Oped by San Luis Obispo, Californian Mayor Heidi Harmon
Watch and read how this progressive mayor talks passionately about why California needs to stop all fossil fuel production to be truly a climate leader. Note: They mayor’s child is gender neutral, so respectfully referred to as “kid,” and/or in the third person.
I’ve been a climate activist for almost 20 years, and I’m proud to say that San Luis Obispo is a national leader in our efforts to curb the climate crisis. We have the most ambitious carbon neutrality goal in the United States and working together with the community, the city council has made tremendous steps to prioritize people, planet, and prosperity. We’ve taken criticism and weathered attacks because we know earth’s climate is changing and we feel a deep responsibility to our community, to our families, and to our future to do everything we can within our power to help and we’re not alone in our leadership.
Across the state, more than 110 local governments have passed 160 local policies to protect their communities from fossil fuels. We’ve declared a state of emergency here in San Luis Obispo for the climate crisis. We took action. It’s time for Governor Newsom to declare that emergency for the state of California.
We’re a coastal community here, usually enjoying sea breezes and moderate temperatures, but recently we’ve seen days of 120 degrees and toxic smoke-filled air and our efforts all could be in vain unless we can get the governor to accelerate and modify California’s current climate goals because they are woefully inadequate as is.
I had high hopes for Governor Newson and I appreciate many of his policies both now and in the past. When he ran talking about ending fracking, I was really excited to hear that. But this year he issued 48 new fracking permits and there has been a 190 percent increase in oil and gas drilling during the first half of 2020 compared with the first half of last year.
I know firsthand how difficult it has been to be in a position of leadership during this moment in history and while he is doing his utmost to help California to get through this pandemic and these historic fires, he’s not doing what he could and should to fight the climate crisis. Most of his recent promises sound great but we need more than words, we need tangible results which can happen if he uses the power of an emergency declaration for the climate crisis. I only hope that he has that political will.
He says that we’re leading on decarbonizing our economy, but California is one of the largest producers of oil and gas in America. And while he has promoted electric cars, he’s also given oil and gas companies a way to continue drilling. He’s telling the world that the state is a leader for the oil and gas industry, not for the earth and not for the health and well-being of the people of California. He has to see that he is fueling fires that have caused this climate emergency.
We need to phase out all fossil fuel extraction and production before it is too late. The climate crisis has shown us how interconnected and interdependent we are and California fire smoke has reached the European shores. During the heat wave and fires my kid called me in tears in distress and asked me if everything was going to be alright. And for the first time in their I had to say nothing because I can no longer tell my children that it’s going to be okay. As a mother it is really hard to express how difficult it is, especially after fighting so hard myself on climate action. Through their tears they told me that they knew it was not my fault. They know that I’ve done everything I can, and so I’m calling on Governor Newsom to do the same and to create the policies that will make his children as proud of him as my child is of me.
As a steering committee member of the Elected Officials to Protect California I know that we’ve done everything in our power to inform the governor of the climate crisis that we are now living in. Our letter has outlined three major steps that would mitigate what’s happening. It’s not too late to make sure that we have safety zones around oil and gas wells that are dangerously close to schools, homes, public spaces, and hospitals. It’s not too late to establish a comprehensive plan to phase out all fossil fuel production and extraction. It’s not too late to transition to a 100 percent clean renewable energy. And it’s never too late to do the right thing for the health and well-being of Californians. My kid has been my North Star guiding me to continue to combat the climate crisis and why shouldn’t my child be able to enjoy simple things in life like breathing fresh air instead of being locked up inside, terrified of their future. Why are millions of children being subjected to this apocalyptic destruction? It’s not too late to mitigate what’s happening, but we need the governor to take action to transition to 100 percent clean renewable energy now and establish a new climate deadline of 2035.