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June 19, 2021
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Sonoma County Climate Summit: Not just a global issue

By: Natasha Senteney
December 18, 2020

I walk around my room, bag in hand, collecting all of the garbage I’ve been too lazy to clean up for the past week, the past month, the past year—cleaning is not my strong suit. Since distance learning started last March my kids have taken over my room. Living in a two-bedroom apartment doesn’t leave very much space for four people to live, to work, to breathe. I toss an apple core into the bag, a half-eaten drawing one of my children left on the bed for our pet rats to chew, an empty ramen noodle cup and a plastic water bottle. At this last item my daughter, sitting on my bed with books and classwork piled up around her, flashes me a reprimanding glare. “What are you doing?” she scolds. “You’re not going to recycle that?” “Sure,” I lie, looking around me at the mess I’ve barely even dented. The recycling center, which used to be a bicycle ride away, has been closed since the first stay-at-home order earlier this year. To be honest, with its long lines and inconsistent hours the motivation to make the trip, other than the prospect of a few extra dollars, was very little. Also, I could have sworn that I read an article somewhere on the futility of recycling—or perhaps I had imagined this to ease my guilt. 

Recycling isn’t the only approach towards a more livable climate, and a longer, healthier, more sustainable existence, but it is one of the few that many people feel any control over, or a direct connection with. 

Earlier this week, when I spoke on the phone to Maya Khosla, Media Spokesperson for Sonoma County Climate Activist Network (SoCoCAN!), I reflected on my own sense of defeat and disconnect when it came to climate discussions and how many others beside myself share in this dilemma. In our discussion about the upcoming 2021 climate summit—a free, public event being hosted by SoCoCAN! on January 10 from 2-5 p.m.. via Zoom Conference, I searched for something that could bridge the disconnect. After all, there are a plethora of other sources covering the larger picture, and as a local newspaper, isn’t it our responsibility to highlight local topics? The more expansive sources are most definitely not doing that for us, and with an issue like climate change, which can often seem far away and abstract in relation to the very real aspects of our daily lives, a closer, more tangible focus is not only valuable, but imperative. I can’t sit outside my apartment and watch the polar ice caps melting, or see, in real-time, our oceans rising or the destruction of our coral reefs, but I can hear the sirens of every emergency vehicle that passes down my street, and note, with obvious clarity, the increase in frequency with each passing year. I can drive across town and see, without needing to be informed, the check engine light on my dashboard and the rising prices at the gas station. 

Maya Khosla, in response to my concerns, brought the discussion closer to home, highlighting the many local and statewide issues related to climate, many of which are either set to be topics of interest at the upcoming climate summit, or otherwise included in the research and work of many of its featured speakers. Among these, we spoke about her own, and others research on the relationship between heavy logging and California’s surge in wildfires, the building of new gas stations and the negative effects this has on local business, indigenous practices and connecting with the land, and local policy, as well as other various topics. In addition to these, we also discussed concerns and solutions related to current and impending environmentally conscious changes in policy and practice in the way of employment and financial impacts—people, especially those who work in or rely on industries or practices to provide for themselves and their families need to be included in the discussion and know that they will be okay.

Featured speakers for the event will include Santa Rosa Junior College professor Dr. Brenda Flyswithhawks , Energy Program Manager for the Climate Center Woody Hastings, Founding member of Sonoma Clean Power June Brashares, Christine Byrne of the Sonoma Sunrise Movement and Sonoma Water, 2020 Sonoma County “Youth Inspiring Youth” Award winner Janina (Nina) Turner,  Elizabeth Kaiser of Singing Frog Farms, 2020 Sonoma County Co-Environmentalist of the Year, Sonoma County Poet Laureate Emerita, and Media Spokesperson for SoCoCAN! Maya Khosla, Ecologist and Traditional Ecological Knowledge Systems Practitioner Cory O’Gorman, Advocacy Director at Greenbelt Alliance Teri Shore, environmental educators Fabiola Maya and Vincent Tavani, and Dave Warrender of the Citizens’ Climate Lobby, Santa Rosa Chapter. 

There is nothing quite like the energy of a crowded room—but for those of us who may not normally be able to muster the motivation, have other commitments, or just generally are uncomfortable or don’t prefer the physical contact, this online summit provides an opportunity to learn and connect without these barriers. Each speaker will be given ten minutes, and several speakers will also be offering, dates and times to be announced, free, COVID compliant outdoor workshops following the summit. I will be attending, and I encourage all of my neighbors, Rohnert Park, Cotati, Penngrove, Sebastopol and beyond to mark their calendars as well—Sunday, January 10, 2-5 p.m. Kids are also welcome and encouraged to attend. For more information visit http://SonomaCountyCAN.org or call 707-595-0320. In addition to the climate summit, The Sonoma County Climate Activist Network (SoCoCAN) also meets during months with 5 Mondays 7-9 p.m., which, for 2021 would be March, May, August and November. In light of present circumstances, they currently meet via Zoom. For more information on how to join the network go to http://SonomaCountyCAN.org or contact sonomacountycan@gmail.com.

Natasha Senteney is a resident of Rohnert Park, a graduate of Sonoma State University and the mother of two middle-schoolers in the Cotati-Rohnert Park School District.