Earth in the Balance
Locals — at least a few of them, anyway — rally for climate change action as Santa Monica leaders showcase the city’s efforts in Paris
By Joe Piasecki
Maybe a holiday weekend is bad timing for a political march.
Maybe locals concerned about climate change assume most of their neighbors already agree.
Maybe a ‘60s-style street protest is fading in the age of social media.
Whatever the case, Sunday’s “Breach the Beach” climate change action march in Santa Monica drew dozens — not thousands, not even hundreds — of people, despite taking place in one of the nation’s most ecologically progressive cities.
As participants marched from Santa Monica Pier to Venice Beach and back, Santa Monica Mayor Kevin McKeown and City Council members Tony Vasquez and Pam O’Connor were on their way to the U.N. Climate Change Conference in Paris.
On Friday, McKeown will present a gathering of international development agencies and public lenders with conceptual plans to power the city’s entire Big Blue Bus fleet on electricity generated by solar panels.
Under its longstanding city Climate Action Plan, Santa Monica has reduced its carbon emissions to 14% below 1990 levels and has committed to achieving an 80% reduction by 2050.
But does the issue resonate with Americans?
According to slate.com, a poll conducted in April by Yale and Utah State universities found that a majority of residents in 99% of the nation’s 3,143 counties believe global warming is happening, but not one single U.S. county had a majority of respondents who think climate change will impact them.
In Los Angeles County, 69% of respondents said they believed global warming is real, but only 45% said they felt it would harm them personally.
“I care about my children and the planet they’re ending up with, and I see very clearly that we are on a downward spiral. People need to speak up,” said Santa Monica rally participant Julie Watson, who works in product development for a beauty company. “I was in a space of hope, but based on the turnout that’s a big question mark for me at this moment.”
Watson took some solace that related marches across 175 countries drew more than 600,000 people, including 60,000 in Melbourne and 50,000 in London, according to The Guardian.
“We all have a stake in life on planet Earth,” said marcher Gayle Elliott, a professor of interdisciplinary studies at Cal State Dominguez Hills. “If people cared about all the creatures on the planet the way they love their pets, things would be different.”