Providence, RI —
Good morning and welcome back to The Planet You Save May Be Your Own.
It’s been a while, so let's quickly recap, I’m Taylor Kate Brown, journalist, Earth Day baby and until very recently, an employee of a great local newspaper. You signed up to this newsletter at some point in the past five years, and I’m happy to announce it’s back. More details on how & why in a bit.
It’s been… a summer. If it seems that fires, floods and extreme heat are everywhere, you’re not imagining it. The Washington Post’s analysis of federal disaster declarations found that one in three Americans experienced some sort of weather disaster in 2021. And about two in three experienced a multi-day heat wave — which can be even more deadly.
Unlike the winter pandemic surge, the disasters have been both particular to each region and wildly divergent between them: drought — and then wildfire — in California, yet another extreme hurricane on the Gulf Coast, flash flooding in the Northeast and Midwest, deadly heat in the Pacific Northwest.
We’ve always had these weather disasters, of course, but fossil-fuel induced climate change means they are more likely to be more intense, and therefore more deadly and destructive. Far too much water one place, and not nearly enough elsewhere. Whatever form it takes, climate change has likely come for your backyard. For the first time in an annual survey, a majority of Americans say that people in the United States are being harmed "right now" by climate change.
“The true test of this summer’s significance will be in whether the United States can meaningfully curb its planet-warming emissions — and fast,” The Post writes.
They’re interested in the negotiation/ full-on standoff / impenetrable Congressional drama that includes, among other things, significant federal investment in technologies and infrastructure to cut emissions. It’s exceptionally important, but it's not the only thing going on:
Oil and gas drilling in Los Angeles county is on its way out (yes, there's oil drilling in Los Angeles — mostly near majority-Black neighbors) and the city is looking to invest $30 million on solar and batteries on Los-Angeles owned buildings to get them to 100% zero-emissions as part of their 100%
The Standing Rock and Line 3 battles to stop oil pipelines are led by indigenous groups in part because the lines run over their land. What about indigenous-led renewable energy installations?
In Pennsylvania, I'm tracking a bill that would preempt city and county's ability to block natural gas hookups in new construction — even though it seems no one has actually asked to do that in the state. Here's a background on why.
Did you experience extreme weather this summer? Tell me about it by replying to this email.
I started The Planet You Save May Be Your Own in 2016 to scratch an intellectual and emotional itch. A lot has happened since then. A move across the country. A new job. Friends gave birth and other friends died. Managing and writing many, many newsletters that were not this one. A global pandemic. The experience of not being able to go outside for days because of wildfire smoke. Right now I'm at Brown University, researching and reporting on factors blocking climate action on the state-level.
The spirit of this newsletter will stay the same, but there’s a sharpening of focus. The Planet You Save is about the climate fight in your backyard — at the local and state level. Not because a single town or state cutting their emissions will “save the planet”, but because it’s the place of change that’s most visible and accessible to most people.
It's about sharing stories that might expand your idea of what’s possible or replicable where you live, and focus you on what’s immediate and timely. This isn’t a call to action newsletter, but it is concerned with tactics and knowledge — knowledge that you can do something with, rather than just despair.
This newsletter is also about community — about how one builds it in the place you live. In fact, I need you, as a community, to keep me honest when I’ve gotten into the weeds. I’ve turned to this work full-time, but I don’t want a readership of only fellow weed-dwellers.
Much has been written about the overwhelmingness of climate change. The moment when the scope of it hits you is frankly, rude. l think of it like the time I first jumped into the Barton Springs Pool in Austin, a cold slap on my whole body, a total awareness of wanting to escape that feeling immediately.
So how do we deal? How do we bring it to mind and action, not as an morbid obsession but as, as Tressie McMillian Cottom wrote in a recent dispatch of her own, part of the "mundane"?
By putting these symbols of climate change in my view… it becomes a tactical reminder for me that this thing is happening and it’s happening right now. And no, that doesn’t equate to a direct effect on the decline of, say, gas emissions. But it does keep climate in our daily view in a way that makes us ask those questions politically, so that we start to assume that a person should have a plan, and that those people will include corporations and political actors.
Since I started this next step, I’ve noticed how energized I am. I take it as a sign that I’m on the right path. Like how, once I scurried out of Barton Springs, I realized I wanted to jump back in, over and over again.
Of course, it was nearly 100 degrees outside.
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