Dec 6, 2019

“Climate Change Is The Biggest Public Safety Issue Of Our Time”

In November 2019, the Citizen Times requested a response to a proposed Green New Deal for Asheville. This is the full response I submitted:

Climate change is the biggest public safety issue of our time. A Green New Deal for Asheville must be a community-led effort that ensures equity while empowering resilient neighborhoods through a massive engagement process that centers those most impacted by climate change. This means empowering youth and parents urgently demanding a liveable future for the next generation while inviting the wisdom of indigenous and elder neighbors familiar with our American history of deal-making and broken promises steeped in white supremacy.

We are capable of: investment in deeply-affordable housing through cooperative & creative solutions; a fare-free, regional transit network that ensures access, economic mobility, and reduces our dependence on fossil fuels; securing our tree canopy as well as our food and water systems; and a participatory budget that gives people a say in how our tax dollars and bonds are spent.

Now is the time to write reparations and appropriate action into our planning documents, build coalitions across North Carolina to demand liberation from the Duke energy monopoly, and remove barriers to civic participation while ensuring equity in decision-making around our budget & policies so we can better take care of each other and our mountain home. Let’s continue the conversation while joining our youth at the climate strike at 11am on Friday, December 6th in Pack Square.”

Submitted to the Asheville Citizen Times Monday, Nov. 25th, 2019.

Today, after marching in solidarity with local students and allies, I listened to all the speakers at the climate strike. While there, I heard that members of Sunrise Movement Asheville were in City Hall, standing in front of the Mayor’s office requesting for their climate emergency resolution to be on the Council agenda for Tuesday, December 10th. I’ve witnessed the frustrating cycle of bureaucracy they’ve struggled through over months leading up to this request, including many collective hours spent waiting and delivering public comment. The process of allowing public comment and engagement is crucial to our democracy, but our process is unsurprisingly broken because of limited accessibility and a labyrinth that leads to nowhere. Unfortunately many neighbors have been pitted against each other in impossible situations that leave those with decision-making power exempt from accountability. Our City Council needs to pass a climate emergency resolution directing staff while tasking our boards & commissions to advise so we can do our best work instead of talking about it.

As requested by our youth–the most impacted by climate change–I am listening to the science, and understand our “house is on fire.” When there is a fire, we urgently send our most qualified people to address the situation. Then, we change our behavior and cease starting new fires. I have read the climate emergency resolution presented by Sunrise Movement Asheville, and am incredibly humbled. We need a serious, social attitude adjustment. Their proposal is the “too hard, too expensive” response I expected after the recent Cadmus report that falls short by only providing a snap shot of our current, mediocre efforts.

Honest and appropriate response to climate emergency will require us to address our fears and shelve our egos so we can build a coalition of many hands and courageous hearts. Climate migration is already happening: we’re feeling the pressure that’s already on us. We need to replace defensive reaction with inclusive activation:

  • Listen to demands of frontline communities then work in coalition for a Green New Deal in Asheville that uses a racial equity lense and addresses the concerns of our neighbors who are familiar with bad deals, broken promises, and stolen land & labor.
  • Join in solidarity through the next City budget cycle to ensure our tax spending is in line with our community values, which means allocating resources for healing & repair. That looks like a surgical reassessment of all our available funding options (including bonds,) for investment in deeply-affordable housing through cooperative & creative solutions; a fare-free, regional transit network that ensures access, economic mobility, and reduces our dependence on fossil fuels; securing our tree canopy as well as our food and water systems; and a participatory budget that gives people a say in how our tax dollars and bonds are spent.

We have a wealth of brilliant people and natural resources here in WNC. This work is not going to be easy, but the good news is we’re not alone in the mission. Let’s check our voter registration and get our neighbors secured with their voter ID so we can walk into 2020 with confidence that we are going to move these mountains!