By Kevin Hall
To combat climate change in the San Joaquin Valley, its political climate must change, too. I’ve spent nearly 20 years trying to do just that through a variety of methods: environmental advocacy, community organizing, labor organizing and political consulting.
The process has been educational, to say the least. Through a variety of volunteer positions, paid employment and myriad campaigns, I have taken deep dives into the environmental movement, education, healthcare, government, nonprofits, politics and organized labor. Previously I worked for 13 years as a farm reporter and farm equipment show promoter, a deep dive into agriculture that ended abruptly in the summer of 1999.
Our son was seven years old at the time, and one night while out at a local bookstore my wife, Anne Mosgrove, picked up a new title by 350.org founder Bill McKibben, Maybe One: A Case for Smaller Families. It was about climate change, and it changed our lives.
As the parents of a child with the likelihood of living past the year 2070, the book filled us with a deep, painful fear for his future survival. We already knew we weren’t going to have a second child, but had we been irresponsible in having the one?
Every decade since 1990 that has passed without significant reductions in greenhouse gas emissions has been another bullet in the six-shooter of a worldwide game of Russian roulette. Those chambers are now half-full.
Think of it this way. Every baby or toddler you see, given a healthy life, should live to see the year 2100. The climate models past the year 2050 presage societal upheaval from climate chaos worse than all the wars of the 20th century combined. It’s already happening, of course. The Valley is seeing a flood of climate refugees from around the world. Our forests are dying. Corporations mine our groundwater and pollute our air to grow ingredient items for junk food.
Yet the political leaders of the Valley behave as if nothing has changed and that the politics of the past are still appropriate. From the corrupt to the compromised, the narcissists to the racists, they continue to enable the exploitation of people and natural resources as they serve those who finance their campaigns while always seeking to avoid political controversy. In the words of Samantha Bee, they’re feckless.
I think we can change that. We have to. The next 10 years are, in my opinion, our last chance to turn things around. But where does one start? It’s an overwhelming prospect.
Well, we have a valley-wide government body responsible for reducing air pollution and greenhouse gas emissions, the San Joaquin Valley Air Pollution Control District, and it is as bad as they come. Its governing board members are drawn from the Valley’s eight-county boards of supervisors and five cities. Community Alliance contributor Tom Frantz does a spectacular job of reporting on their misdeeds and short-sightedness.
Valley Climate, a new online advocacy organization being founded this month by me and our now adult son, Joey Hall, seeks to address the political climate of the local boards and councils from which air district members are drawn. And you can help. Simply send us news of your county board or city council that you feel highlights the mindset that drives the problem. All subjects are pertinent because they’re all indicators of our political climate.
Together, let’s build a network of political accountability that shines a big, bright light on institutional racism, poverty-inducing decisions, and the rising militarization of police forces throughout the Valley. And, yes, those three items are a conscious rephrasing of Rev. Dr. Martin Luther King’s three priorities of racism, poverty and militarism.
Reach out to us on social media and share your observations. We’re on Facebook and Twitter (@SJValleyClimate), and our Web site is valleyclimate.org. If your organization would like a presentation on the political power structure of the San Joaquin Valley, we do that, too.
Kevin Hall is a former Fresno County Planning Commissioner and a long-time air quality advocate. Contact him at firstname.lastname@example.org.