Local Action on the Climate Crisis

Santa Cruz activists reshape environmental movement

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On April 6, members of the Santa Cruz Climate Action Network gathered at Santa Cruz Live Oak Grange to discuss the dismissal of climate change by the Trump administration. Photo by Casey Amaral
On April 6, members of the Santa Cruz Climate Action Network gathered at Santa Cruz Live Oak Grange to discuss the dismissal of climate change by the Trump administration. Photo by Casey Amaral.

The battle to ensure a steady and safe climate seems to have come to a standstill. President Donald Trump signed an executive order on March 28 that revoked six executive orders by the Obama administration intended to monitor climate change, including ones that track carbon emissions.

January 2017 was one of the warmest Januaries in 137 years of modern recordkeeping, according to NASA. Although these environmental changes are threatening, climate change remains a contentious political issue.

Because the current administration dismisses climate change, communities are speaking out on the issue. The Santa Cruz Climate Action Network (SCCAN) held a meeting on April 6 titled “Everything You Wanted to Know About Climate Change.”

The meeting was for those new to the concept of climate change and wanting to learn more. Members of SCCAN said regardless of the actions of the presidential administration, there is always an urgency to safeguard the environment.

“The focus is a response to what’s happening on the planet. Trump is only making it worse right now, but the hope is that enough lawsuits stop him,” said Susan Cavalieri, a Santa Cruz resident and two-year member of the organization. Cavalieri said that groups like SCCAN are a response to climate change as a larger issue.

Former teachers, college students and members of the community presented their questions and latest news on climate change to an audience of about 20. They discussed broad global issues and concerns at a local level — particularly, the potential for a new downtown five-story parking structure. The group worries the structure will encourage more residents to drive cars and opt for less public transportation.

Ryan Fries, co-creator of the app Conifr, presents the newly developed app which allows users to track their carbon dioxide emissions through an analysis of their modes of transportation. Photo by Casey Amaral
Ryan Fries, co-creator of the app Conifr, presents the newly developed app which allows users to track their carbon dioxide emissions through an analysis of their modes of transportation. Photo by Casey Amaral

Members of SCCAN are hoping more UC Santa Cruz students get involved, starting with the People’s Climate March in Santa Cruz on April 29. The nationwide march on Washington is intended to bring communities together and take a stance on climate change.

“We are always trying to get the word out about climate change because it is such an important topic for the Earth and younger people,” said Cavalieri. “Most of us are retired, and we do try to get involved in some of the activities at UCSC.”

On campus, environmental studies students are working to stimulate change. At SCCAN, a guest presentation was given by college students Ryan Fries and Jacqueline Puliatti.

The students are two of a six-member team creating a carbon footprint app. The app keeps track of the miles a user travels and calculates the amount of carbon dioxide emitted. That number is given monthly, alongside a monetary amount that could offset the carbon emissions when donated to an organization working to lower carbon emissions.

As the Trump administration believes the regulation of fossil fuels hinders job creation and economic growth, communities and other student groups have decided to take matters into their own hands. Lexi Daoussis, first-year environmental studies major and activist with Fossil Free UC, an independent divestment campaign, said there are multiple opportunities at UCSC for students to educate themselves on the climate crisis.

“Take environmental classes that focus on climate change […] It’s kind of a focal point right now for all college students,” Daoussis said. “That is a prime opportunity. It’s unfortunate in a way, but also fortunate to be at a radical institution that is focused on activism and focused on trying to teach that agenda.”