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. 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 for 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, reduce carbon sequestration and stocking. The county supports acorn planting efforts at the same time as it permits removal of old growth forests. We are losing much more that 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 good number of state mandates. For one, SB 23 requires a 40% reduction in GHG emissions by 2030, compared to 1990 levels. This rate of reduction is insufficient, according to recent science. 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. 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.
Read the full interview here.