My sister Judy and her husband Dadla live in the somewhat sleepy beach town of Encinitas, just north of San Diego. It’s a bit storybook-like with surf shops, bathing suit boutiques, and hole-in-the-wall stores that never stopped selling vinyl records. There is a main street, a commuter train, and you can almost hear the waves crashing from the café on the corner. Like many small towns, it is part quaint yesterday and part twenty-first century careening at hyper-speed into an uncertain future. Farmer’s markets and bike paths in restless coexistence with McMansions and big box stores.
Judy and Dadla have lived in Encinitas for nearly thirty years. They are known about town as movers and shakers. Unlike some people whose sense of home ends when they walk out their front door, not so for Judy and Dadla. Their sense of home extends to their entire community.
That’s why they spent years and years working with the city council to get a roundabout built at the top of the big street near their house. The roundabout is beautiful, a circle filled with native plants, around which cars drive slowly and no longer tear over the top of the hill. Moms and dads can push strollers in the ocean air with less fear of getting sideswiped by an eager surfer on a tear to the waves.
That’s why they spent years arguing for an underpass—a way to cross the railroad tracks that separated so many houses from the ocean. Daring people crossed the tracks anyway—but it was risky. You had to scamper up a little dirt mound—no traction—look both ways—look again—then scurry across. It made my heart race. I would walk a mile out of the way to be able to cross at the light relieving the heart palpitations. Now there is this beautiful path with stairs and a ramp, native plants edging the sides. And a very short tunnel with mosaic tiles on the wall that goes right under the railroad tracks.
You’ve got to feel like your city is your home in order to do what it takes to make things like that happen. Meeting after meeting after meeting. People who yell at you for misunderstanding your intentions. People in positions of power who drag their heels. Pushing, pushing, pushing against complacency and when it’s all over those same people taking credit for the very thing they remained strangely inert about.
Judy and Dadla’s latest moving and shaking resulted in securing a vote from the Encinitas City Council to endorse national legislation to put a price on carbon. If you think that vote was a slam dunk, think again! All the work they did to get the roundabout built prepared them. All the work they did to get the underpass constructed prepared them. They learned that sometimes you have to go in circles and burrow underneath to make things happen.
I’m proud of my sister and brother-in-law. They are thoughtful, persistent, diligent team players who are willing to push against our human tendency to dig our heels in and resist change—even when that change could save our lives.
Across the country, cities are taking steps to prepare for the impacts of climate change. Cities are made up of people. People like my sister and brother-in-law. People like you.
I’m curious. Do you live in a city? Do you consider your city your home? Do you know the name of your mayor? Do you know the name of your city council members? Do they know your name?
I’m curious. What is your city doing to prepare for drought, heat, fires, water, evacuation? What can you do to help guide the way?
Cities take the lead, when people like you speak up. And that makes all the difference.