Interview with Jim Wilson, Climate Activist


This week we feature an interview with climate activist and Measure C co-author Jim Wilson. Jim’s commitment to environmental sustainability and current climate science drives him to be a community activist and educator. As a climate literacy advocate, he teaches the latest concepts in climate responsibility to citizens, leaders, and youth of Napa County. He is active with Napa Climate NOW, Napa Vision 2050, and numerous other community groups.

Eyes on Napa (EON): Why is the situation with the climate being called an emergency?

Jim Wilson (JW): It’s the unvarnished truth. When people begin to come out of their denial and confront reality, they suffer a crisis of conscience. Facing the enormity of climate breakdown and ecosystem collapse, compassion demands an emergency response. We are the root of the problem. Scientists have warned us for decades, and far too many leaders have failed to act with the vision the science demands. What’s different now? The problem has never been so clearly defined, and we have the solutions. But at this late date, only immediate, smart, maximum emergency action will win the day for the kids. We have less than 10 years to remove the excess trapped heat from the atmosphere and stabilize the climatic system.

EON: Can you comment on where Napa County stands on making a plan for residents, the wine and hospitality industries, and agriculture?

JW: Napa County’s CAP has been in the planning stages since the General Plan was adopted in 2008. We need not only massive reductions in emissions but also to greatly increase our carbon sequestration efforts in order to achieve net negative emissions by or before 2030. This can be done if we can face the challenge together with honesty, courage, and responsibility, especially on the part of those of us who are more powerful and pollute the most. Going forward, projects must be evaluated on the basis of their climate impact. Do they stabilize the climate, or destabilize it further? The General Plan has provisions for protecting and enhancing sequestration. That should be honored.

EON: Where does the General Plan fall short on addressing carbon sequestration?

JW: The General Plan calls for maintaining and enhancing sequestration. Destruction of natural ecosystems, forests, in particular, reduces carbon sequestration and stocking. The county supports acorn planting efforts at the same time as it permits the removal of old-growth forests. We are losing much more than we are gaining in that scheme. A more useful focus is to preserve and bolster the forests we have. They’re our first line of defense against climate breakdown.

EON: What are the mandates from the State of California on climate action and how does Napa County fit in the picture?

JW: There are a number of state mandates. One, SB 23, requires a 40% reduction in GHG emissions by 2030, compared to 1990 levels. Based on the latest science, this rate of decarbonization falls far short of the aggressive reductions we need to avert or postpone irreversible climate tipping points. SB 1383 focuses on short-lived climate pollutants. Our immediate focus on SLCPs – black carbon, methane, tropospheric ozone, and HFCs – is the most cost-effective strategy for reducing heat in the coming decade. Bill McKibben, co-founder of 350.org, reminds us that winning slowly is the same as losing

EON: What do you see as the best path forward?

JW: The challenge is saving our species from ourselves. How can we bring business groups together with all levels of government to implement climate-safe policy at emergency speed and scale? David Brower advised us to “turn around to take a step forward.” We have the work of healing relationships with ourselves and others, and Mother Earth. But taking the time to mend trusted old bonds seems to take a back seat to our frenetic fossil-fueled lifestyle, extravagant consumption, inessential travel. Rethink everything and find the money and political will to do it. With the pandemic, we have a rare chance to get moving.

The transformation toward climate healing is a scary proposition in a consumer society focused on growing wealth and convenience. Reformism in the climate business – think of the county’s recent tree protection ordinance and the 2% gain in protection – is not going to cut it for the kids. Paris said whatever you do, don’t even think of going past 2deg C. But here we are at 1.1 with 1.5+ baked in. Like the virus, it looks far away, then it hits. Exponentially rising heat is hitting us right now. We have to plan on overshoot. Every day we do nothing – or enact a cowardly half-way measure – adds to exponential increases in hothouse effects and suffering. What options does that leave us, practically?

The UNEP’s new interactive report is blunt. 7.6% reduction in carbon emissions, each year for the next 10 years, starting this year.

The Climate Center’s new Climate-Safe California campaign is blunt. Emissions reductions and increased carbon sequestration to achieve net negative emissions by 2030. Their endorsement platform provides details. Have your organization endorse the platform and help mobilize support.

The deniers want more testing to ensure their climate depravations can be measured within an inch. Where’s the love? The Earth is a box canyon. Napa is a box canyon. To prepare for the growing climate uncertainty, we don’t strip capacity but increase it by maintaining and enhancing a living gallery of aged trees and other natural infrastructure. That garden will save us. Accelerate 100% engagement in carbon farming methods because massive reductions in heat-trapping emissions are needed by 2030 to slow catastrophic impacts. The carbon budget has to be the organizing principle. As SuSu Steyteyieh said at the climate strike, The climate is changing – why can’t we?

Students voiced hope and frustration during public comment at during the May 22, 2020 Climate Action Committee meeting. Calistoga Council member Gary Kraus spoke up in their defense. Their climate emergency resolution was adopted last May by NVUSD, and calls for leaders to acknowledge the climate emergency exists and threatens the residents of Napa County and the entire world. It calls for leaders to respond with the necessary emergency actions to achieve net-zero climate pollution by or before 2030. Gary acknowledged that and asked the committee to reflect on the accomplishments of the committee since the proclamation a year ago. We had 10 years, he said, and now we have 9.

Unfrack the planet. Feed it and water it with love.