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July 2nd 2014

Bay Localize Tackles Climate Change By Empowering Communities

It’s easy to feel overwhelmed by climate change, but Oakland-based environmental justice organization Bay Localize -- one of the first non-profit organizations invited to join Party Corps’ Good Cause Directory -- is working to inspire and support community leaders in building equitable communities that are resilient to climate change impacts. They create and help implement grassroots strategies including youth development, leadership training, community education, and coalition building. I recently sat down with Bay Localize’s staff to learn more about their work and the local-to-global movement to tackle climate change.

When I asked Bay Localize Program Director Kirsten Schwind what inspired her to co-found the organization she replied, “It was a real faith in the power of grassroots leadership to develop innovative solutions to address the root causes of climate change, which are social and economic, by building relationships between communities, government and corporations."

Bay Localize was started nine years ago by what Schwind calls as a group of idealistic, young volunteers. It’s now receiving vocal support from community leaders, elected representatives and peer organizations throughout the region. Their most recent, and perhaps proudest, achievement has been to lead Alameda County residents and businesses through negotiation of the right to buy their electricity locally from a public agency, rather than from Pacific Gas & Electric. The Alameda Community Choice Energy Program, once finalized, would create a local energy purchasing option that also gives people cheaper rates. “We can have local clean energy development and thousands of local jobs in the clean energy sector,” explained Colin Miller, a Bay Localize Program Manager.

Another notable achievement of Bay Localize has been their highly shared Resilience Tool Kit, a free and downloadable guide to help individuals and organizations understand and address the impact of climate change on their community. “We actually helped launch this concept of resilience. It went viral, nationally and internationally. It’s used in more than 30 countries and 46 states,” commented Schwind.The Bay Localize team feels tremendous job satisfaction in knowing that they have empowered so many people around the nation, and around the world, to start thinking about building resilience to Climate Change in a way that honors the power, leadership and knowledge of grassroots leaders.

In the last nine years, the Bay Localize team has seen public awareness about climate change grow significantly. People are beginning to understand that we are going to have some impacts, but we have the power to make those impacts less severe if we act immediately. Corrine L. Van Hook, Bay Localize’s Communications and Outreach Manager shared her thoughts on overcoming complacency and motivating action: “Once in awhile you’ll have a conversation with an activist who is the picture of resilience. It’s those people who motivate us to continue this fight. It’s really important to keep them in mind when we’re doing such challenging long-term work.”

One example of the types of impacts Bay Localize is helping communities prepare for is the flooding of low-lying areas, such as the flat lands of Oakland, Bayview/Hunter’s Point and Richmond, that is anticipated as sea levels rise. They help prepare communities for flooding with wetlands restoration, tree planting, and levee-building that will not only protect the infrastructure that’s built by large investors, like the airport and the port, but also help protect communities that are most vulnerable.

By teaming up with organizations likeMovement Generation and the People’s Grocery, Bay Localize builds strength in numbers. They are also empowering young adult job-seekers to find their first jobs in building local climate resilience with the Map Your Future Project. “It takes communities of people to come together and to partner: we don’t have money and resources, but we have people power,” Van Hook explained.

Party Corps is producing a Music for Good benefit for Bay Localize on Thursday, July 17th.  Join us for a conversation about this great organization and performance featuring musicians Future Twin, Feral Fauna and Derek from Owl Paws.  Purchase your tickets here.  Proceeds from ticket sales will go directly to Bay Localize and will support their intern, fellowship and youth mentoring programs. 

Posted by Olivia Swilley


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