Bay Area Civic Leaders Engage on Green Energy

Earth Day Network’s “Global Day of Conversation” campaign encourages local communities to engage in conversations about clean energy, green schools, locally grown food, green jobs and creating action plans to reduce their community’s carbon footprint.

One such conversation took place in the San Francisco Bay Area a few days ago, on the seventh floor of an Oakland, CA, office building on a day when radiation leaked from a tsunami-damaged nuclear power plant in Japan and extreme weather patterns dumped hail over much of northern California.  Some 200 environmental activists, business entrepreneurs, small city mayors, educators, union reps and non-profit founders gathered for a day-long talk about “clean power, healthy communities.”

“This is about adaptation and resilience,” said Aaron Lehmer, an organizer with the event organizer from a local non-profit Bay Localize.  “We need to adapt to an energy future that is resilient enough to withstand climate change and extreme weather systems and recognizes that fossil fuels are becoming increasingly scarce.” 

People talked about how current events – from state governments grappling with huge deficits to heartbreaking tragedy and nuclear meltdowns overseas and Middle Eastern conflicts causing oil prices to soar – remind us that big centralized fossil fuel-burning power stations and transportation systems are not the future.  Rather, as event facilitator Al Weinrub, of the Local Clean Energy Alliance, reminded them, “community-based, decentralized clean energy” is the mantra of choice.

 Speakers recounted the strides toward that energy future being made in the Bay Area, despite some well-financed opposition.  Gayle McLaughlin, mayor of the hard-scrabble city of Richmond, CA, recounted how her city managed to prevent Big Oil, aka Chevron Corp., from expanding its refinery operation there.  Instead, Richmond has become known as the city with more solar kilowatt hours installed per capita than any other Bay Area city and as the home of an internationally famous green jobs training program, Solar Richmond.  “When we talk about community power, it also means community empowerment,” she said.

Across the Bay from Richmond in Marin County, just north of San Francisco, residents and local officials have also created their own renewable energy utility, Marin Clean Energy, offering an alternative source of electricity to the dominant investor-owned utility in northern California. 

None of this has been easy, as opposition to alternative energy generation is trying to sway the California legislature to delay implementation of the state’s landmark Global Warming Solutions Act and thwart fulfillment of the Act’s goals.  Recession has ravaged this state and taken some momentum out of green businesses and green transportation initiatives.

A Global Day of Conversation can get a community back on track, marshalling the resources and collective will needed to pursue green, earth-healing goals. Create a Global Day of Conversation event in your community!  Click here to find out how.