Updated: Oct 26
“Climate Change, changes everything” says Naomi Klein, and that is as true locally, as globally. Here in Mendocino, the GrassRoots Institute (GRI) helps individuals, businesses and governments forge smart, effective, doable strategies to mitigate climate change and adapt to what’s ahead.
Locally - Our County Is Changing!
Particularly for older folks, changes in the county are painfully noticeable; socially, economically, and environmentally. Economically, timber was king five decades back. Timber mills and logging companies were our big employers. Today, most mills are closed and loggers/mill workers make up a much smaller portion of the county’s workforce. In the past, timber companies strived to operate sustainably, limiting cutting to how fast replacement trees could grow. But in practice sadly, timber companies often over cut. Over harvested forest land became saturated with slash, brush and juvenile trees.
Meanwhile climate change brought warmer and dryer environments. Combined with poor forest management practices, much of Mendocino County became a tinder box where wildfires quickly become infernos producing mega disasters destroying communities, disrupting transportation systems and causing catastrophic electrical grid failures.
Climate change also impacted our ocean and coastal areas. In the ‘50s and ‘60s, Mendocino supported a thriving fishing industry, providing good paying jobs on fleets harvesting salmon, bottom fish, crab, abalone and sea urchins along the coast. But greenhouse gas in the atmosphere warmed our seas and changed their chemistry, making them less habitable for many of the commercial species the fishing industry depends upon. Harvests dwindled and so did fishing employment and businesses in Fort Bragg and Point Arena.
Climate Change Impacts Us All - Directly & Indirectly
Loss of well-paying timber and fishing jobs impoverished communities and robbed us of wealth needed to support education, healthcare and civic infrastructure.
For example, Fort Bragg mill jobs provided robust health insurance supporting local hospital, clinics and health practices.
But now residents rely on government health insurance programs that pay less. As a result, Fort Bragg’s hospital no longer has adequate revenues and capital to maintain services or invest in needed staff, equipment and facilities. And because clinics and private healthcare practitioners rely on the hospital to host lab and specialized health services, local healthcare providers find it more difficult to meet patient needs at affordable prices.
Housing is another area where climate change produced dramatic challenges. The timber and fishing industry once supported a robust, skilled, blue-collar workforce that built and maintained modest affordable housing stock in the county. As these industries diminished, the county’s economy shifted to a low-wage tourist and fixed-income retirement economy. Today less workforce housing is being built and new construction is targeted at wealthy vacationers or retirees, which increases the cost of real estate and housing. Low wage tourist economy workers and even middle-class, small-business owners have a hard time finding affordable housing.
But the direct and indirect impacts of climate change go far beyond the two examples illustrated here. Indeed, they affect every aspect of our daily lives. Climate change introduces new challenges like sea level rise, alternating droughts and super storm flooding, wild fire infernos and economic and service disruptions for ourselves, our families, our friends/neighbors and our communities.
What GRI Does!
The GrassRoots Institute strives to be a resource for individuals and communities confronting the challenges of climate change. Our strategy is to help the public educate itself and to engage volunteer workgroups to advocate for progressive solutions that benefit the common good.
The Institute’s Climate Crisis Workgroup (CCW) was formed to explore what could be done to confront local climate change impacts. In 2021 they:
Initiated bi-weekly zoom sessions to discuss and take action on climate change education and advocacy initiatives.
Issued an open letter to the Fort Bragg City Council and the Mendocino County Board of Supervisors calling for them to utilize state/federal grants to install solar systems on public buildings, expand the number of electric vehicle chargers and transition Mendocino Transit Authority to zero emission vehicles.
Circulated a petition and collected over 600 signatures from individuals and businesses in support of climate change proposals.
Testified at City Council and Board of Supervisor meetings to advocate for climate change mitigation and adaptation. CCW volunteers wrote letters to public officials, issued press releases, called local talk shows, and demonstrated on street corners advocating climate mitigation and adaptation action.
Conducted work sessions with local public officials and experts to develop workable climate change mitigation and adaptation programs for government and our communities.
Advocated for (and the Supervisors unanimously adopted) a Mendocino County Net Zero Carbon Emission Resolution, sponsored by Supervisors Dan Gjerde and John Haschak that allocated $2 million towards funding projects to reduce county government carbon emissions.
Supported, and with leadership of Supervisor Gjerde, encouraged county officials to contract with WillDan Energy Consultants to conduct an energy and climate change audit of county operations that was completed in November 2021.
Advocated and the County Board of Supervisors adopted a plan to transition county government’s fleet to low and zero emission vehicles beginning in 2022 (ultimately saving county tax payers millions in fuel & maintenance costs).
Then in 2022 they:
Testified in support of Mendocino Council of Governments (MCOG) allocating funds to electrify the Mendocino Transit Authority (MTA) fleet to zero emission vehicles and to join a Rural Regional Energy Network (REN) to facilitate subsidies for businesses and residential housing transitioning to energy efficient appliances and electric vehicles.
Began an educational and letter writing campaign to oppose large private utility corporation efforts to undermine roof-top solar affordability. Hundreds of Mendocino County residents joined with tens of thousands of Californians, to petition the California Public Utilities Commission and Governor Newsom to deny the corporate plan to tax solar.
Attended governing boards and city council meetings to testify and support actions to mitigate climate change and promote adaptation. Those governing boards and City councils include: California Public Utility Commission, California Coastal Commission, California Coastal Conservancy, Fort Bragg City Council, Mendocino County Board of Supervisors, Mendocino Council of Governments, Sonoma Clean Power (public electricity aggregator), Mendocino Transit Authority, City of Ukiah, Mendocino Resource Conservation District, Mendocino Climate Change Action Advisory Committee, and the Mendocino City Community Services District.
Joined with Climate Action Mendocino to support enactment of a Climate Action policy in the City of Ukiah.
Collaborated with community-based organizations to support climate change mitigation and adaption initiatives. Those organizations included projects with the Mendocino County League of Women Voters, Noyo Headlands Unified Design Group, Coast Democratic Club, Climate Action Mendocino, California Solar Rights Alliance, Transition Communities, Mendocino Sierra Club, Caspar Community Center and Latino Coalition.
You Can Help!
The GrassRoots Institute’s Climate Crisis Workgroup is a nonprofit, non-partisan volunteer organization. We rely upon donations of volunteer and donated resources from the community to support our activities.
If you would like to learn more about CCW and how you can join our effort to mitigate and adapt to climate change locally, either by donating your time and/or resources, you can email Carrie Durkee at email@example.com or Peter McNamee at firstname.lastname@example.org. Or visit the GrassRoots Institute’s web page.