Sustaining Orange County: The Climate Reality Project Engages Local Community

The realities of the global climate crisis can seem overwhelming. Every day, there’s new information about how the environment and human health are being threatened. And the international response to the COVID-19 pandemic has people wondering about possible parallels.

But there are plenty of Orange County residents fighting to make positive change. We highlight that great work here—from green businesses and university researchers to volunteer groups and civil servants. Passionate locals are working together to create a sustainable future; let them inspire you to take action in ways large and small.

Photograph by Emily J. Davis

Patty Yoo, Linda Kraemer, and Margo Finlayson of the O.C. Chapter

What does your group do?
Locally, we support the many environmental groups such as Climate Action Campaign, O.C. for Climate Action, OC Clean Power, About and For Sustainability, Sierra Club O.C., Citizens’ Climate Lobby, O.C. Interfaith Coalition for the Environment, Sunrise Movement, and Fridays for Future.
PY: We try to be a hub to let everyone know what’s going on locally. We have meetings every month and co-sponsor events or give talks.

How did you get involved?
I saw “An Inconvenient Truth” in 2006, and we all attended training with (former Vice President) Al Gore in 2018. The film is rather scary and depressing, but hearing from him and seeing how much progress was made since then was really empowering.
PY: It’s disheartening that when something like “An Inconvenient Truth” comes out, people seem to care and then after a while we go back to business as usual. I’m passionate about what kind of world my kids will grow up in.

What are some of your projects?
We encouraged Irvine to adopt a climate action plan, which it did. We like to build bridges and be collaborative. That’s the only way we are going to get any progress.
LK: A big one is Community Choice Energy. Irvine is the first O.C. city to decide to do this. It’s a fiscally responsible way to buy renewables. Cities take over purchasing the sources of energy. So rather than getting it all from gas and oil, they can choose to buy more renewables such as solar or wind. The energy company still controls the wires and distributes the energy. Households will save money (Irvine estimates 2 percent savings), or they can choose to pay a few dollars more per month to use 100 percent renewable energy. Or you can opt out. But the opt-out rate is really low in cities where this has been implemented. The important thing is to give people that choice.

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