Petaluma (KPIX 5) – With weather conditions shifting from one extreme to the other, Petaluma has been chosen to be a leader in the fight against climate change, possibly providing a road map for the rest of the country.
The community of Sonoma County is one of three cities, along with Irvine and Los Angeles, selected for Cool Cities Scholarship worth $1 Million From the Institute for Empowerment, to try to achieve carbon neutrality by 2030.
This means no burning fossil fuels of any kind, and the project’s founder, David Gershon, calls it the launch of this generation.
Gershon told KPIX 5, “That’s a very apt metaphor, because no one has ever made that kind of change, and that so quickly, that’s transformed so dramatically the infrastructure of their cities.”
Petaluma has always been at the fore in the fight against climate change. At the request of citizens, the city council declared a climate emergency, ordered entirely new electrical construction, and was the first city in America to ban any new gas stations within its limits.
However, the project’s campaign manager, Natasha Juliana, said carbon neutralization efforts would only succeed if residents embraced the idea.
“What we really want to achieve is the sense of excitement and joy that can come with building this new future and it’s not about what we have to give up, but what we gain,” Juliana said.
That could mean more electric cars, with fewer on the streets, more bike and pedestrian access, and perhaps an electric trolley or bus loops. How it would look is not yet imagined, but the idea is to make it desirable, and it will happen piece by piece.
Three hundred “Cool Block” leaders have already signed up to enlist their neighbors in the effort. David Powers is one of them, and he says he understands that some may not respond.
“I’m not worried about that because I think the only thing that can happen from this is a good thing,” Powers said.
Half of the money will be spent just to organize the city and on board. And then, in about two years, the real work will begin.
The 300 blocks already registered represent about a quarter of the entire city of Petaluma and once the process begins, she expects to turn into a snowball, city councilman De Linda Fischer said.
“I think there is a real desire in this community for society,” Fisher told KPIX 5. “You might not get the outliers there, but we’ll get everyone.”
Gershon agreed. “So what happens when 25% of the blocks in the community start connecting at that level, and they start doing this kind of carbon reduction?” Asked. “It will change the fabric of society.”
The goal may seem questionable to some, but so is the landing of a man on the moon. Petaluma is trying to prove that stopping climate change this decade is not an impossible dream, like launching the moon, but just a matter of will.