by Leslie Layton
Pounding hail, bolts of lightning and tornado alarms drowned out plaintive voices of the shyest of the teens who spoke before the Chico City Council Tuesday night.
To many in the chamber, nature had also spoken in a thundering, biblical voice.
To others, of course, the racket was produced by a mere flash flood.
As rain water filled the streets of Chico, trapping a few vehicle passengers and flooding some homes and businesses, the City Council voted 5-1 to pass a resolution declaring a climate emergency. It commits the city to act on climate change and prepare for extreme weather events.
The resolution states “it makes economic sense… to be proactive rather than wait for more wildfires, severe storms, heat waves, and floods which threaten public health and safety… ”
Councilmember Ann Schwab, who brought the resolution to the panel, said the storm underway outside was a “poignant example of the type of climatic conditions that are going to be more common unless we make some very significant changes.”
Chico on Tuesday became the 10th California city to pass a resolution establishing a carbon-emissions goal of zero — almost five months after the climate-fueled Camp Fire destroyed neighboring communities.
More than 30 people addressed the Council, asking that it pass the resolution. But it was the students from Inspire School and Chico State who sounded most fearful about their futures.
“What’s it going to be like when my kids grow up?” said 16-year-old Alma Miranda in a shaky, emotional voice as she spoke before the dais.
“I’m so young,” said Megan Brady. “Please fight for my future. It’s hard to fight for it by myself.”
Several speakers at Tuesday’s meeting had lost homes or property in Paradise to the Camp Fire. Schwab, as she introduced the resolution, noted that the Camp Fire was an example of the kind of extreme event that climate change produces.
Councilmember Sean Morgan said the resolution was a “feel-good initiative” and voted against its passage. Councilmember Kasey Reynolds was absent during the vote; she was said to be checking on flooding behind her downtown business.
Mayor Randall Stone, Vice Mayor Alex Brown, councilmembers Karl Ory and Scott Huber and Schwab voted in favor of the resolution.
Rob Berry, a member of the Chico First group, as well as a couple of other speakers, opposed the resolution. Berry called the pre-meeting rally outside the chambers in favor of action on climate change “theatre.”
“I don’t care about this issue,” he declared.
Ann Ponzio, a member of the Chico 350 steering committee, said the carbon-neutral goal isn’t as far-fetched as it may sound. The city of Georgetown, Tex., became fossil free in two years, she noted.
Others who spoke Tuesday echoed the Georgetown view that there’s economic opportunity in switching to renewable energy sources.
A few of the resolution’s highlights:
• It notes that the Camp Fire was the “deadliest and most destructive wildfire in California history” and had a “devastating effect on Chico’s health and public safety, air and water quality…”
• The city commits “to become 100% fossil-free as quickly as possible and no later than 2030;”
• The city commits “to accelerate adaptation and resilience strategies, such as cooling centers and hydration stations, in preparation for intensifying climate impacts…”
Mayor Stone adjourned the meeting after the resolution was passed and people poured out of the chambers to find the streets filled with several feet of water.
“It is biblical, kind of like Mother Nature showed us her power, the fact that we are not in charge of this,” Ponzio said.
Leslie Layton is editor of ChicoSol.