Community Empowerment Discussed for Dealing with Climate Change

The mayor, two council members and a planning commissioner showed up at a Feb. 27 night meeting in Santa Barbara along with about 50 South Coast residents to discuss how to deal with carbon emissions and natural disasters one neighborhood at a time. 

David Gershon, co-founder and CEO of Empowerment Institute, talked to the crowd at the Impact Hub Chapala Center and held a brief workshop. His topic was “Empowering Climate Change Movements One Block at a Time.” 

Gershon is creator of “The Cool Block and Cool California Initiative,” which has been praised by Gov. Gavin Newsom as an effective way to deal with climate change. 

“Seventy percent of carbon emissions comes from cities,” Gershon said. So, that makes cities like Santa Barbara part of the problem and the solution is to change current behavior, he said. 

Gershon said the Cool Block Initiative is under way in neighborhoods San Francisco, Palo Alto and Los Angeles. Global Impact Good founder Robin Elander is starting the movement in Santa Barbara. 

Aside from just getting to know neighbors better, the movement can help neighborhood to have an emergency disaster plan or even start a community garden, which would cut carbon emission since residents won’t have to drive so far to get produce. 

Gershon said the idea is to distribute local leadership. He suggested getting technical help from U C Santa Barbara, working with the local chambers of commerce and nonprofits as well as developing teams to deal with such subjects as finance, policy and synergy. 

He said $10 million in prizes could be awarded to various communities for their climate change efforts. Santa Barbara and Montecito are committed to reducing carbon emissions by 2020, he said. 

Santa Barbara Councilwoman Kristen, who introduced Gershon, also has been involved in the local empowerment movement. Councilman Oscar Gutierrez also spoke briefly at the meeting. 

Mayor Cathy Murillo told the crowd the is discussing moving toward using all renewable energy 2030. Planning Commissioner John Campanella also attended the session.

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