If you’re paying any attention at all, you can see the effects of climate change right in front of us. Eastern Washington smolders and drought starves our reservoirs. Yet we face a federal government filled with fossil fuel executives dedicated to destroying our environment for the sake of private profit. Seattle needs to continue to lead on climate and environmental justice. The climate crisis is here: we stand at a turning point in that we are the first generation to see the impacts of climate change, and the last generation that can do something about it.
Stand In Solidarity With Indigenous Leadership on Fossil Fuel Divestment
I was proud to stand in solidarity with local and national indigenous leadership in demanding that the City of Seattle divest from Wells Fargo, a major financer of the Dakota Access Pipeline. Divestment is a powerful tool to isolate industries who engage in socially or environmentally destructive behaviors. Under the Trump administration, we cannot expect a national government to safeguard existing environmental protections nor advocate for a just transition to clean energy. It is up to local jurisdictions to stand against new fossil fuel infrastructure projects.
Indigenous organizers nationwide and in Seattle have called upon organizers to lead fossil fuel divestment campaigns in their own communities. In addition to the City of Seattle divesting from Wells Fargo, I stand with local organizers to lead direct actions against banks enabling the climate crisis. I am proud to participate in the 350 Seattle city-wide direct actions against Chase Bank and would support future actions.
In addition to targeting banks funding pipelines, I also advocate for the City of Seattle to finally divest its pension fund from fossil fuel companies. The Seattle City Employees’ Retirement System (SCERS) has stalled on the question of fossil fuel divestment for nearly five years. It’s time to take action. Continued investment in fossil fuel companies is not only morally outrageous but financially risky. In order to avoid climate disaster, 60-80% of known fossil fuel reserves must remain unexploited. Investment experts increasingly recognize that these “stranded assets” are a financial threat to investment portfolios. SCERS can take immediate action by 1) divesting the pension fund from coal and 2) create a fossil-fuel free option in the employee deferred compensation program. Beyond these actions, SCERS should create a timeline for divestment from oil and gas companies.
Clean Up the Duwamish River
Pollution experienced by residents of Georgetown and South Park is a major environmental justice issue facing our city. Residents in those neighborhoods have life expectancies a full 8-13 years below the Seattle average due to the environmental hazards in the neighborhood. The pollution of the Duwamish River in particular is a racial justice issue, an indigenous rights issue and an environmental issue. I’m happy to see the EPA, city, county and state moving forward on cleaning up the Duwamish and addressing issues of air and water pollution.
From a racial justice perspective, the pollution of the Duwamish disproportionately impacts non-white Seattleites. More than 40% of Duwamish Valley residents are non-white and 21% of people live below the poverty level. The South Park neighborhood in particular represents a diverse community of immigrants. Every Seattle resident deserves access to healthy, clean water for recreation regardless of race, immigrant status or income level. The pollution of the Duwamish river also impacts tribes’ ability to fish in traditional fishing areas. The Muckleshoot and Suquamish tribes are officially partnering in this effort; however we know that the Duwamish tribe, which is still unrecognized by the federal government, also deserves to play a part.
The Trump administration has threatened to significantly cut the EPA’s budget which could threaten funding for the Duwamish cleanup. It is critical that we utilize local progressive funding sources like a progressive income tax and raising taxes on corporations to backfill any cuts from the federal government.
Invest in Public Transit and Equitable Density
As Seattle adds over 100,000 new residents in the next 20 years, it is critical that we invest in public transit as well as pedestrian and cycling infrastructure to provide transportation alternatives to private vehicles that pollute our environment. Additionally, we must find an equitable balance between increasing density and protecting against displacement of low-income families and communities of color. When low and middle wage workers and families are forced to move farther away from their job, the long commute times and reliance on personal vehicles contributes to Seattle’s carbon footprint and the suburbanization of poverty.
My affordable transportation policy explains in detail how we can invest in public transportation and equitable density to address our city’s carbon footprint. In short, we should fully fund the bicycle master plan and Vision Zero, utilize impact fees and the Employee Hours Tax to pay for transportation and take an anti-displacement and affordability lens toward transit-oriented development.