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The Climate Connection

The Climate Connection: 2021 Napa County climate action leaders recognized

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Each year, local climate advocacy organization, Napa Climate NOW!, honors Napa County residents who are making a significant contribution through their local climate actions. Climate Champions are named in five categories – elected official, community group or agency, youth activist, local business, and community activist. This is the first of three columns profiling the 2021 Climate Champions.

Last year saw significant progress in jurisdictions at the southern and northern ends of the county due to the efforts of two 2021 Climate Champions – American Canyon City Councilmember Mark Joseph, and the Calistoga Green Committee.

-- Mark Joseph

Mark Joseph was recognized for his consistent support for practical climate-friendly policy, advocacy for a city-wide Climate Emergency Resolution, and leadership of a new ad hoc committee working to identify climate action priorities for the city. Having served on the American Canyon City Council since 2010, after acting as the city’s finance director and city manager, Joseph knows how to get things done.

Joseph supported American Canyon’s Joseph supported American Canyon’s Engie energy reduction and resiliency project which will install solar panels and energy saving equipment for the city’s operations, both saving money and reducing greenhouse gas emissions. The city has also chosen to use MCE’s Deep Green program for 100% renewable energy for the rest of their electricity needs.

Another innovative climate policy initiative he supported is a ban on construction of additional gas stations. This action came about in response to community concerns about applications for additional gas stations on a mile-long stretch of Highway 29 that already contained three gas stations.

“Councilmember Pierre Washington and I met with Emily Bit and Alisa Karesh of Schools for Climate Action (the 2021 Youth Activist Climate Champions) who advocated for no new gas stations as a step in moving away from fossil fuels,” Joseph explained. “If we are going to achieve this, we need to start making the transition and expand EV charging infrastructure rather than gasoline pumps.”

A California statewide study shows that American Canyon needs 200 new charging stations by 2025. Joseph wants to prioritize this, working with local businesses, and looking for funding to defray the costs.

Joseph heads up the new Ad Hoc committee working on action priorities in light of the growing climate emergency. This group includes two City Councilmembers (Joseph and Pierre Washington), Planning Commissioner Tammy Wong, students and community members.

“Our goal is to identify areas where we can take specific actions to reach the goal of net zero climate pollutants by 2030. This will be presented to the council in February.” Joseph says he is looking for actions that will have a measurable impact.

“We’re going to have to take some very dramatic actions with the climate crisis, and we’ll have to do them quickly. I want to be optimistic. My goal is to get a lot of things done in the next year.”

Calistoga Green Committee

Last March, the city of Calistoga reactivated its Green Committee, which is officially tasked with making recommendations to the Calistoga City Council regarding the environment and the city’s Climate Action Plan. Calistoga City Councilmember Gary Kraus encouraged committee members to think big, instructing them, “You must not think ‘Oh they will never go for that!’ as a reason for not bringing something forward to the council.”

Committee members include Chairwoman Antoinette Mailliard, Vice Chairwoman Kate Stanley, John Gleazer, June Knoblich and Millie Pease. All are long-time Calistoga residents with a personal history of environmental stewardship. Kate Stanley said, “I was always fascinated how the Indian tribes never took more from the land than they needed and that way of living has always stuck with me.”

The committee began meeting in June of 2021, and within six months spearheaded significant climate actions. These actions include the adoption by the city council of a Climate Emergency Resolution with a goal of net zero emissions by 2030, adoption of a resolution supporting more protections for Napa County’s old-growth trees, enacting an ordinance banning gasoline powered leaf blowers and passing a measure to prohibit future fossil fuel gas stations.

Mailliard said, “Small towns can be the backbone of change. It is a great advantage to know the people you’re dealing with, to know the council members personally. Trust and openness not only support getting things done; they can also enrich our understanding that we share a common goal. We have a very capable Green Committee team, which has allowed us to undertake research on the actions we propose that our city has not had the resources to do. In addition, Napa Climate NOW! has been enormously helpful. Above all, it has been very gratifying to have had such tremendous support from our City Council.”

Of the Calistoga’s Climate Emergency Resolution, Mailliard added, “It provides an important foundation for future actions as well as direction to future city councils.”

Committee members Gleazer and Pease were actively building community support for a gas leaf blower ban before the committee was appointed.

“Ten of us started gathering signatures on a petition calling on the city to eliminate the highly polluting gas-powered leaf blowers,” Pease explained. “As the Green Committee, our group asked for city funds for rebates for transitioning to battery operated equipment. Those rebates should go into effect in January – $150 for residences or up to $500 for commercial gardeners. It's up to us now to get the word out so gardeners apply!”

Gleazer noted, “It has been rewarding to work with a group of people concerned with the health of our town and the planet. I think we share the notion that climate change is such a huge problem that it will take all of us, as individuals, families, communities, and a country to do what we can to slow it down. I enjoy looking for the big as well as the little improvements we can make and, with the group, providing recommendations to the city council which has the power to act upon them.”

We at Napa Climate NOW! are proud and grateful to have these Climate Champions in our community.

They're among the oldest and most giant living things on Earth Sequoias. A national treasure under threat from an extreme fire the KNP fire which is why the U.S. Forest Service has taken extreme measures to save them. It's wrapping some of the most famous Sequoias. "We also had sprinklers on here that were spraying water all the way to the top of this cat face, wetting down the wood," chief of resource management, Christy Brigham, said. "And then they raked back and moved the heavy fuels, the big logs away."Brigham, the leading expert at Sequoia and Kings Canyon National Parks, is standing in front of the General Grant the second largest tree in the world. The fire never reached it and it now appears to be out of the woods.Jason Bellini: "How many sequoias do you think ultimately will die because of this fire?"Christy Brigham: "I have no idea. I wish I knew."Jason Bellini: "Could it be in the hundreds?"Christy Brigham: "It could be. It might be less than that. I really don't know."She doesn't know because most of the Sequoia groves are in dense wilderness areas where, in some spots, the fire is still burning. And even ones that appear from a distance to be OK, may still die.   Jason Bellini: "If the canopies burn, then the trees die. Do I have that right?"Christy Brigham: "Yes. Let me give you a little bit of a nerd nuance ... If 90 to 100 percent of the canopy scorches and the needles are heated and killed, that can also kill a Giant Sequoia."Brigham knows this all too well. "We lost 10 to 14 percent of the entire population in last year's Castle Fire," she said. "That's 7,500 to 10,600 Giant Sequoias over four feet in diameter."Until the Castle Fire, experts didn't know the extent to which Giant Sequoias, also known as Monarchs, were vulnerable to today's megafires.  Jason Bellini: "They, in fact, need fires in order to reproduce. Correct?"Christy Brigham: "Correct. And I don't want anyone to walk away from this fire thinking that sequoias aren't amazing and tough because they are. You don't live to be 2000 years old by being a weakling. They need fire to grow the next generation of monarchs, so they have very thick bark that protects them from heat. The cones actually need heat from fire to open and release the seeds. But we have pulled some changes on them."Jason Bellini: "Some changes?"Christy Brigham: "Yep, we suppressed all lightning. The majority of lightning fires and removed cultural and tribal burning for 100 years. So we removed those frequent fires. The forest got more dense, It got full of ladder fuels and then we turned up the heat and the drying. With climate change driving hotter droughts capable of getting into the canopy and incinerating one thousand and two thousand year old trees."This part of western California is in a seven-year drought. Brigham said, when the KNP Fire reached this area, she smelled trouble.  Christy Brigham: "I knew that this grove was at risk. I cried. And it was terrible. So it's a huge relief to see to see all these standing sequoias and know a lot of this grove is going to be fine."Jason Bellini: "But there also is a lot that may not be alive?"Christy Brigham: "There will be losses."We'll know the numbers eventually, but the loss to people, like Brigham, who cherish these trees, is incalculable."They make me feel like I'm standing in the presence of immortality," she said.

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The author, Chris Benz, is a retired winemaker and founding member of Napa Climate NOW!

Napa Climate NOW! is a local non-profit citizens’ group advocating for smart climate solutions based on the latest climate science, part of 350 Bay Area. Like, comment, and share our daily Facebook, Instagram, and Twitter posts @napaclimatenow or visit http://napa.350bayarea.org.

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