This year’s Earth Day theme is “Invest In Our Planet”. Today we’d like to bring attention to the current climate change issues affecting Pima County.
Over the last several years, Pima County has experienced many of the negative consequences of climate change. One of the most notable displays of extreme weather in Pima County are the prolonged wildfire seasons. In 2020, a devastating wildfire season brought about The Bighorn Fire, which destroyed around 120,000 acres in the Catalina Mountains, alongside several other wildfires throughout Arizona. The unseasonably hot and dry conditions leading to these wildfires were exacerbated by the lack of rainfall from 2020’s monsoon season.
On the other end of the spectrum, climate change has ramped up the severity of our monsoon seasons. Although the year before lacked a monsoon season, 2021 went on record to have the third wettest monsoon in Tucson history and spawned several rescue missions over the course of the season.
Despite the insane amount of rainfall we received in 2021, Pima County never escaped Arizona’s drought of over two decades. Pima County is considered to be at ground level zero in terms of water conservation because many of its rivers have had their water sources depleted.
The Santa Cruz River, located here in Pima County, is an example of a river that dried up due to excessive groundwater pumping for irrigation and urban development. It’s not the only one – the Rillito River has also dried up due to the same conditions. In a desert like ours, water conservation is critical, and the damage done to these water sources can have massive consequences. Despite the current state here, there is still time to heal at least some of the damage. Our best hope may be returning these lands to native tribes who know how to take care of it.
This can be seen with the restoration of the Santa Cruz River, which has had water supply restored to areas running through the San Xavier District as a result of the Tohono O’odham Nation’s reclamation of the river. The Santa Cruz River was an important water source for early native tribes, but it was stolen and damaged by unsustainable groundwater pumping. Presently, the Tohono O’odham Nation has restored water supply following water rights settlements that gave them the opportunity to reduce groundwater usage.
The Santa Cruz River is just one of many possible examples of river and land restoration that can result from returning land to native tribes. This aspect is crucial to consider in environmental discussions moving forward.
With summer heat around the corner, it’s the perfect time for PCDP to host a world-class climatologist for our first major fundraising event of 2021. “We CAN (Climate Action Now) Fundraiser” will feature Dr. Michael E. Mann, Distinguished Professor of Atmospheric Science at Penn State and director of Penn State’s Earth System Science Center. His latest book, The New Climate War, details the fossil fuel industry’s long campaign to evade responsibility for climate change and delay action on remediating it, and offers a battle plan for saving the planet. Commissioner Sandra Kennedy will also speak, so save the date: July 17, 5 p.m.- 7:00 p.m. Details to follow.
April had me focused on fundraising, with an invaluable assist from Director Miranda Lopez, who crafted our fundraising strategy and keeps me focused on what I need do – starting with introducing myself to donors.
The best thing that happened in April is that we got to see President Joe Biden address Congress, an uplifting experience that reminded us what “presidential’’ looks like. Haven’t we all missed seeing compassion and passion, in a positive and hopeful address?
In his first 100 days, President Biden has accomplished an astonishing amount on behalf of the American people: shots in arms, stimulus checks, childcare assistance and more, as part of the American Rescue Plan. But Democrats realize that so much more needs to be done. We need to implement the American Jobs Plan and The American Family Plan. President Biden calls them once-in-a-generation investments in our nation’s future that will create millions of good jobs, rebuild our infrastructure, spur innovation, ramp up domestic manufacturing, lift families out of poverty, and secure the Middle Class by helping families cover the basic expenses. This is a truly exciting time.
Of course, Republicans having nothing good to say about any of this, and Senate Leader Mitch McConnell has vowed to obstruct as much of President Biden’s plans as possible. After the president’s April 29 speech to a joint session of Congress, Republicans put their lone Black senator, Tim Scott, on television to deny that systemic racism exists in America. It was a weak rebuttal, considering many Congressional Republicans are touting the American Rescue Plan’s benefits – even though none of them voted for it.
Closer to home, Republicans in the state legislature has been cranking out a flurry of appalling bills, the worst increasing voter suppression, and making it all but impossible for women to exercise reproductive choice. Before HB1485, which sought to remove people from PEVL failed, KVOA asked me for comment. Hopefully, it will not be brought back to the floor this session.
We’ve started to bring volunteers back to HQ a few hours a day, and we’ve just welcomed five Interns – a good thing, since May is going to be another busy month. Why? Because election season has begun. This isn’t an “off’’ year, but a party-building year, when we plan for the next election cycle. Candidates are starting their 2022 campaigns, and 2022 is the year we MUST turn Arizona blue! We must start reaching out to voters now, educating them on the importance of voting in a mid-term…especially this mid-term.
In Arizona, we’ll elect the whole gamut, from governor to dog catcher. We all see what the current Republican-controlled legislature is doing and has done to the people of Arizona, especially women, so we must flip the legislature in 2022.
There is no rest for the weary, and the fight for democracy continues. We at HQ can’t wait for the day when we can throw the doors open wide and welcome everyone back. Until then, please keep wearing your mask indoors and in crowds, and stay well.