Terrified about climate change? Me, too. Let’s have a ‘community conversation’ March 16

Capitola's damaged wharf seen from between buildings on the Esplanade following the storm surge of early January.
(Kevin Painchaud / Lookout Santa Cruz)

The Democratic Women’s Club of Santa Cruz County will host “A Community Conversation on Climate Change” on March 16. Peggy Flynn, a longtime community activist and the co-president of the DWC, says fear and frustration led her to plan the event. She is tired of hearing all the doomsday predictions about the planet and wants concrete ideas about what she — and you — can do to help mitigate the effects. The event, she says, will offer action plans and ways to make a difference locally.

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I’m scared. I’m worried. I’m angry and I’m frustrated.

It’s not an original fear, but I’m terrified of what the world will look like for future generations. Can we — will we — do enough now to mitigate the damage that’s already been done?

I’m angry that we (me, my family, my community, all of our governments) haven’t done more, haven’t done enough. And I’m frustrated that I don’t always know what is actually happening in my own community. Yeah, I recycle, compost, reduce and reuse. I’d pray, but I don’t do that. I do meditate, and I try to envision a world of clean air, reduced fossil-fuel use, and communities working together as if every day were Earth Day.

I wish.

“Sometimes, all I need is the air that I breathe …” You could argue that the Hollies were singing about love, not the planet, but I’d argue that while we profess to love the earth, we’ve forgotten how to take care of it. Or downright neglected it. Or looked the other way, waiting for someone (else) to do what needs to be done.

I want to breathe clean air. I want that for everyone, everywhere.

Climate. Every day there is another dire warning: temperatures rising, droughts increasing, fires now without seasons, grains that no longer grow, and truthfully, I can’t keep up with the holes in the ozone layer. More truthfully, I can’t say exactly where the ozone even is.

But I want to do something.

Peggy Flynn awarding a winning bid during the 2022 Homeless Garden Project auction
Peggy Flynn awarding a winning bid during the 2022 Homeless Garden Project auction.
(Via Anna Hattis)

I’m co-president of the Democratic Women’s Club (DWC) of Santa Cruz County, an organization that has been around for over 70 years, since people knocked on doors and got invited in for tea to talk about issues. Our group fought for suffrage and civil rights, for historic preservation and environmental laws.

And we are still fighting. We now sip coffee or wine, meet online and use Zoom. We have a stake in what the next 70 years will look like in our community, whether many of us will be there or not. We feel a pressing obligation to future generations and current ones, to do what we do best: bring people together, present information and encourage others to participate in civic engagement.

We’re taking our fears and worries and taking action.

We’ve made climate change the focus of our March program and we hope you will participate. We are calling the program “A Community Conversation on Climate Change.” It won’t be a debate on whether climate change is real, as we’ve recently experienced just some of the effects; rather, our program, subtitled “A Conversation about Action and Hope,” will focus on what you can do right now in our community to make a difference.

We will have speakers like state Sen. John Laird and UCSC’s Gary Griggs to provide context and background. Laird will share his takeaways from the November United Nations climate conference in Egypt and walk us through climate-related state legislation. We will also have panels of experts from UCSC, Cabrillo College, the city and county. We are thrilled to have Bella Bonner, founder of Black Surf Santa Cruz, as our closing speaker. Bella will talk about personal and community responsibility and stewardship of our oceans and lands.

In addition, over 15 local environmental groups and school programs are coming for a resource fair. You will be able to learn about the work all these programs are doing and find a way to participate — to engage civically with local climate-change initiatives — that works for you, your family, your group. The DWC is known for developing community partnerships and this free event is no different.

The three-hour event will take place March 16 from 5-8 p.m. at Cabrillo College’s horticultural building. You can register here.

The community group buy-in will ensure the event is worthwhile, but to make it a true success, we need you. Don’t miss this chance for us to come together as a community and take action.

Main Street School
(Via O’Neill Sea Odyssey)

The focus will be on the kind of information I think most of us want: practical, real-world data that informs, that gives suggestions on where we can plug into local programs, that helps you identify how you can act.

This will help reduce fears.

Don’t get me wrong. I don’t think this event will take away all my worries. But as I organize this and I hear what these local environmental groups are already doing, I am starting to feel hopeful.

I’m looking forward to hearing more about how students have developed in-school recycling programs, about young local environmentalists’ new climate app, what carbon cashbacks are and what policy reforms I need to support to move us in a better direction.

I’m anticipating lively and informative conversations and ideas on how we can all engage in positive actions. See you there.

Peggy Flynn has been a lobbyist, a technical writer and editor, a grant writer, a farmer, a sheep shearer, and a Peace Corps volunteer (Botswana 2013-16). Her new gig is auctioneering for nonprofits (she goes by “Peggy, Queen of Riches”). She has a deep commitment to civic engagement and is the co-president of the Democratic Women’s Club of Santa Cruz County. She has lived in Santa Cruz County for 26 years. Her previous piece for Lookout, about the election turnout, ran in November.

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