Celebrating Earth Day 2018: Preserving Irvine’s Earth-Friendly Tradition

Today, Sunday, April 22, is Earth Day.

Irvine’s San Joaquin Wildlife Sanctuary. Photo by Geoff Fox.

Nearly 50 years ago, on April 22, 1970, millions of people took to the streets to protest the negative impacts of 150 years of industrial development.  In the US and around the world, smog was becoming deadly and evidence was growing that pollution led to developmental delays in children. Biodiversity was in decline as a result of the heavy use of pesticides and other pollutants.

The global ecological awareness was growing, and the US Congress and President Nixon responded quickly.  In July of the same year, they created the Environmental Protection Agency, and robust environmental laws such as the Clean Water Act and the Endangered Species Act, among many.

Earth Day is now a global event each year, and more than 1 billion people in 193 countries now take part in what is the largest civic-focused day of action in the world.

The City of Irvine has long been a leader in earth-friendly environmental policies, green technology, and environmental awareness.  Irvine’s environmental programs have been on the leading edge of advances in green building and construction, environmental education, recycling, water conservation, waste disposal, and energy saving.

Irvine’s Open Spaces

One of the best — and most distinctive — qualities of Irvine is our commitment to preserving open space. The City of Irvine has more than 16,000 acres of permanently preserved parkland and open space – remarkable for a city of our size.

The Limestone Sinks. Irvine Ranch Conservancy Open Space.

In 1974, early in our city’s history, voters approved multi-million dollar measures to fund public parks and recreational facilities, and for the acquisition and development of bicycle trail and hiking trail improvements.

In 1989, the City negotiated an historic agreement with the Irvine Company that set aside more than 9,500 acres as permanent open space marshlands, bike trails, parks, nature conservancies and agricultural areas, protecting fully one-third of the city from development.

In addition, in 2006, nearly 37,000 acres of the Irvine Ranch were selected as a National Natural Landmark, a designation which reflects the outstanding condition, rarity, diversity, and value to science and education of the natural resources on the land.

As our Irvine Open Space Preserve website explains, “Since its incorporation in 1971, Irvine has had a strong desire to balance the built and natural environment. As this incredible master-planned community has grown, each phase of development has been accompanied by the preservation and enhancement of natural open spaces, creating the network of parks, trails, and wildlands that residents and visitors may enjoy today and for generations to come.”

The Green Ribbon Environmental Committee

Irvine Ranch Open Space.

Irvine’s Green Ribbon Environmental Committee seeks to increase public participation in energy conservation and sustainable practices, helping the City serve the community through advancing environmental policy initiatives and programs. The Committee is supported by the Public Works Department. Comprised of 10 members, the committee is an advisory body to the City Council and provides advice on sustainability policies related to energy, recycling and waste management, mobility, open space and water issues.

For some time, Irvine’s Green Ribbon Committee was dormant because there were not sufficient members to constitute a quorum.  One of my goals in joining the Irvine City Council was to get this important committee going again.  Working with Irvine’s mayor, Donald Wagner, I was  able to bring the Committee back to full functioning strength.

Irvine’s Green Ribbon Environmental Committee seeks to increase public participation in energy conservation and sustainable practices, helping the City serve the community through advancing environmental policy initiatives and programs. The Committee is supported by the Public Works Department. Comprised of 10 members, the committee is an advisory body to the City Council and provides advice on sustainability policies related to energy, recycling and waste management, mobility, open space and water issues. In addition, we have subcommittees relating to Active Transportation, Energy Development, and Green Infrastructure.

We have a lot of exciting things moving along  the pipeline, including a Request For Proposals for developing a feasibility study and technical assessment of Community Choice Energy, a means of allowing the city to purchase clean energy at a 3-7% savings on average.

If you’d like to get involved and share your ideas related to these policy areas, please consider joining us at the next Green Ribbon Environmental Committee meeting!

Mayor’s Water Challenge

This year, Irvine Mayor Donald P. Wagner is joining other mayors across the country in asking residents to make a commitment to conserve water and protect this vital resource by taking part in the 7th annual Wyland Mayor’s Challenge for Water Conservation.

City Council Member Melissa Fox and the artist Wyland at his Irvine studio.

“This annual challenge to conserve water, sponsored by the Wyland Foundation here in Irvine, reminds us of our precious resource,” said Mayor Wagner. “I am hopeful that what is a short-term challenge for our residents becomes a long-term practice of conservation.”

 Last year, residents from over 4,100 cities in all 50 U.S. states pledged to reduce their annual consumption of freshwater by 1.9 billion gallons, reduce waste sent to landfills by 42 million pounds, and prevent more than 87,000 pounds of hazardous waste from entering our watersheds. The challenge goes beyond recent drought issues and looks at the ways water use will affect the future of our communities.

To participate, enter online at  mywaterpledge.com , and then make a series of online pledges to conserve water on behalf of the City of Irvine.

One winning city will be determined from five population categories. The city with the most pledges in each population category will win.

Residents from the winning cities who take the online pledge will be entered to win hundreds of environmentally friendly prizes, including $5,000 for home utilities, water-saving fixtures and home improvement gift cards.

I am thrilled that our mayor has decided to join in the Wyland National Mayor’s Challenge for Water Conservation. Thank you to Irvine-based Wyland Foundation for your commitment to promoting, protecting, and preserving the world’s oceans, waterways, and marine life. All of us in Irvine are proud that this wonderful artist and conservationist is located in our city!

For more information, visit cityofirvine.org .

Keeping Our Commitment

From its beginnings as a visionary master-planned community developed from the Irvine Ranch, the City of Irvine has striven to be simultaneously people-friendly, business-friendly, and earth-friendly.

That success can continue into the future, as long as we insist that each phase of our City’s development be accompanied by careful planning and the preservation and enhancement of our environment.

 

 

What I’m Listening for in the Mayor’s 2018 State of the City Address

On Tuesday, February 27, Irvine Mayor Don Wagner will present his second “State of the City” address at the City Council chambers.

Mayor Wagner and I are members of different political parties and have very different views on many state and national issues. Yet in the year that we have served together on the Irvine City Council, we have been able to work in cooperation and with mutual respect to improve the lives of the residents of our City.

We have accomplished a lot in this past year. Since last year’s State of the City, Irvine has been rated:

• No. 1 Major American City in Fiscal Strength.
• No. 1 FBI’s Safest American City. Lowest rate of violent crime among cities with a population of 250,000 or more (12th consecutive year that City of Irvine has earned the Safest City accolade).
• No. 2 Safest Big City, based on categories that go beyond violent crime rates, including motor vehicle safety.
• No. 3 Most Prosperous City.
• No. 3 Happiest Residents.
• No. 6 Least Stressed American City
• No. 8 Best Public Parks.
• No. 8 Best City to Raise a Family, based on crime rate, vehicle safety, air quality, and educational attainment.
• No. 9 Healthiest Lifestyles.
• No. 15 Best Places to Buy a Forever Home.
• One of 20 Western Dream Towns.

While I’m proud of what we’ve accomplished, much more remains to be done and problems remain to be solved. We have moved past the partisan bickering and gridlock that prevented progress for so many years, but we need to continue to work together to improve the lives of all of Irvine’s residents.

Here’s what I will be listening for in this year’s State of the City Address:

More plans to solve Irvine’s traffic and transportation problems.

Every person who ran for Mayor or City Council in 2016 – including myself and Mayor Wagner – promised to take bold and meaningful action to reduce traffic congestion.

In fact, in our first year, we have already accomplished a great deal:

• The City Council did not approve a single new entitlement for housing or offices in 2017.
• Reinstated Irvine Transportation/Traffic Commission (with my appointee, Ken Montgomery, as Chair).
• Created and filled new City of Irvine staff position of Director of Transportation.
• Curtailed traffic in and out of Concordia University.
• Approved $19 million plan to reduce traffic congestion throughout Irvine.
• Approved plan to widen University between MacArthur and Campus, adding a lane in each direction and upgrading traffic signals.
• Working with CalTrans to upgrade and improve timing on 40 traffic signals near freeway ramps.
• Moved forward the construction of a pedestrian/bicycle bridge over Jamboree at Michelson.
• Defeated proposed 1,960-unit “Travel Land” apartment complex at the 5 and Sand Canyon, based on negative impact on traffic congestion.

But more needs to be done.

Irvine still needs to increase the safe, effective, and efficient transportation choices available in the City (including public transportation, bicycle routes, and active transportation) and will need to continue to hold developers accountable for resolving traffic issues before any entitlements and building permits are issued.

I look forward to hearing more detailed and concrete plans for resolving our traffic and transportation issues, and for increasing the transportation alternatives that are needed to reduce automobile congestion in our streets. In addition, I would like to hear about working with our school board to offer transportation to students to and from school to reduce congestion in the mornings and afternoon rush.

Building the Cultural Terrace at the Great Park.

For far too long, the residents of Irvine and Orange County were given nothing but empty promises about building our Great Park on the grounds of the old El Toro Marine Base.

This year we have finally succeeded in creating a Great Park that residents can enjoy.

• We opened the temporary 12,000-seat live music FivePoint Amphitheatre while planning the permanent Great Park Amphitheatre.
• We broke ground on and will soon open a new ice skating facility in the Great Park (largest public ice skating facility in the West).
• We opened our 5,000-seat Championship Soccer Stadium and numerous other sports fields and facilities in the first phase of 194-acre Great Park Sports Park, the largest of its kind in Orange County – larger than Disneyland and Disney California Adventure combined.
• Our Great Park Sports Complex was presented with the Orange County Business Council’s Turning Red Tape into Red Carpet Award for Public-Private Partnership.
• The Great Park Championship Stadium opens its second season as the home of the Orange County Soccer Club, Orange County’s only professional soccer team.
• We reached an agreement with Wild Rivers for a new 30-acre water park in the Great Park.

This year, I will be listening for details of even more progress on the Great Park.

I will be listening for details of the opening this year of the “bosque” (tree-lined walking and biking trail area), as well as further development of the Great Park Sports Complex, including additional soccer and softball fields and a baseball stadium.

I want to hear about more specific plans and dates for the reopening of Wild Rivers. I will also be paying careful attention to the Mayor’s plans for the Cultural Terrace. I have advocated for the City Council to make commitments regarding placing museums, a library, and world-class botanical gardens so that we will have a truly Great Park.

Education and childcare.

It is time to squarely address the shortage of childcare for families in Irvine.

Nearly 2,500 Irvine families do not have adequate child care, with the most acute shortage for children under 2 years-old and children 6 to 12 years-old. Churches and other houses of worship traditionally provide a third of childcare. Our Irvine City Council and the Planning Commission must zone sufficient areas for churches and houses of worship, as well as take other steps, to meet our growing child care needs. I have been working with City staff, my Community Services Commissioner Lauren Johnson Norris, developers, childcare providers, and the business community to increase childcare through an overall city childcare development plan. I will be listening for the Mayor’s plans to help us in this important area.

Commitment to building the Veterans Cemetery and Memorial.

One of my proudest moments as an Irvine resident was when the City Council in 2014 voted unanimously to set aside 125 acres for an Orange County Veterans Cemetery. Since that time, we learned that the cost of building a veterans’ cemetery on the originally designated site would be more than $77 million – in other words, prohibitively expensive. For this reason, I support the land exchange according to which the Great Park developer will build the cemetery in another, close-by, location known as the “strawberry fields.”

This strawberry fields site, overwhelmingly preferred by veterans and all veterans’ groups, including the Veterans of Foreign Wars and the American Legion, saves at a minimum $77.5 million in city, state, and national tax dollars, does not require the substantial remediation and decontamination of the original site, and reduces traffic through the City. The land exchange to build the veterans cemetery is also officially supported by the Democratic and the Republican parties.

Despite this near unanimous and bipartisan recognition that the strawberry field site is the better location and that land exchange is the only way to build the veterans’ cemetery, a deceptive and cynical campaign with paid signature gatherers placed the land exchange on the ballot on June 5.  If these nay-sayers prevail, there will never be a final resting place for veterans in Orange County, and certainly not in Irvine.  A “YES” vote on the cemetery referendum means there will be a veterans cemetery.  A “NO” means our promise to Orange County veterans will be broken.

I look forward to hearing the Mayor make a clear call to all who are grateful for our veterans’ service to vote YES on the referendum on June 5.

Affordable housing and county-wide help for the homeless.

Our state has a severe housing crisis that is getting worse. Our supply of housing has not kept pace with the growth of jobs and population.  As a result, housing prices continue to rise, and rents are skyrocketing. As housing costs rise, more people are being pushed into poverty and even homelessness.

Many students in Irvine’s public schools qualify for free or reduced-price lunches. Too many of the jobs created in recent years do not pay a middle-class or even a living wage. We don’t have enough places to live, and too many people can’t afford the places that do exist.  Millennials and working families have a tough time finding places they can afford to live in our City.

Our lack of affordable and workforce housing has also been a significant cause of our traffic problems. As an economically  successful city and an expanding regional job center, Irvine is inundated by commuter traffic because so many people who work in Irvine cannot afford to live here.

I have advocated for more affordable housing and for additional municipal affordable housing requirements.  I would like to hear the Mayor say he agrees and will be offer proposals to increase affordable housing.

In addition, our local region has a severe homelessness crisis that our city, along with other cities and Orange County, must pitch in together to solve. I want to hear the Mayor commit to meaningful steps that Irvine can take now to help the homeless find both the shelter and the full range of services that they need to transition into permanent housing.

Innovative and Responsible Leadership.

I want to hear an inspiring vision for Irvine’s future as a world leader in education, smart planning, environmental awareness and responsibility and technological innovation.

This past year, Irvine has made tremendous progress in environmental awareness and responsibility. We have reinstated the Irvine Green Ribbon Environmental Commission, which I am honored to Chair.  We have received the Organic Landscape Leadership Award from Pepperdine Center for Sustainability for Irvine’s exclusive use of organic non-toxic materials in its gardens, parks, and grounds-keeping. We were named Sustainable Government of the Year for recycling and waste reduction from Sustain OC and received the 2017 Eco-Award from U.S. Green Building Council.

I want to hear the Mayor commit to continuing to ensure that all City of Irvine pest pressure is maintained organically, and that our public gardens and fields are not only beautiful, they are safe.

In addition, Irvine needs to move forward with state-of-the-art communications and smart transportation systems, as well as environmental protections for its residents and incentives for entrepreneurs and innovators.

Our great City of Irvine is blessed with the tools and resources needed to continue to be among the best cities in the world. I look forward to hearing Mayor Wagner’s vision for Irvine that continues our quest for being the best place in the world to live, work and raise a family.

The event begins with a reception at 5:00 pm, followed by the Mayor’s address at 6:00 pm.

Both the “State of the City” address and the reception are open to the public. No RSVP is necessary to attend.

The Civic Center is located at 1 Civic Center Drive. Call 949-724-6077 for more information.

I hope to see you there!

Join Me at the Meeting of the Irvine Green Ribbon Environmental Committee

Guest post by Krishna Hammond, Vice Chair Irvine Green Ribbon Environmental Committee

Join Me at Irvine Green Ribbon Environmental Committee Meeting!

My name is Krishna.  I’m the Vice Chair of the City of Irvine’s Green Ribbon Environmental Committee (appointed by Irvine City Councilmember and Committee Chair Melissa Fox).  The Green Ribbon Committee is an official advisory committee to the Irvine City Council, and we meet four times a year to discuss potential policies and make recommendations to the city council.

This Wednesday, February 21st, we will be meeting at 4:30 PM at Las Lomas Community Park (10 Federation Way). We’ll be having a presentation by city staff on Active Transportation (related to biking, skating, rollerblading, and other forms of human-powered transport) and Mobility.

We will also get an update on charging stations for EV vehicles in Irvine.

In addition, we have subcommittees relating to Active Transportation, Energy Development, and Green Infrastructure.

If you’d like to get involved and share your ideas related to these policy areas, please consider meeting us at the committee meeting!

Irvine’s Green Ribbon Environmental Committee seeks to increase public participation in energy conservation and sustainable practices, helping the City serve the community through advancing environmental policy initiatives and programs. The Committee is supported by the Public Works Department. Comprised of 10 members, the committee is an advisory body to the City Council and provides advice on sustainability policies related to energy, recycling and waste management, mobility, open space and water issues.

We have a lot of exciting things moving along  the pipeline, including a Request For Proposals for developing a feasibility study and technical assessment of Community Choice Energy, a means of allowing the city to purchase clean energy at a 3-7% savings on average.

You can read our agenda here.

Please join us.

Thank you so much!

Krishna

Join Me at Tonight’s Irvine Green Ribbon Environmental Committee Meeting!

Irvine’s Green Ribbon Environmental Committee seeks to increase public participation in energy conservation and sustainable practices, helping the City serve the community through advancing environmental policy initiatives and programs. The Committee is supported by the Public Works Department. Comprised of 10 members, the committee is an advisory body to the City Council and provides advice on sustainability policies related to energy, recycling and waste management, mobility, open space and water issues.

For some time, Irvine’s Green Ribbon Committee has been dormant because there were not sufficient members to constitute a quorum.  One of my goals in joining the Irvine City Council was to get this important committee going again.  Working with Irvine’s mayor, Donald Wagner, we were able to bring the committee back to functioning strength.  The first meeting of the newly reconstituted Green Ribbon Environmental Committee will be tonight, Tues., May 16, at 4:30 p.m. at the Conference and Training Center inside of the Irvine Civic Center (City Hall).  

Below is an invitation to attend tonight’s committee meeting from Krishna Hammond, my Green Ribbon Environmental Committee appointee.  Krishna is a professional chemist and is passionate about protecting, improving, and conserving our environment,  He is a native of San Diego and a resident of Irvine.  Krishna holds a degree in chemistry from the University of California, Santa Barbara.  I feel very fortunate that he has agreed to serve on the committee.  I am also a member of the Green Ribbon Environmental Committee and, like Krishna, I hope you’ll able to join us this evening.  All Irvine committee and commission meeting are open to the public.

Join Me at Tonight’s Irvine Green Ribbon Environmental Committee Meeting!

by Krishna Hammond

Krishna Hammond, Member, Irvine Green Ribbon Environmental Committee

Hi everyone! I am lucky enough to be a committee member on the Irvine Green Ribbon Environmental Committee! This is an official advisory committee, which means we can make direct recommendations (which are submitted into the public record) to the Irvine City Council! We work on issues related to energy, recycling and waste, mobility, open space, and water issues.

The committee is having it’s first meeting tomorrow, May 16th, at 4:30 p.m. at the Conference and Training Center inside of the Irvine Civic Center.  We meet about four times a year, so catch us while you can!

I encourage you all to attend! The meetings are open to the public, and there will be a period for public comment.  If you have concerns or want to submit your ideas for improving our city, please don’t hesitate to drop by.

The more people there, the merrier!

Again, the meeting is at 4:30 p.m.  at the Conference and Training Center inside the Irvine Civic Center.

You can read our agenda here.

Hope to see you there!

Sierra Club Leaders Urge Vote for Melissa Fox for Irvine City Council

sierra club x2

FOR IMMEDIATE RELEASE
Contact: Jason Mills (714) 576-4303

Sierra Club Leaders Urge Vote for Melissa Fox for Irvine City Council

IRVINE, CA             Leaders of the Orange County Chapter of the Sierra Club recently urged their members in Irvine to vote for Melissa Fox for Irvine City Council.  “As people who care deeply about the environment and the future of our planet, and our beautiful City of Irvine, we urge you to join the Sierra Club in supporting Melissa Fox for Irvine City Council,” the Sierra Club leaders said.

mail-01Their message to Irvine’s Sierra Club members stated that “City Council candidate and Community Services Commissioner Melissa Fox is a former Orange County Reserve Park Ranger and a passionate advocate for creating sustainable communities that incorporate public transit, active transportation and access to work, parks, shopping and recreation. Melissa is committed to environmentally responsible, community-oriented planning, including green building practices [and is] dedicated to stopping the rushed development of more housing and office buildings without proper planning or adequate infrastructure, and without consideration of its impact on our schools, our traffic, the character of our communities, and our quality of life.  Please vote for the environment in the November election by casting your ballot for Melissa Fox.”

“I am honored by the support of the Sierra Club, the nation’s largest and most influential grassroots environmental organization,” Melissa Fox said. “Preserving Irvine’s open spaces and protecting our environment are important to me.  Let’s move Irvine forward together — toward a re-commitment to Irvine’s tradition of environmentally responsible, community-oriented planning.”

Melissa Fox is an Irvine Community Services Commissioner, attorney, and small business owner in Irvine.  In addition to her endorsement by the Sierra Club, she has also been endorsed by the Orange County League of Conservation Voters, as well as by the Orange County Professional Firefighters and current Irvine City Members Beth Krom and Lynn Schott.

To learn more about Melissa Fox’s campaign, visit www.votemelissafox.com.

UCI Sets “Green” Example for City of Irvine

UCI aerial.01

Congratulations to the Univerisity of California, Irvine, on its selection as the 2014 “Greenest School in the Nation,” according to the Sierra Club’s magazine. The Sierra Club is the nation’s largest and oldest environmental organization.

The decision was based on a survey of America’s four-year degree-granting undergraduate colleges conducted by four organizations: the Sierra Club, the Association for the Advancement of Sustainability in Higher Education (AASHE), the Sustainable Endowments Institute (SEI), and the Princeton Review.

President Obama speaking at UC Irvine 2014

UCI came in first out of the 173 colleges that completed the survey by scoring 813.51 out of a possible total of 1000 points.

According to the Sierra Club Magazine, “In 2008, UC Irvine vowed to improve its energy efficiency by 20 percent by 2020, then hit that target seven years early, making it the first U.S. school to achieve that goal. Then administrators doubled down by pledging an additional 20 percent energy reduction by 2020. Helping the matter: three on-site solar power projects and a 19-megawatt cogeneration plant with turbines powered by combustion and steam. The school’s water-recycling program saves more than 210 million gallons per year.”

This recent recognition by the Sierra Club comes just a few weeks after President Obama, at his UCI Commencement Address, lauded UC Irvine for “set[ing] up the first Earth System Science Department in America. A UC Irvine professor-student team won the Nobel Prize for discovering that CFCs destroy the ozone layer.  A UC Irvine glaciologist’s work led to one of last month’s report showing one of the world’s major ice sheets in irreversible retreat. Students and professors are in the field working to predict changing weather patterns, fire seasons, and water tables – working to understand how shifting seasons affect global ecosystems; to get zero-emission vehicles on the road faster; to help coastal communities adapt to rising seas. And when I challenge colleges to reduce their energy use to 20 percent by 2020, UC Irvine went ahead and did it last year.  Done.  So UC Irvine is ahead of the curve. All of you are ahead of the curve.”

To me, one of UCI’s most impressive “green” achievements is ZotWheels, an  innovative bike sharing system.  As UCI explains, ZotWheels is “the first automated self-service bike share program in California . . .  Almost a pound of tailpipe emissions will be saved for every mile a member rides a bike instead of driving.  Bike sharing allows faculty, students, and staff an alternative to driving when making short-distance trips during the work and school day, as well as addressing important issues such as health and environmental sustainability, the future of transportation, and promoting community building on campus. Bike sharing already exists in many European cities, such as Paris and Barcelona. Take our bikes for a short ride around the inner ring, to the park, to a meeting, or to class.  ZotWheels are meant to be shared; so rent one, ride it, return it and repeat any time you want to bring a little fun to your day!”

Irvine Commissioner Melissa Fox at 2013 Solar Decathlon

Irvine Commissioner Melissa Fox at Solar Decathlon

The City of Irvine has a lot to learn from UC Irvine’s accomplishments.

The City of Irvine ought to be a leader in creating sustainable communities that incorporate smart growth principles, public transit and active transportation access to work, parks, shopping and recreation. Our heritage as a master planned community and our long-standing commitment to well-planned smart growth ought to make Irvine a natural leader in promoting green building practices and smart growth principles.

Unfortunately, in recent years we have set our environmental goals too low.  Nor is the current council majority committed to smart, green growth, instead approving frantic growth and development at any cost.

The result of the current council’s rubber-stamping of developers’ proposals has been runaway development of housing tracts and apartments causing terrible traffic and overcrowded schools – posing a clear and present danger to our quality of life.

Irvine is positioned to become a leader in renewable energy use.  Last year, the Solar Decathlon was held for first time outside of Washington, D.C. – at the Great Park, in Irvine. Despite a lukewarm, anti-environmentally conscious majority on the city council, the event was successful.  The 2015 Solar Decathlon will be held once again here in Irvine. And a team from Orange County, led by UC Irvine, will be in the competition.  This time, with an enthusiastic and committed city council and thoughtful promotion and planning, the event could have much more wide-ranging and economically beneficial impact for the city.  But before that can happen – and before Irvine can claim the title of the nation’s energy innovation capitol – we must elect a city council committed to making solar and renewable energy a far more significant energy source for Irvine’s city buildings, homes and businesses.

So congratulations UC Irvine!  You’ve shown us the direction that the City of Irvine should be taking.

President Obama’s UCI Speech on Climate Change Highlights Irvine’s Role as a Leader in Energy Innovation

Obama UCI, Obama UC Irvine, melissafoxblog, Melissa Fox, melissajoifox, Irvine Commissioner Melissa Fox, Melissa Fox for Irvine City Council,votemelissafox, votemelissafox.com

“And I’m here to tell you, don’t believe the cynicism. Guard against it. Don’t buy into it. Today, I want to use one case study to show you that progress is possible and perseverance is critical. I want to show you how badly we need you — both your individual voices and your collective efforts — to give you the chance you seek to change the world, and maybe even save it.”  — President Barack Obama, UC Irvine Graduation, 2014.

When President Obama spoke to our 2014 UC Irvine graduates last week, he chose to focus what he called “one of the most significant long-term challenges that our country and our planet faces:  the growing threat of a rapidly changing climate.”

Melissa Fox for Irvine City Council, Obama UCI, Obama UC Irvine, melissafoxblog, Melissa Fox, melissajoifox, Irvine Commissioner Melissa Fox,

It is worth repeating his words here, and worth committing ourselves to use more clean energy and waste less energy overall. It is also especially significant that President Obama chose to address our energy future at a graduation for UC Irvine — the home campus of the 2015 Solar Decathlon, the international competition — to be held at the Great Park in Irvine — that challenges collegiate teams to design, build, and operate solar-powered houses that are cost-effective, energy-efficient, and attractive.

The president’s speech highlighted the fact that our City of Irvine is poised to become an international leader in the science, engineering, and entrepreneurship of energy innovation and new, clean sources of power.

THE PRESIDENT:  Thank you.  (Applause.)  Hello, Anteaters!  (Applause.)  That is something I never thought I’d say.  (Laughter.)  Please, please take a seat.

To President Napolitano — which is a nice step up from Secretary; to Fred Ruiz, Vice Chair of the University of California Regents; Chancellor Drake; Representatives Loretta Sanchez and Alan Lowenthal; to the trustees and faculty — thank you for this honor.  And congratulations to the Class of 2014!  (Applause.)

Melissa Fox for Irvine City Council, Obama UCI, Obama UC Irvine, melissafoxblog, Melissa Fox, melissajoifox, Irvine Commissioner Melissa Fox,

Now, let me begin my saying all of you had the inside track in getting me here — because my personal assistant, Ferial, is a proud Anteater.  (Applause.)  Until today, I did not understand why she greets me every morning by shouting “Zot, Zot, Zot!”  (Laughter.)  It’s been a little weird.  But she explained it to me on the way here this morning, because she’s very proud to see her brother, Sina, graduate today as well.  (Applause.)  So, graduates, obviously we’re proud of you, but let’s give it up for your proud family and friends and professors, because this is their day, too.  (Applause.)

And even though he’s on the road this weekend, I also want to thank Angels centerfielder Mike Trout for letting me cover his turf for a while.  (Applause.)  He actually signed a bat for me, which is part of my retirement plan.  (Laughter.)  I will be keeping that.  And this is a very cool place to hold a commencement.  I know that UC Irvine’s baseball team opens College World Series play in Omaha right about now — (applause) — so let’s get this speech underway.  If the hot dog guy comes by, get me one.  (Laughter.)

Now, in additional to Ferial, graduates, I’m here for a simple reason:  You asked.  For those who don’t know, the UC Irvine community sent 10,000 postcards to the White House asking me to come speak today.  (Applause.)  Some tried to guilt me into coming.  I got one that said, “I went to your first inauguration, can you please come to my graduation?”  (Applause.)  Some tried bribery:  “I’ll support the Chicago Bulls.”  Another said today would be your birthday — so happy birthday, whoever you are.

My personal favorite — somebody wrote and said, “We are super underrated!”  (Laughter.)  I’m sure she was talking about this school.  But keep in mind, you’re not only the number-one university in America younger than 50 years old, you also hold the Guinness World Record for biggest water pistol fight.  (Applause.)  You’re pretty excited about that.  (Laughter.)

“We are super underrated.” This young lady could have just as well been talking, though, about this generation. I think this generation of young people is super underrated.

In your young lives, you’ve seen dizzying change, from terror attacks to economic turmoil; from Twitter to Tumblr.  Some of your families have known tough times during the course of the worst economic crisis since the Great Depression. You’re graduating into a still-healing job market, and some of you are carrying student loan debt that you’re concerned about. And yet, your generation — the most educated, the most diverse, the most tolerant, the most politically independent and the most digitally fluent in our history — is also on record as being the most optimistic about our future.

And I’m here to tell you that you are right to be optimistic.  (Applause.)  You are right to be optimistic.  Consider this:  Since the time most of you graduated from high school, fewer Americans are at war.  More have health insurance.  More are graduating from college.  Our businesses have added more than 9 million new jobs.  The number of states where you’re free to marry who you love has more than doubled.  (Applause.) And that’s just some of the progress that you’ve seen while you’ve been studying here at UC Irvine.

But we do face real challenges: Rebuilding the middle class and reversing inequality’s rise. Reining in college costs. Protecting voting rights. Welcoming the immigrants and young dreamers who keep this country vibrant. Stemming the tide of violence that guns inflict on our schools. We’ve got some big challenges. And if you’re fed a steady diet of cynicism that says nobody is trustworthy and nothing works, and there’s no way we can actually address these problems, then the temptation is too just go it alone, to look after yourself and not participate in the larger project of achieving our best vision of America.

Melissa Fox for Irvine City Council, Obama UCI, Obama UC Irvine, melissafoxblog, Melissa Fox, melissajoifox, Irvine Commissioner Melissa Fox,

And I’m here to tell you, don’t believe the cynicism.  Guard against it. Don’t buy into it. Today, I want to use one case study to show you that progress is possible and perseverance is critical. I want to show you how badly we need you — both your individual voices and your collective efforts — to give you the chance you seek to change the world, and maybe even save it.

I’m going to talk about one of the most significant long-term challenges that our country and our planet faces:  the growing threat of a rapidly changing climate.

Now, this isn’t a policy speech.  I understand it’s a commencement, and I already delivered a long climate address last summer.  I remember because it was 95 degrees and my staff had me do it outside, and I was pouring with sweat — as a visual aid.  (Laughter.)  And since this is a very educated group, you already know the science. Burning fossil fuels release carbon dioxide. Carbon dioxide traps heat. Levels of carbon dioxide in our atmosphere are higher than they’ve been in 800,000 years.

We know the trends. The 18 warmest years on record have all happened since you graduates were born.  We know what we see with our own eyes.  Out West, firefighters brave longer, harsher wildfire seasons; states have to budget for that. Mountain towns worry about what smaller snowpacks mean for tourism. Farmers and families at the bottom worry about what it will mean for their water.  In cities like Norfolk and Miami, streets now flood frequently at high tide. Shrinking icecaps have National Geographic making the biggest change in its atlas since the Soviet Union broke apart.

So the question is not whether we need to act. The overwhelming judgment of science, accumulated and measured and reviewed over decades, has put that question to rest. The question is whether we have the will to act before it’s too late.  For if we fail to protect the world we leave not just to my children, but to your children and your children’s children, we will fail one of our primary reasons for being on this world in the first place. And that is to leave the world a little bit better for the next generation.

Now, the good news is you already know all this.  UC Irvine set up the first Earth System Science Department in America.  (Applause.) A UC Irvine professor-student team won the Nobel Prize for discovering that CFCs destroy the ozone layer.  (Applause.) A UC Irvine glaciologist’s work led to one of last month’s report showing one of the world’s major ice sheets in irreversible retreat. Students and professors are in the field working to predict changing weather patterns, fire seasons, and water tables — working to understand how shifting seasons affect global ecosystems; to get zero-emission vehicles on the road faster; to help coastal communities adapt to rising seas. And when I challenge colleges to reduce their energy use to 20 percent by 2020, UC Irvine went ahead and did it last year. Done. (Applause.) So UC Irvine is ahead of the curve. All of you are ahead of the curve.

Melissa Fox for Irvine City Council, Obama UCI, Obama UC Irvine, melissafoxblog, Melissa Fox, melissajoifox, Irvine Commissioner Melissa Fox,

Your generation reminds me of something President Wilson once said. He said, “Sometimes people call me an idealist.  Well, that is the way I know I am an American.” That’s who we are.

And if you need a reason to be optimistic about our future, then look around this stadium. Because today, in America, the largest single age group is 22 years ago. And you are going to do great things. And I want you to know that I’ve got your back — because one of the reasons I ran for this office was because I believed our dangerous addiction to foreign oil left our economy at risk and our planet in peril. So when I took office, we set out to use more clean energy and less dirty energy, and waste less energy overall.

And since then, we’ve doubled the distance our cars will go on a gallon of gas by the middle of the next decade.  We’ve tripled the electricity we harness from the wind, generating enough last year to power every home in California. We’ve multiplied the electricity we generate from the sun 10 times over. And this state, California, is so far ahead of the rest of the country in solar, that earlier this year solar power met 18 percent of your total power demand one day. (Applause.)

The bottom line is, America produces more renewable energy than ever, more natural gas than anyone. And for the first time in nearly two decades, we produce more oil here at home than we buy from other countries. And these advances have created jobs and grown our economy, and helped cut our carbon pollution to levels not seen in about 20 years. Since 2006, no country on Earth has reduced its total carbon pollution by as much as the United States of America. (Applause.)

So that’s all reason for optimism. Here’s the challenge: We’ve got to do more. What we’re doing is not enough. And that’s why, a couple weeks ago, America proposed new standards to limit the amount of harmful carbon pollution that power plants can dump into the air. And we also have to realize, as hundreds of scientists declared last month, that climate change is no longer a distant threat, but “has moved firmly into the present.”  That’s a quote. In some parts of the country, weather-related disasters like droughts, and fires, and storms, and floods are going to get harsher and they’re going to get costlier. And that’s why, today, I’m announcing a new $1 billion competitive fund to help communities prepare for the impacts of climate change and build more resilient infrastructure across the country. (Applause.)

So it’s a big problem. But progress, no matter how big the problem, is possible. That’s important to remember. Because no matter what you do in life, you’re going to run up against big problems — in your own personal life and in your communities and in your country. There’s going to be a stubborn status quo, and there are going to be people determined to stymie your efforts to bring about change. There are going to be people who say you can’t do something. There are going to be people who say you shouldn’t bother. I’ve got some experience in this myself. (Laughter.)

Now, part of what’s unique about climate change, though, is the nature of some of the opposition to action. It’s pretty rare that you’ll encounter somebody who says the problem you’re trying to solve simply doesn’t exist. When President Kennedy set us on a course for the moon, there were a number of people who made a serious case that it wouldn’t be worth it; it was going to be too expensive, it was going to be too hard, it would take too long.  But nobody ignored the science.  I don’t remember anybody saying that the moon wasn’t there or that it was made of cheese.  (Laughter.)

And today’s Congress, though, is full of folks who stubbornly and automatically reject the scientific evidence about climate change. They will tell you it is a hoax, or a fad. One member of Congress actually says the world is cooling. There was one member of Congress who mentioned a theory involving “dinosaur flatulence” — which I won’t get into. (Laughter.)

Melissa Fox for Irvine City Council, Obama UCI, Obama UC Irvine, melissafoxblog, Melissa Fox, melissajoifox, Irvine Commissioner Melissa Fox,

Now, their view may be wrong — and a fairly serious threat to everybody’s future — but at least they have the brass to say what they actually think.  There are some who also duck the question. They say — when they’re asked about climate change, they say, “Hey, look, I’m not a scientist.”  And I’ll translate that for you. What that really means is, “I know that manmade climate change really is happening, but if I admit it, I’ll be run out of town by a radical fringe that thinks climate science is a liberal plot, so I’m not going to admit it.” (Applause.)

Now, I’m not a scientist either, but we’ve got some really good ones at NASA. I do know that the overwhelming majority of scientists who work on climate change, including some who once disputed the data, have put that debate to rest. The writer, Thomas Friedman, recently put it to me this way. He were talking, and he says, “Your kid is sick, you consult 100 doctors; 97 of them tell you to do this, three tell [you] to do that, and you want to go with the three?”

The fact is, this should not be a partisan issue. After all, it was Republicans who used to lead the way on new ideas to protect our environment. It was Teddy Roosevelt who first pushed for our magnificent national parks. It was Richard Nixon who signed the Clean Air Act and opened the EPA. George H.W. Bush — a wonderful man who at 90 just jumped out of a plane in a parachute — (laughter) — said that “human activities are changing the atmosphere in unexpected and unprecedented ways.”  John McCain and other Republicans publicly supported free market-based cap-and-trade bills to slow carbon pollution just a few years ago — before the Tea Party decided it was a massive threat to freedom and liberty.

These days, unfortunately, nothing is happening. Even minor energy efficiency bills are killed on the Senate floor. And the reason is because people are thinking about politics instead of thinking about what’s good for the next generation. What’s the point of public office if you’re not going to use your power to help solve problems? (Applause.)

And part of the challenge is that the media doesn’t spend a lot of time covering climate change and letting average Americans know how it could impact our future. Now, the broadcast networks’ nightly newscasts spend just a few minutes a month covering climate issues.  On cable, the debate is usually between political pundits, not scientists. When we introduced those new anti-pollution standards a couple weeks ago, the instant reaction from the Washington’s political press wasn’t about what it would mean for our planet; it was what would it mean for an election six months from now. And that kind of misses the point.  Of course, they’re not scientists, either.

Melissa Fox for Irvine City Council, Obama UCI, Obama UC Irvine, melissafoxblog, Melissa Fox, melissajoifox, Irvine Commissioner Melissa Fox,

And I want to tell you all this not to discourage you. I’m telling you all this because I want to light a fire under you. As the generation getting shortchanged by inaction on this issue, I want all of you to understand you cannot accept that this is the way it has to be.

The climate change deniers suggest there’s still a debate over the science. There is not. The talking heads on cable news suggest public opinion is hopelessly deadlocked. It is not. Seven in ten Americans say global warming is a serious problem.  Seven in ten say the federal government should limit pollution from our power plants. And of all the issues in a recent poll asking Americans where we think we can make a difference, protecting the environment came out on top. (Applause.)

So we’ve got public opinion potentially on our side. We can do this. We can make a difference. You can make a difference. And the sooner you do, the better — not just for our climate, but for our economy.  There’s a reason that more than 700 businesses like Apple and Microsoft, and GM and Nike, Intel, Starbucks have declared that “tackling climate change is one of America’s greatest economic opportunities in the 21st century.” The country that seizes this opportunity first will lead the way. A low-carbon, clean energy economy can be an engine for growth and jobs for decades to come, and I want America to build that engine. Because if we do, others will follow. I want those jobs; I want those opportunities; I want those businesses right here in the United States of America. (Applause.)

Developing countries are using more and more energy, and tens of millions of people are entering the global middle class, and they want to buy cars and refrigerators.  So if we don’t deal with this problem soon, we’re going to be overwhelmed. These nations have some of the fastest-rising levels of carbon pollution. They’re going to have to take action to meet this challenge.  They’re more vulnerable to the effects of climate change than we are.  They’ve got even more to lose. But they’re waiting to see what does America do. That’s what the world does. It waits to watch us act.  And when we do, they move. And I’m convinced that on this issue, when America proves what’s possible, then they’re going to join us.

And America cannot meet this threat alone. Of course, the world cannot meet it without America. This is a fight that America must lead. So I’m going to keep doing my part for as long as I hold this office and as long as I’m a citizen once out of office.  But we’re going to need you, the next generation, to finish the job.

We need scientists to design new fuels. We need farmers to help grow them. We need engineers to invent new technologies.  We need entrepreneurs to sell those technologies. (Applause.) We need workers to operate assembly lines that hum with high-tech, zero-carbon components. We need builders to hammer into place the foundations for a clean energy age.  We need diplomats and businessmen and women, and Peace Corps volunteers to help developing nations skip past the dirty phase of development and transition to sustainable sources of energy.

In other words, we need you. (Applause.) We need you. And if you believe, like I do, that something has to be done on this, then you’re going to have to speak out. You’re going to have to learn more about these issues. Even if you’re not like Jessica and an expert, you’re going to have to work on this. You’re going to have to push those of us in power to do what this American moment demands. You’ve got to educate your classmates, and colleagues, and family members and fellow citizens, and tell them what’s at stake. You’ve got to push back against the misinformation, and speak out for facts, and organize others around your vision for the future.

You need to invest in what helps, and divest from what harms. And you’ve got to remind everyone who represents you, at every level of government, that doing something about climate change is a prerequisite for your vote.

It’s no accident that when President Kennedy needed to convince the nation that sending Americans into space was a worthy goal, he went to a university. That’s where he started. Because a challenge as big as that, as costly as that, as difficult as that, requires a spirit of youth.  It requires a spirit of adventure; a willingness to take risks. It requires optimism. It requires hope.  That day, a man told us we’d go to the moon within a decade. And despite all the naysayers, somehow we knew as a nation that we’d build a spaceship and we’d meet that goal.

That’s because we’re Americans — and that’s what we do. Even when our political system is consumed by small things, we are a people called to do big things. And progress on climate change is a big thing.  Progress won’t always be flashy; it will be measured in disasters averted, and lives saved, and a planet preserved — and days just like this one, 20 years from now, and 50 years from now, and 100 years from now. But can you imagine a more worthy goal — a more worthy legacy — than protecting the world we leave to our children?

So I ask your generation to help leave us that legacy. I ask you to believe in yourselves and in one another, and above all, when life gets you down or somebody tells you you can’t do something, to believe in something better.

Melissa Fox for Irvine City Council, Obama UCI, Obama UC Irvine, melissafoxblog, Melissa Fox, melissajoifox, Irvine Commissioner Melissa Fox,

There are people here who know what it means to dream. When Mohamad Abedi was a boy, the suffering he saw in refugee camps in Lebanon didn’t drive him into despair — it inspired him to become a doctor. And when he came to America, he discovered a passion for engineering. So here, at UC Irvine, he became a biomedical engineer to study the human brain.  (Applause.)  And Mohamad said, “Had I never come to the United States, I would have never had the ability to do the work that I’m doing.” He’s now going to CalTech to keep doing that work.

Cinthia Flores is the daughter of a single mom who worked as a seamstress and a housekeeper.  (Applause.) The first in her family to graduate from high school. The first in her family to graduate from college. And in college, she says, “I learned about myself that I was good at advocating for others, and that I was argumentative — so maybe I should go to law school.”  And, today, Cinthia is now the first in her family to graduate from law school. And she plans to advocate for the rights of workers like her mom. (Applause.) She says, “I have the great privilege and opportunity to answer the call of my community.” “The bottom line,” she says, “is being of service.”

On 9/11, Aaron Anderson was a sophomore in college. Several months later, he was in training for Army Special Forces.  He fought in Afghanistan, and on February 28th, 2006, he was nearly killed by an IED. He endured dozens of surgeries to save his legs, months of recovery at Walter Reed. When he couldn’t physically return to active duty, he devoted his time to his brothers in arms, starting two businesses with fellow veterans, and a foundation to help fellow wounded Green Beret soldiers. And then he went back to school. And last December, he graduated summa cum laude from UC Irvine. And Aaron is here today, along with four soon-to-be commissioned ROTC cadets, and 65 other graduating veterans.  And I would ask them to stand and be recognized for their service. (Applause.)

The point is, you know how to dream. And you know how to work for your dreams. And, yes, sometimes you may be “super underrated.” But usually it’s the underrated, the underdogs, the dreamers, the idealists, the fighters, the argumentative — those are the folks who do the biggest things.

Melissa Fox for Irvine City Council, Obama UCI, Obama UC Irvine, melissafoxblog, Melissa Fox, melissajoifox, Irvine Commissioner Melissa Fox,

And this generation — this 9/11 generation of soldiers; this new generation of scientists and advocates and entrepreneurs and altruists — you’re the antidote to cynicism. It doesn’t mean you’re not going to get down sometimes. You will. You’ll know disillusionment. You’ll experience doubt. People will disappoint you by their actions. But that can’t discourage you.

Cynicism has never won a war, or cured a disease, or started a business, or fed a young mind, or sent men into space. Cynicism is a choice. Hope is a better choice. (Applause.)

Hope is what gave young soldiers the courage to storm a beach and liberate people they never met.

Hope is what gave young students the strength to sit in and stand up and march for women’s rights, and civil rights, and voting rights, and gay rights, and immigration rights.

Hope is the belief, against all evidence to the contrary, that there are better days ahead, and that together we can build up a middle class, and reshape our immigration system, and shield our children from gun violence, and shelter future generations from the ravages of climate change.

Hope is the fact that, today, the single largest age group in America is 22 years old who are all just itching to reshape this country and reshape the world. And I cannot wait to see what you do tomorrow.

Congratulations. (Applause.) Thank you, Class of 2014. God bless you. God bless the United States of America.  (Applause.)