A District Against Climate Change!

Climate change is the most important problem facing the world. If we don’t take immediate, serious actions to reduce greenhouse gas emissions, like revamp our transportation infrastructure, reduce our dependence on fossil fuels for energy production to practically nothing, find new ways to feed ourselves that do not rely on extremely destructive farming and meat production practices, restore the severe damage we have done to our environment while conserving what remains, the odds are that the Earth will become unfit for humans to live on within a few centuries, if not sooner. Meanwhile, big corporations are trying to implement a set of regulations that will allow them to present an image of being pro-environment while reaping huge profits off of the marketing of “green” technology and the selling of dwindling resources. We would be foolish to trust these people with their profit system to save the planet they have almost destroyed.

We must take responsibility for reducing and repairing the damage we as a species have done our planet. This means dispossessing the big corporations and treating the world as a common treasury for humans to share with one another as well as all other forms of life—birds, bugs, flowers, trees, and so on. We must find a way to take what we need from the Earth while also allowing for the replenishing of the natural systems we depend on for our survival. Very importantly, we must prepare our children to face the challenges of their changing world.

We begin by recognizing that these are problems that must be addressed on every scale—global, national, statewide, and citywide, to say nothing of at the district, household and individual levels. A member of the Board of Supervisors only has limited jurisdiction over policy for the City and County of San Francisco and our district. A true solution to climate change requires the mobilization of those with the most at stake: workers and the oppressed. We are convinced that the battle to mitigate and repair the effects of climate change is in part a battle for full public ownership of the means of producing and distributing energy under the democratic control of energy workers and working-class and poor consumers. Nevertheless, we can make some definite and valuable changes at the District and citywide levels that can perhaps contribute to the solving of the problems posed by climate change to our state, nation, and world.

We see the creation of our District Council of empowered neighborhood residents as described elsewhere as being a critical element of this plan (Link to A Community-Powered District). Part of the District Council’s responsibilities will be to identify the people in our neighborhood with the knowledge, skill, and energy to confront the many different aspects of fighting climate change at a local level and providing them with authority and resources to lead the rest of us in the struggle. We think that, as an empowered district, we can use the adaptation of our infrastructure as an opportunity to create city jobs at union wages for the people who live here. Furthermore, we can pair the transformation of our infrastructure with education, teaching children about ecosystems and environmental feedback through hands-on work with tree planting, gardening, etc. (Link to A District of Youth and Children.)

Specific proposals for our district include but are not limited to:

  • A community-based transit plan democratically developed and decided upon that will work towards reducing fossil fuel powered transit and replacing it with clean energy transit, like bicycles and skateboards and so on. It is, however, of critical importance that something that will have such a profound effect on transit in the district not be imposed from the outside; otherwise it is bound to fail (Link to A Rider’s District).
  • Designating certain streets for public transit, pedestrians, and non-motorized vehicles only and diverting private autos to freeways and parallel streets, with perhaps certain times designated for deliveries.
  • Free, safe, high-quality bicycles on demand, made to order for all who desire them. In the meantime, the City should provide subsidies and incentives to increase the bike share program, as well as bike repair shops where District 11 residents, kids and youth especially, can learn how to fix bikes.
  • Increasing bus service to mitigate overcrowding.
  • Re-designing transit routes to make access easier, including the addition of feeder lines to main lines.
  • Re-designing the interiors of the buses so they are not so uncomfortable and dangerous.
  • Relentlessly pressuring vehicle vendors for reduced emission engines for coaches.
  • Making public transportation free for all.
  • Full public ownership of the means of producing and distributing energy under the democratic control of energy workers and working-class and poor consumers.
  • Granting subsidies for household energy production; e.g. free installation of solar panels and small in-home electricity generators. The City should partner with homeowners to increase the energy efficiency of their homes—raising them to LEED Gold Standards or better—and increase the amount of energy generated within the City. This will help cut into wasteful long-distance transportation of dirty, coal, gas, and nuclear generated electricity through power grids. Incidentally, this will also help San Francisco to recover more quickly in the event of a catastrophic earthquake that cuts off the supply of power to the City from the south.
  • Increasing emphasis on community gardening. We already have the expertise in our community to supply more of our own food, and we should begin doing it by opening up unused public open spaces for community gardening in partnership with schools and urban farming organizations. This will also reduce the need to transport food long distances in vehicles that burn fossil fuels as well as the petroleum-based packaging that makes our children sick and degrades marine ecosystems.
  • Conserving water. Although 2016 was a year of slightly above average rainfall for California, early indications are that the historic drought will continue in the coming year. We need to continue to reduce our water usage, and we should find ways to encourage neighborhood residents to collaborate on creating water catchment systems that can help meet household water needs. Furthermore, as climate change progresses, rainfall will likely tend to arrive in large quantities with long dry spells in between. We need to find ways to capture this water for urban use while also channeling it so as to minimize the damage it might cause. This can be done by increasing the implementation of bio-swales in the streets and permeable pavement and sidewalks to increase groundwater penetration, while also using native and benevolent migrant plant landscaping in public areas and providing incentives to do this in private homes, which will also be good for local birds and bugs. We also should find ways to streamline the use of gray water and caught water for irrigation and street cleaning.
  • Restore Hetch Hetchy. As we improve water and power efficiency in the City, we should officially investigate of all of the pros and cons of restoring Hetch Hetchy Reservoir with a view towards accomplishing this restoration at the earliest possible date. This should be seen as an act of reparation towards the non-human species—the plants, birds, bugs, and so on—to which the development of human civilization has caused so much irreparable damage.
  • Even up the geographic distribution of wastewater facilities and bring them under the democratic control of workers in this industry as well as the communities they serve. The geographic distribution of wastewater treatment facilities is unfairly concentrated in the southeastern part of the City and has the flavor of environmental racism. We should explore the possibility of having more, smaller facilities that are more widely distributed so that the wealthier neighborhoods in town can take more responsibility for processing their own waste. Furthermore, we should strictly apply best practices in wastewater treatment so that we can recycle as much wastewater as possible locally, and what is left to be released in the ocean is adequately treated not only for the usual pollutants, but also the material in human waste, like the residue from medications, psychiatric and otherwise, that has been shown to have deleterious effects on the marine ecosystem.
  • Greening the district. We should plant drought-tolerant native plants and trees for carbon sequestration and to provide infrastructural support for the native insects and birds. We should also identify underground creeks to open to the surface. These proposals will not only offset some of the district’s carbon emissions from transportation and housing and reduce water use, but will also support the varieties of native insects, birds, and mammals in the district, which will make it a more beautiful and interesting place to live.
  • Garbage removal. District 11 does not have adequate garbage removal services. We should bring the waste removal companies under the democratic control of the sanitation workers and consumers and use the profits to make these services free to all residents of District 11. If waste removal is free, residents can easily add garbage cans as needed, and illegal dumping will become an unnecessary practice. Furthermore, we can identify residents of our community who have the skill and enthusiasm and empower them to redesign our waste removal system and lead us to build on the progress made by garbage separation in San Francisco. For instance, we notice there are many seniors in the District already doing a huge share of the work sorting recycling—often illegally, we might add. This law only benefits the recycling company at the expense of a super-oppressed sector of the population in San Francisco, and should be repealed (See A Point on Seniors). We need a broader definition of “recycling”, one that relies more heavily on the repurposing of materials found in the garbage without processing. We also need to find ways to process and utilize the compost generated within San Francisco for the purposes of local gardening and landscaping. We are for outlawing the sale of individual plastic water bottles and looking for ways to phase out and replace most plastic and paper beverage containers.
  • The creation of City jobs with union wages for all who desire them to retrofit District 11 infrastructure in the manner described above.
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