Joining the fight
Two local environmentalists bring Chico into the global movement against climate change
A few years ago, Jake Davis was search- ing for a higher purpose in life, something worth taking a stand for. The task of deciding which cause to pick up, however, proved a bit daunting.
“You have social injustice, climate change, Black Lives Matter and police brutality. There are so many problems in the world—I had to prioritize,” he said during a recent interview. “And I had to decide, ‘Do I want to go for the low-hanging fruit, something I can really make a difference with, or do I pick the scariest thing out there?’ And that’s climate change. I decided that’s the path I needed to go on.”
Now he’s helping to spearhead a new local chapter of 350.org, a group with a basis in grassroots campaigning whose focus is on the environment and climate change. It’s most recent efforts are focused on bringing attention to the upcoming U.N. Climate Change Conference to be held in Paris starting at the end of this month. The number 350, according to the group’s website, is significant because it represents the amount (in parts per million) of CO2 scientists say we need to reach. Today CO2 is at 400 ppm.
“I signed a lot of 350.org’s petitions online, and they put out a call [recently] and asked me if I would like to help get a local group together,” said Davis, who works by day as a groundskeeper and community gardener for the Sky Creek Dharma Center. Claire Hutkins Seda, a longtime champion of the environment (and sometimes contributor to this newspaper), heard about Davis’ desire to get involved and offered to co-create a local chapter of 350.org, dubbed Chico 350.
That was about 2 1/2 months ago, and since the first meeting, the group has grown from six to 25 at the most recent get-together. “It’s blossoming,” Davis said. With more than 85 followers on the group’s Facebook page, he’s optimistic for further growth.
“I’ve been really impressed by the response of the community,” Seda said by phone.
Environmental guru Bill McKibben co-founded 350.org in 2008 with the hopes of getting past the politics that seemed to be holding the world back from accepting climate change as a reality. It organized global events, including the People’s Climate March last September that amassed more than 300,000 people in the streets of New York City, in addition to smaller marches all over the world.
This year’s main event will be the Global Climate March, whose goal is to bring awareness to the U.N. Climate Change Conference. The Chico group, and those around the United States and all over the world, will hold local marches and rallies to highlight the importance of the international talks. Chico’s will be Nov. 28 starting at 11 a.m. at the Chico Certified Farmers’ Market and winding through the streets of downtown before landing at the City Plaza.
“One of the reasons we started the local group was to join all the other communities in the world that will simultaneously be holding marches,” Seda said. “At the same time we’re marching, there will be hundreds of thousands of people also marching all over the planet. That’s a really beautiful thing.”
There is concern that the recent terrorist attacks in Paris will put a halt to the massive march and demonstration planned there leading up to the talks.
“It will greatly take away from the movement’s visibility,” Davis said. “It’s really unfortunate.”
The 350.org website says the group is working with French authorities and is awaiting word regarding whether their planned activities in Paris will be allowed to go forward from a public safety standpoint. Regardless of whether the Paris demonstrations will occur, 350.org’s message is this: “The Global Climate March—a worldwide day of action scheduled for Nov. 28 and 29—will … proceed, no matter what. We can think of few better responses to violence and terror than this movement’s push for peace and hope.”
For Davis and Seda, organizing Chico 350 is about giving a voice to locals who are passionate about the environment and how the world deals with climate change. Many people care, Davis said, they just need direction.
“A lot of folks see that there’s an issue, but they don’t know what they can do beyond recycling and conserving water,” he said. “I don’t know how much an individual can do—real change takes money. We need our governments to invest in science, clean energy and leaving our fossil fuels in the ground. The most effective way to make change is by joining the movement, by adding your voice.
“This movement is about building this thing to a critical mass so that governments have to listen,” he added.
Seda agreed. From her viewpoint, the Chico community includes close to 90,000 people, all of whom have seen the effects of climate change first-hand in drops in air quality and an extended drought. Other communities of similar size have added their voice to the conversation, so why not Chico?
“Locally, I don’t think we’ve really come out to show our community and leaders how important climate change is. We’re the first people on the planet to see these changes first-hand, and we’re also the last generation to be able to do something about it effectively,” said Seda, who works as a writer and editor for the Migrant Clinicians’ Network. “People are craving a chance to do something meaningful. I’m happy we’re able to provide that chance.”