hover Commission told them in no uncertain terms just last year:
Dear Governor and Members of the Legislature:
The ongoing efforts of national governments throughout the world to reduce carbon emissions that contribute to a warming climate have fallen short. We are beginning to see the initial effects of that warming. Climate specialists in California’s research universities and state agencies consistently project now a new environmental reality: a rising Pacific Ocean along 1,100 miles of shoreline, irregular precipitation that includes downpours and drought, higher temperatures, larger, more destructive wildfires and diminishing snowfalls in the high country.
These are among the strongest reasons we were there to support SB 350, which will jumpstart innovation and investment in a sustainable California by setting the following goals for 2030:
– a 50% reduction in petroleum use
– 50% of our state’s utility power coming from renewable energy
– a 50% increase in energy efficiency in existing buildings.
Maddy and Jesse countered pushback on their support of SB 185, the Values and Responsibility in investing bill which would require our state’s pension funds to divest from its holdings in coal. CalPERS/STRS are the country’s largest public pension fund and last year they lost $840 million on their coal investments. Even worse, scientists have now proven that pollution from coal burned in Asia blows back over the ocean and pollutes the air in California. So we said it was time to halt investments in this dirty energy source.
Assemblymember Hadley’s staff felt that investments in the pension funds should not take environmental concerns into account and felt that SB 185 politicized the returns of retirees. When we explained that divesting from fossil fuels was not only financially prudent but morally and ethically required, we were surprised that they had never heard of the divestment movement that ended Apartheid in the 80s, upon which this divestment initiative is based.
When Brandon and Sarah told our Youth Leaders that they didn’t want to vote for ambitious climate goals that have no roadmap or plan to meet the goals, Maddy and Jesse were happy to tell them that there is a plan and it was created by Stanford Professor, Mark Jacobson. It’s called The Solutions Project and we were very happy to both introduce its existence to our Assembly representative, and also send them followup information on all the details.
We were happy to hear Brandon and Sarah tell us that Assemblyman Hadley is an environmentalist and that they have more common ground with us then we might suspect. With Maddy and Jesse’s livable future at stake, they will be expecting all environmentalists to respond to climate change with urgent action now. They will be very closely watching how their Assembly representative votes and what he says about that vote.
So will I.
Joe Galliani, Organizer