Saturday, October 24, 2009

Think Global, Act Local: Climate Action Activities in the South Sound

by Janine Gates

Above: People used various modes of transportation to get to William E. Bush Park on Yelm Highway to bring awareness of climate change issues on Saturday.

October 24 marked an international day of action to bring about a global awareness of climate change, and South Sound residents met that challenge in full force this weekend with several events. The activities were organized to acknowledge climate change and the personal efforts one can do to bring down carbon dioxide levels in the world.

Worldwide activities were organized to highlight the number 350, as in parts per million, which is the level scientists have identified as the safe upper limit for carbon dioxide in the Earth’s atmosphere. It is currently 390 parts per million.

There is an urgency to bring about awareness of the global warming issue before world leaders meet in Copenhagen, Denmark in December to finalize a new treaty on cutting emissions. The draft treaty now includes 350 parts per million as a goal for discussion.

Internationally, 4,500 climate change events were planned in 170 countries - about 1800 of them were scheduled to occur in the United States, in all 50 states - and expected to be the biggest demonstration in terms of number of events in a single day on any issue.

Bike and Walk for Climate Change Action

Many climate change activists walked or bicycled on the Chehalis Western Trail to meet this morning to hear speakers at the William E. Bush Park on Yelm Highway.

Above: Michael Dempster, a recently retired science and music teacher at Lincoln School, arrives by bicycle at William E. Bush Park.

Thurston County Commissioner Sandra Romero gave an overview about Thurston County’s efforts to help stop global warming.

“Is it politically possible to accomplish 350? You bet it is - it is our board goal in every action we take that we assess climate change," Romero told the crowd.

“Thurston County takes climate change very seriously. We just received a $617,000 grant from the federal government that will be used to hire two additional staff members to develop climate change policy, programs, and projects, perform energy audits on county facilities, develop green residential and commercial development codes, develop the county’s climate change response plan, and make energy efficiency improvements and retrofits to county facilities,” said Romero.

Romero also highlighted Thurston County’s efforts to support grassroots, activist-led organizations such as the Cool Thurston Campaign, which hosts periodic “global warming cafĂ©s” to educate community members on personal commitments one can do to make a difference in reducing one’s “carbon footprint.”

The county will also be converting to hybrids as new vehicles need to be purchased. The goal for 2010 is to receive a Green Fleet Certification through the Puget Sound Clean Cities Coalition and Evergreen Fleet Organization.

In terms of land conservation and prairie protection, Romero mentioned recent efforts to preserve 600 acres of wetlands near Tilley Road, and that the county temporarily changed current regulations to better protect prairies and oak woodlands until permanent regulations can be brought forward with the Critical Areas Update.

“We are walking the talk, by joining Kazakhstan, India, Bangladesh, Australia, New Zealand, Guyana, Ethiopia, China, Antartica, Dominican Republic, Tanzania, Micronesia, the Maldives, Egypt, and many more, to stop global warming,” concluded Romero.

Several organizations including the Interfaith Works Earth Stewardship Committee, Washington State Unitarian Universalist Voices for Justice, and Earth Care Catholics organized the event.

Above: Bernie Meyer, who spoke as Mahatma Gandhi, and Thurston County Commissioner Sandra Romero on Saturday.

Blue Line March

Above: Environmental activists begin their "Blue Line March" at Olympia's Farmer's Market, tracing the predicted future shoreline along Marine Drive, Plum, State, Cherry, 5th Avenue, past the new city hall, 8th Avenue, Jefferson, Capitol Way, Legion Way, Water Street, 4th Avenue, ending at the Fourth Avenue bridge.

Another climate change awareness event, the Blue Line March, began at the Olympia Farmer's Market with about 200 people walking an outline of downtown Olympia that is predicted to be underwater based on the prediction of a four foot sea level rise during an 18 foot high tide and a 100 year flood.

If this prediction sounds unlikely, it is not. Olympia has had several 17 foot tides, and has had 100 year floods for the past two years. According to City of Olympia sea-level reports, much of downtown Olympia is at risk, lying only one to three feet above the current highest high tides.

Above: Blue Line March activists pass by the new Olympia City Hall, which is under construction on Fourth and Cherry St., and is predicted to be under water according to the City of Olympia's own sea-level rise reports.

Elaine Sanders, who uses oxygen and a walker, walked the Blue Line March, with the help of her partner of 25 years, Mickey Mooney. Asked why she came to the event, Sanders, who has lived in Olympia since 1980, said, "Because they need to hear us - all the world leaders, our Congress - they need to back the Clean Energy Jobs bill!"

Above: Mickey Mooney, left, and Elaine Sanders, participated in the Blue Line March on Saturday.

Barb Scavezze, coordinator for Cool Thurston Campaign, and an organizer and participant in the Blue Line March, said later, "I thought it was a fantastic event - it brought together young and old and everyone in between to show how much they care about taking action on climate change."

Cheryl Crist, who helped tie signs on poles along the Blue Line March, said after the event that she was thrilled with the day's events. "This is a good way to demonstrate what could happen with sea level rise and why we need to change our behavior. I am concerned because we need to hurry up. We lost a lot of time with the Bush administration denying the science. We need a treaty in Copenhagen and the U.S. must participate. No more standing aside as we did Kyoto."

Above: Teresa Mosqueda, left, and Cheryl Crist tie signs on a pole on the Fourth Avenue bridge at the conclusion of the Blue Line March.

What You Can Do:

There are many organizations and activities in the South Sound area to learn more about climate change.

Locally, the Earth Care Catholics and Interfaith Works Earth Stewardship Committee is sponsoring an extensive list of Earth Care videos, conversations, and presentations through next May at Traditions Cafe, 300 5th Ave. SW, from 7:00 - 9:00 p.m. For more information, call 459-5825.

The Washington State Unitarian Universalist Voices for Justice is holding a legislative conference, which will include the issue of global warming, on Saturday, November 7 from 10:00 a.m. - 3:00 p.m. at Olympia Unitarian Universalist Congregation. For more information, contact Rev. Carol McKinley at or

Olympia based organization Climate Solutions urges people to call Senator Maria Cantwell at (206) 220-6400 and Senator Patty Murray at (206) 553-5545 to urge Congress to pass the Clean Energy Jobs Bill and learn more about global warming at

A Cool Thurston Cafe will be held on October 27, 7:00 - 8:30 p.m., location to be announced. Learn about the "Low Carbon Diet" program to help you lower your carbon footprint, and learn how to form a low carbon diet “EcoTeam” with friends, colleagues, or neighbors, take on “cool lifestyle practices” that reduce carbon dioxide emissions, and more. For more information, contact Barb Scavezze at or call 360-878-9901.

Transition Olympia holds regular climate change awareness events. To learn more, go to

Andy Haub, City of Olympia Public Works, will be presenting the city's latest sea-level rise information to Olympia City Council members and the public on November 10, 7:00, Olympia City Hall.

Above: The Artesian Rumble Arkestra (ARK) musicians keep things lively during the Blue Line March on Saturday, meeting marchers at various locations along the way.