In Bellingham, we’re feeling 100% optimistic.

This is a guest article from Bellingham City Council Member April Barker, with 350 Bellingham members Michael Peñuelas and Jill MacIntyre Witt.

We live in one of the most beautiful places on Earth, cradled by the Salish Sea, productive farmlands, and spectacular mountains. As a result, we are reminded daily that a healthy environment is crucial to the success of our community. And we acknowledge, with humility, that this land was home to forward-thinking stewards, the Lummi Nation and the Nooksack Tribe, for generations before we arrived.

For the past 200 years, too many in our community have followed the path of least resistance, making a living by aggressively exploiting our environmental systems. Today, this way of life is hitting us where it hurts.

We are a coastal town and we are watching our shoreline disappear under rising seas. Just two weeks ago, roads, homes, and seaside businesses in our county were devastated by the hammering of storm surges. Our summers are now consistently choked by smoke and ever-wilder swings in our weather threaten our local agriculture.

So we are stepping up.

One year ago, in December 2017, Whatcom County became the first county in Washington to establish a goal of 100% renewable energy use within County operations and the larger community.

Then, this May, the City of Bellingham, Whatcom’s county seat, became the second city in the state to set 100% renewable goals, following Edmonds’ lead. We passed a resolution setting goals of supplying 100% renewable energy for all municipal facilities and the city’s community electricity supply by 2030 as well as 100% renewable energy for community heating and transportation by 2035.

And other communities are stepping up to join us. In August, Spokane passed their own 100% resolution, and others are in the works.

Policies that promote business-as-usual scenarios are not only catastrophic for our environment, they also strengthen racism and wealth inequality. The U.S. Census predicts the country will be a “minority majority” nation by 2044. Meanwhile, the Puget Sound alone will welcome another 2 million people by 2050. Coupled with modern climate science, these conditions create a prime opportunity to dig deep and rethink the scaffolding of our planning policies.

To maintain, much less improve, the resilience of our systems in the face of these changes, our cities, our county, and our state need new goals. As we developed Bellingham’s resolution, it became clear that we needed to respond to a broken energy system with a bold and courageous vision rooted in both equity and climate science.

In declaring 100% renewable energy goals, we reaffirmed that our city is anti-poverty, anti-racism, and anti-inequality. We reaffirmed that Bellingham wants a cleaner local energy supply that produces family-wage, stable, union jobs. We want to build integrated neighborhoods with a diversity of housing options where we can actually learn from our neighbors. And we want to ensure transit that works for everyone and wastes none of our time and potential.

Momentum for 100% clean energy has built in Washington through 2017 and 2018. The electorate spoke up this November, electing climate champions across the state who will respond with solutions commensurate with the scale of the challenge. This month, Governor Inslee announced a proposed statewide “100% Clean Energy Bill,” which sets bold, courageous timelines for phasing out all fossil fuels from our electricity supply.

So, Happy New Year, and here’s to 2019. We’re feeling optimistic.


Author Bio

April Barker is a member of the Bellingham City Council, a parent of two, and a teacher. Michael Peñuelas and Jill MacIntyre Witt are members of 350 Bellingham, a local climate-action group.

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