Sunday, January 24, 2010

A Rising Tide

The storms this week reminded us all how fragile Ventura is and how we must nurture our environment constantly in order to live here successfully -- and sustainably. High surf pounded the pier and damaged it somewhat; sinkholes appeared on Poli Street; and, apparently, a tornado briefly touched down in East Ventura.

So it's perhaps fitting that, earlier in the week, we had an event here at City Hall and heard from three people from the Ventura area who attended the recent Copenhagen climate change conference -- local teenage climate change activist Alex Loorz of Kids v. Global Warming, Sarah Otterstrom of the Ventura-based Paso Pacifico, which works on deforestation in Central America; and Andrew Dunn of the student-run UCSB Environmental Affairs Board. Unfortunately, Rick Ridgeway of Patagonia, who also went to Copenhagen, could not attend.

It was truly an inspiring evening. Many of us here in Ventura are familiar with Alec Loorz, a sophomore at El Camino High School, who has been a climate change activist since he was 12. But no so many of us in Ventura know of the work of Sarah Otterstrom, who has a Ph.D. in Ecology from UC Davis and is doing remarkable work in Nicaragua from her base here in Ventura.

All of the participants are ardent environmentalists and therefore were somewhat disappointed with the accord that resulted from Copenhagen. Nevertheless, all were optimistic about the future. Alec, as usual, reminded us that this is an urgent issue for his generation and called upon us to "have the course" to dea with the issue on behalf of "your children and grandchildren."

It's always easy to say that no individual's actions can make much difference -- why should we stop driving when China's building new coal-fired power plants every day -- but Sarah did a good job of pointing out that "the U.S. is extremely pivotal" in fighting climate change -- no worldwide solution can occur without us making a big effort. She reminded us that there is no single solution -- everybody, everywhere in the world, has a role to play.

Especially here in Ventura, where we are threatened with sea-level rise -- if not in my lifetime, then at least in Sarah's and Alec's. If you want to estimate for yourself how sea-level rise might affect Ventura -- depending on different levels of inundation -- check out this interactive map at the web site

Alec, Sarah, and Rick will all be recognized at Monday's council meeting (1/25) for their involvement at Copenhagen.