Sheila Jacobs jokingly calls the group “Climate-teers” because its members are like superheroes working behind the scenes to heal the planet.
By Renee Macalino Rutledge
Published: May 8, 2019 in the Alameda Magazine
When people think of global warming or climate change, it is usually with some level of foreboding, a call to action to keep things from getting any worse. According to the Alameda Climate Restoration Circle, however, we can do much better than prevention. We can work to restore the climate and reverse environmental damage. We can visualize and bring about a vital planet for generations to come.
Launched Jan. 13, the circle is an offshoot of the Healthy Climate Alliance, a global organization with Silicon Valley roots that’s uniting research, planning, and action to remove carbon dioxide and restore Arctic ice.
The circle consists of about 30 members who meet weekly to organize events and galvanize the local community around the HCA’s core values. Cofounder Sheila Jacobs jokingly calls the group “Climate-teers” because members are like superheroes working behind the scenes to heal the planet. The Climate-teers main strength? Recruiting others to find and use their climate superpowers, too.
“We want everyone in Alameda to learn from this journey so that they, too, can get on board and discover that each one of us needs to jump in with all feet,” Jacobs said. “It really will only work if we all understand that it is time for all hands on deck.”
Having been a marriage and family therapist for 30 years, Jacobs is quick to underscore that she’s not a climate scientist, yet there’s a place for her and residents of every background and interest to join the cause.
In February, Jacobs worked with school staff, parent volunteers, students, and local businesses to complete the circle’s first project — Valentine for Mother Earth — a single message for the planet made of multiple individual valentines, symbolizing unity over division. The works were displayed at Julie’s on Park Street.
“Talking about ‘climate’ leads to politics,” Jacobs said, “but if you talk about ‘Mother Earth,’ you get connection and how we are all related. You have to inspire people to do something.”
Circle member Damian Mason is no stranger to environmental activism and was an active part of the push for the Climate Emergency Declaration
“I’m excited about this new declaration goal post and text as a call to action,” Mason said. “I see us shifting from a moderate-greenhouse-gas-reduction-business-as-usual mindset to a-game-on-let’s-reverse-global-warming-now framework.”
Having captured the community’s interest in a few short months, the circle has impressed alliance executive director Erica Dodds, who hopes the initiatives Alameda supporters take on to restore a safe and healthy climate can serve as a role model for collective action in other cities in the Bay Area, statewide, and nationwide.
“The circle is skillfully reminding the community that we are connected to the natural world around us, and that our love for our planet should drive our climate action. They have created beautiful videos, launched heartwarming social media campaigns, hosted informational gatherings, and planned major events,” Dodds said. “As a non-Alamedan, I’ve been really impressed by the warm reception the Alameda Climate Restoration Circle has gotten … It’s refreshing to see how enthusiastic the Alameda community is to support this home-grown effort.”
In addition to hosting a Mother Earth Festival on May 11, the circle is planning a CoLab (short for collaboration) Event to bring Bay Area businesses with climate science projects together to coordinate Bay Area efforts. It is also partnering with Alameda schools and libraries to promote a “climate restoration mindset” and establish a climate center in Alameda that can provide hands-on education and host projects.
Circle cofounder and program strategist Kerry Hughes said opening the climate center will help mobilize ordinary citizens to begin their own climate restoration projects.
“We are not all climate engineers and scientists, but we all have skills to bring, and when working together, we are a radical message of hope,” Hughes said.
In addition to Alameda, Dodds said the alliance hopes to establish local partners in communities around the globe to bring relevant players in various sectors, including the government and corporations, to work together on restoring the climate.
On a local level, climate comes with more specific issues, with every city facing its own needs and risks. Alameda, for example, is surrounded by water and largely built on landfill.
As a climate economist and senior VP of Forever Redwood, which is restoring clear-cut redwood forest in Sonoma County, circle cofounder Warren Linney said Alameda, being only about 10 feet above sea level, is one of the most at-risk cities in the Bay Area for major flooding, with no hills to retreat to.
“I had to buy FEMA flood insurance for my home near Alameda Point this year,” Linney said. “Our group is telling Alamedans of the risk and also that being leaders in climate restoration can save our isle.”
In March, Linney visited an ocean group in Koh Pha-ngnan, Thailand, to observe its work restoring a coral reef through replanting heat-resistant corals. According to Linney, on that island, another 2 or 3 degrees of ocean warming will result in most of the coral reef becoming bleached. “I think the lesson is that we need to find out what are good solutions Alameda can implement that also help reverse climate change,” he said. “We can be active restoring oysters on the island and help re-grow the kelp off the California ocean.”