Menlo Park, on the forefront of climate action, should double down on goals | November 18, 2022 | Almanac | Almanac Online |
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Viewpoint - November 18, 2022

Menlo Park, on the forefront of climate action, should double down on goals

by Alex Wagonfield

As a teenager heavily involved with climate action and who spends lots of time reading and learning about the climate crisis, I still struggle to understand our path to net zero emissions as a state, a county, or even a city.

Wildfires are ravaging our lands, droughts are stripping living things from the basic need of water, and our beautiful earth is sizzling; there has never been a more pressing time to change our ways. For my generation, the future isn't looking bright. We need the world to start changing at a much faster pace.

If I could become mayor of Menlo Park for a day and have free reign to pass policies and organize our region, I would do everything in my power to speed up progress.

Menlo Park has proven to be a climate leader, taking bold action and being among the first U.S. cities to pass local climate policies. The City Council passed all-electric reach codes prohibiting most natural gas uses in new construction. Since then, dozens of cities have followed in Menlo Park's wake and passed similar policies. This ripple effect demonstrates how Menlo Park's actions to reduce carbon emissions are not contained to one city: our progressive policies have far-reaching effects.

This is why even more action needs to be taken, and fast, to further accelerate this ripple effect. Menlo Park's policies will continue to inspire counties and cities throughout the Bay Area and beyond.

If I was Menlo Park's mayor for a day, I would build on our leadership position and take even bolder strokes to create a multi-city Bay Area Climate Coalition to educate and train leaders and citizens from counties across the Bay Area, and publicize Menlo Park and San Mateo County's leadership climate goals and action.

I would organize a Bay Area climate conference, bringing together the leaders of cities around the Bay Area to learn, inspire, and teach each other what has been done and what can be done. This would be held in Menlo Park, one of the greatest leaders of climate action across the nation, and be open to the public to ask questions and learn what has been done — and what's still to come.

Even though the U.S. hasn't promised decarbonization until 2050, Menlo Park plans to be on the forefront with goals to decarbonize by 2030. If accomplished, it would be one of the greenest cities in the nation. There should be pride around this. I think there will be more public support with publicizing Menlo Park's carbon neutral goals in an easily digestible way for the public to physically see. I would set up digital "climate progress" screens across Menlo Park to display our progress so far, our path forward, and what is in the works. Everyone passing through Menlo Park would become aware of our leadership, building momentum to reach our goals and inspiring others along the way.

Further, I would create a teen volunteer program so that all of our high school students can personally get involved with one of the many Bay Area climate action organizations. A list of 18 current organizations that are looking for volunteers right now

We can demonstrate that it is possible to reach our goals by 2030, and that we can influence the rest of California to change its net zero emissions goal from 2045 to 2030. We need a faster deadline to make real change, and it's only with change in how we live that we can change our trajectory. We can't afford to wait over 25 years while our state — and our planet — burn. As mayor for the day, I would ask everyone in our town and the Bay Area: What are we waiting for?

Alex Wagonfield is a student at Nueva High School.


Posted by John McKenna
a resident of Menlo Park: Downtown
on Nov 21, 2022 at 11:02 am

John McKenna is a registered user.

Thank you, Alex. This is very well-written and I agree with you that we absolutely need to pick up the pace. I think your piece highlights the importance of education and messaging. What can be taught and what stories can be told that will inspire action? We are in a huge fight for the future, and we're way behind, but we are starting to see small victories. We can tell those stories of progress in order to accelerate further action and inspire other cities, states, and nations to do the same. We can also point out the many co-benefits (health, economic, jobs, equality, justice, etc.) of making the changes necessary to reduce climate pollution.

Posted by Menlo Voter.
a resident of Menlo Park: other
on Nov 21, 2022 at 12:53 pm

Menlo Voter. is a registered user.

That's great Alex.

How do you propose to supply electrical power when everything is all electric? The grid can barely handle the load that is being asked of it now. We had a recent heat wave and only barely avoided rolling blackouts. The grid can't handle more demand. All MP has been doing is pushing more and more demand onto an inadequate grid. It needs to stop until the grid can be made to supply the increased demand. I for one do not want to be dealing with rolling black outs next summer. And no, MP going all electric isn't going to help with global warming. Even if MP went all electric right now it wouldn't even move the carbon needle. India and China produce far more carbon than we do. Until they start to bring their carbon production under control what we do, especially in MP, is meaningless.

Posted by John McKenna
a resident of Menlo Park: Downtown
on Nov 22, 2022 at 5:28 pm

John McKenna is a registered user.

@Menlo Voter - I would sincerely welcome the opportunity to sit down with you and hear more of your thoughts and ideas on this subject? Would you be open to meeting for a cup of coffee sometime soon?

Posted by Menlo Voter.
a resident of Menlo Park: other
on Nov 23, 2022 at 7:50 am

Menlo Voter. is a registered user.


Sure. Be happy to.

Posted by Westbrook
a resident of Menlo Park: Allied Arts/Stanford Park
on Nov 25, 2022 at 11:30 pm

Westbrook is a registered user.

My question is,

If you knew that most of the world's cobalt comes from The Congo and much of it is mined by children as young as eight years old working and dying in those mines. Would you feel guilty that the electric car you drive likely has some cobalt mined by these kids?

Posted by Westbrook
a resident of Menlo Park: Allied Arts/Stanford Park
on Nov 25, 2022 at 11:40 pm

Westbrook is a registered user.

To the author, As a teenager, you're still young and perhaps naive but I
applaud you for trying, You are very well-spoken but ill-informed. May I suggest you research the origins of materials used in creating "green energy" at the root of it and do a follow-up report?

It's easy to virtue signal and have a "cause" without understanding it.

Posted by Westbrook
a resident of Menlo Park: Allied Arts/Stanford Park
on Nov 26, 2022 at 4:39 am

Westbrook is a registered user.

An excerpt,
From New Yorker Magazine dated, 5/31/21, "The Dark Side of Congo's Cobalt Rush","

Kajumba joined the mining economy relatively late in life. In Kolwezi, children as young as three learn to pick out the purest ore from rock slabs. Soon enough, they are lugging ore for adult creuseurs. Teen-age boys often work perilous shifts navigating rickety shafts. Near large mines, the prostitution of women and young girls is pervasive. Other women wash raw mining material, which is often full of toxic metals and, in some cases, mildly radioactive. If a pregnant woman works with such heavy metals as cobalt, it can increase her chances of having a stillbirth or a child with birth defects. According to a recent study in The Lancet, women in southern Congo “had metal concentrations that are among the highest ever reported for pregnant women.” The study also found a strong link between fathers who worked with mining chemicals and fetal abnormalities in their children, noting that “paternal occupational mining exposure was the factor most strongly associated with birth defects.”
All Electric car batteries are made with Cobalt, Cobalt is just one example of minerals needed to be mined,

Posted by Westbrook
a resident of Menlo Park: Allied Arts/Stanford Park
23 hours ago

Westbrook is a registered user.

I hope I'm not boring anyone, but aside from the human cost for a minute, there is the environmental cost.

Article By GEORGE LEEF, National Review,
July 31, 2022, 11:07 PM

These paragraphs will give you the gist of the piece:

Today, a typical EV battery weighs one thousand pounds. It contains twenty-five pounds of lithium, sixty pounds of nickel, 44 pounds of manganese, 30 pounds of cobalt, 200 pounds of copper, and 400 pounds of aluminum, steel, and plastic. Inside are over 6,000 individual lithium-ion cells.

It should concern you that all those toxic components come from mining. For instance, to manufacture each EV auto battery, you must process 25,000 pounds of brine for the lithium, 30,000 pounds of ore for the cobalt, 5,000 pounds of ore for the nickel, and 25,000 pounds of ore for copper. All told, you dig up over five hundred thousand pounds of the earth’s crust for just one battery. That's for one thousand-pound battery, Some EV batteries weigh as much as three thousand pounds.
My calculator doesn't go that high but multiply 500,000 lbs. by tens of millions of new EV Batteries,
Just like electricity, which doesn't come from an outlet, EV Batteries don't come from the EV Battery store,
Large-scale mining operations require diesel-fueled equipment. Burning millions of gallons of fuel. So when we're carbon free soon, How will the ore be mined and transported,

The environmental cost of producing EV Batteries needs to be in the conversation about "saving the environment", along with the "human cost".

It's too simplistic to say "everyone go out and buy an electric car".

Posted by Menlo Voter.
a resident of Menlo Park: other
23 hours ago

Menlo Voter. is a registered user.


Stop putting the reality of electric vehicles out there. You're upsetting the folks that think they're "saving the world" by driving electric vehicles and going all electric in their homes. Never mind the grid can't handle the load. They've been patting themselves on the back this long, you're harshing their buzz.

Posted by Westbrook
a resident of Menlo Park: Allied Arts/Stanford Park
20 hours ago

Westbrook is a registered user.

Next China,
Our geopolitical adversary controls 2/3 of Lithium-Ion Battery manufacturing, China has not kept it a secret they plan to dominate the World, economically and militarily, One way to do that is to cut off the world's supply of Electric Batteries,
They can do it in a day. I only ask that you educate yourself about the real costs/benefits/
risk analysis of "Going Green".
While it may make you feel good about yourself in the short run you owe it to your kids and the rest of the World to find out the true long-term

Posted by Westbrook
a resident of Menlo Park: Allied Arts/Stanford Park
19 hours ago

Westbrook is a registered user.

John, By throwing out there feel-good words to Alex you are doing him no favors This is another sign of our everyone gets a trophy society. The real world is nothing like that, You should be honest with him and tell him in the real world the prize goes to those who do the work, not for just participating,

"We can also point out the many co-benefits (health, economic, jobs, equality, justice, etc.) of making the changes necessary to reduce climate pollution."

John I wish you would explain the co-benefits in detail, Here's what I see,

As for the children and adults working in the mines many of whom are slave laborers, this is not only in The Congo but around the World.

Health, Many are sick and dying, no healthcare here

Economic, Most make less than $2 a day,

Jobs; they work from morning to night for under $2 a day in dangerous conditions using their hands because they cant afford a shovel.

Equality; The only equality is Adults and children are equally being exploited abused and poisoned.

Justice; There is none for the people that are exploited for pennies so some can say they are saving the world,

All noble causes but at what cost?

Your silence is deafening

While you may say these are attacks I see this as healthy and necessary discourse,
A debate here will hopefully get our kids like Alex involved at a much deeper level.

I do appreciate you Alex sticking your toe in the water as so many kids are spending all day on ticktock, Don't give up when you run across someone like me, embrace it and run with it. State your positions and back them up.

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