A renewable future

Chico groups launch Climate Action Plan update on the heels of Bernie Sanders’ visit and his national policy rollout

Hundreds of supporters filled the Chico Masonic Family Center last Thursday (Aug. 22) to hear presidential candidate Bernie Sanders unveil his climate plan.

Hundreds of supporters filled the Chico Masonic Family Center last Thursday (Aug. 22) to hear presidential candidate Bernie Sanders unveil his climate plan.


Steve Breedlove wants humanity to thrive.

A father of two young children and member of the Chico chapter of the Democratic Socialists of America, Breedlove says thriving means leading meaningful, dignified lives. Everyone’s medical needs would be met, and living would mean being surrounded by community, music, art and literature.

But that vision is predicated on humanity’s survival, and that means addressing climate change, he said.

“We’re running into the wall of ecological limits,” Breedlove said. “Industrial civilization is not sustainable, and so we have to figure out how to create … an ecological society rather than an industrial society. I’m saying an ecological civilization.”

Breedlove was speaking to roughly 50 other ecologically minded residents gathered Tuesday (Aug. 27) at the CARD Community Center for a listening and brainstorming session to inform an update of the city of Chico’s Climate Action Plan. The event came on the heels of Sen. Bernie Sanders’ visit to Paradise and Chico last Thursday (Aug. 22), when the presidential candidate rolled out details of his $16 trillion plan to combat climate change.

The effort on the local front was organized by the Butte Environmental Council and members of the city’s Sustainability Task Force, who warned of an impending climate disaster in the next decade in the absence of action.

Participants offered their ideas for meeting goals of reducing the city’s greenhouse gas emissions to 40 percent below 1990 levels by 2030 and 80 percent below 1990 levels by 2050. Those ideas included promoting alternative modes of transportation, increasing urban density and requiring more energy-efficient homes, to name a few. Suggestions also included ways to pay for mitigation measures, such as rethinking the city budget and taking advantage of state and federal funding.

Breaking into groups, people spoke of the need for city officials to confront climate change with the same fervor they displayed while addressing the city’s financial crisis following the Great Recession. The climate crisis is an emergency, they said, and it should be treated as one.

May Kay Benson, a longtime activist and member of Chico 350, said more climate-driven disasters like the Camp Fire could happen locally without action. The blaze, she said, made real what some may have thought was an abstract idea. Combating climate change, she said, requires a multifaceted approach, but she sees hope on the horizon—especially in the form of younger generations organizing and demanding change.

Mark Stemen, a professor of geography and planning at Chico State and member of the city’s Sustainability Task Force, said he is hopeful that goals can be met to avert disaster. There are signs that change can come quickly in Chico, such as the city and county forming a joint powers authority to purchase and sell energy based on the needs of their residents—a community choice aggregation (CCA), as it’s known (see “Power to the people,” Newslines, July 11). A CCA would mean the city could potentially achieve using 100 percent renewable electricity by 2025.

“It’d take an emergency-level action, but it’s doable,” Stemen told the CN&R. “I think the thing that most people fear isn’t that we can do it technologically, but can we do it politically and culturally. The barriers are no longer technological, and they’re not really even economic. This stuff’s cheaper. It’s social, cultural—making those changes. And humans can change pretty damn quick if given the opportunity.”

Stemen was one of several speakers at a rally held last Thursday (Aug. 22) by Sanders at the Chico Masonic Family Center, which held hundreds of supporters and reached capacity. There, Sanders described his “shocking” and “sobering” experience touring Paradise earlier that day.

“The purpose of being here today is to kind of learn a little bit more of what went on here, but most importantly … to make sure that the people of our country understand that President Trump is wrong, wrong, wrong when he believes that climate change is a hoax,” the senator said.

Sanders called human-caused climate change an existential threat to which inaction would cost $69 trillion across the world and lead to more than 250,000 annual deaths worldwide. The senator from Vermont said his $16 trillion plan aims to achieve 100 percent renewable energy by 2030 and decarbonization by 2050. His plan calls for the creation of upward of 20 million jobs, a prohibition on fracking, and the end of fossil-fuel extraction on public lands.

Sanders, who held a rally in Sacramento later that day, said addressing climate change is a global task. Without action, he said, wildfires will become more severe, droughts more frequent, disease and death more prevalent.

“As we look out at the destruction here in Paradise and in the pain that this community and other communities around the country have experienced as a result of climate change, we know that we cannot allow the greed of fossil-fuel billionaires to destroy our planet and our children’s future for one second longer,” Sanders said. “So, to the fossil fuel industry, we want to work with you. We want to make this transition as quick and as painless as we possibly can. But this transition is coming whether you like it or not.”