Climate Crisis Demands Change was published by The Grass Valley Union. In addition to being a Nevada County Sunrise member, Jonah Platt is a member of the Board of Directors of Earth Justice Ministries.
We, the Nevada County Sunrise Chapter, are calling on the people of our community to support us and others as we ask for the community to undergo systemic change toward a more equitable and sustainable future.
It is unfortunate to look around us and see what feels like the world burning before our eyes. We’ve inherited this Earth and feel a need to protect it from ourselves.
There are options before us to create a more just and climate-responsible society and community but without collective and individual action, nothing changes. The Earth and many people upon it are crying out for real change.
The fact is, we can bring that change and alter the course of our shared humanity. The generations that come after us are our inherent responsibility. We must provide for them a safe and supportive environment to grow up in.
On a global scale, we’ve over-consumed what’s possible to sustain our guaranteed future as a species, while at the same time forsaking the survival of most living things on this planet. It’s no wonder many of us young people feel a sense of despair and oncoming collapse when considering the state of things.
That being an unfair environment to grow up in, we still believe there’s hope. We see it when members of our community act toward social and climate justice. We feel it when we organize and work together toward changing our community.
One ask that we have of you is that you help us as we call on our elected officials to make impactful policy decisions to directly address the climate emergency we are all in.
Nothing changes until we accept the emergency and initiate an aggressive adjustment to how we do things.
Some simple steps we can take now through policy action include stopping the reopening of the Idaho-Maryland Mine, updating the general plans of our cities and county to implement climate-responsible policies and procedures including plans for mitigating oncoming climate disasters, and working toward hitting carbon neutrality goals.
There are countless solutions we can adopt toward attaining a more sustainable future. We ask for your support and continued action to make a brighter future possible.
Jonah Platt is a member of the Nevada County Sunrise Movement, which is a local hub for a national youth-led organization focusing on reversing the climate crisis through a Green New Deal. His piece was submitted on behalf of all members.
See the Union piece and the comments here: https://www.theunion.com/opinion/columns/jonah-platt-climate-crisis-demands-change/
Even in the wake of the tremendous losses locally caused by the River Fire, and as heat waves, wildfires, drought, and smoke devastate Northern California, Rise Gold continues to inflate the economic benefits of reopening the Idaho-Maryland Mine. While the CEO claims that the silent majority supports it, those of us who are studying plans for the mine see many negative impacts. One significant and irreversible impact would be the depletion of our region’s groundwater, which would add to growing water scarcity and rising water prices in this time of climate change, just when we need to conserve water most.
How can we calculate the value of water against the value of gold? Gold is a commodity. Gold prices are high right now, tempting speculators from out of the area who want to profit by extracting both gold and profits; neither would stay in our community.
On the other hand, while water is often treated as a commodity, under natural law water is a right, given to all people and all parts of creation to sustain life. “Water is life.” Yet fresh water is becoming scarcer… and more expensive. According to NID documents, an acre foot of untreated water varies in price but averages from $50 to $70 locally. The Sacramento Bee reports that Sacramento area water agencies are selling water to southern California at $700 per acre foot.
How much is an acre foot of water? It is a volume of water the size of an acre, 1 foot deep. One million gallons of water equals 3.07 acre feet.
As we live through another drought, with the value of water rapidly increasing, dewatering local groundwater to reopen the Idaho Maryland Mine would mean loss of both economic and ecological value to our community. Using simple math, we can roughly estimate the economic value of groundwater slated for extraction. According to Rise Gold’s Technical Report, beginning mine operations would require draining the mineshaft by pumping out 2,500 acre feet of groundwater (81,433,250 gallons). Based on current NID prices, this means discharging between $125,000 and $175,000 worth of water down Wolf Creek into Bear River during the first six months of operation (2,500 acre feet x $50-$70).
Then, to keep the mineshaft clear, inflow of groundwater to the mineshaft, estimated at 1,375 acre feet (44,788,287 gallons) per year, would have to be pumped out continually. The next six months would see $34,300 to $48,000 down the creek and then between $68,600 and $96,000 would flow down the creek annually (1,372 acre feet x $50-$70). Within ten years, close to 500 million gallons of water, worth a whopping $776,700 to $1,087,400, would be lost to our community–a million dollars’ worth of precious water down the creek in the first decade!! This will go on for the next 70 years thereafter. Billions of gallons of water, worth millions, will be dumped down creek and out of our community.
Meanwhile, community members whose wells are dewatered will pay ever-increasing rates for NID treated water instead of drawing water out of their own wells, water that has been cleansed by Mother Nature as it percolates down to underground aquifers. (NID rates for treated drinking water during this drought vary from $.0039 per gallon for the first 500 cubic foot of water and $.0049 per each additional gallon, which adds up to between $1,270 and $1,596 per acre foot.)
Another fun fact: In only 35 years Rise Gold will have dewatered and discharged enough water down Wolf Creek to fill Scotts Flat Reservoir to capacity.
We must also consider the ecological value of groundwater lost due to the mine. We don’t see groundwater, so why does it need to be recharged? According to the US Geological Survey: “As part of the water cycle, groundwater is a major contributor to flow in many streams and rivers and has a strong influence on river and wetland habitats for plants and animals. People have been using groundwater for thousands of years and continue to use it today, largely for drinking water and irrigation. Life on Earth depends on groundwater just as it does on surface water.”
According to NID’s website: “Nevada Irrigation District encourages wise use of water. Conservation and water use efficiency is important to preserving our precious water resources. Water is needed for drinking water, household use, growing food, commercial and industrial uses, groundwater recharge and the environment.” Rise Gold’s plan is the reverse of recharging groundwater. Draining groundwater would deplete our aquifers, which would otherwise provide well water and contribute to supplying our local lakes, creeks, ponds, wildlife, trees, and vegetation with the water they need to thrive.
Nevada County has been a water-rich area, with lakes, rivers, and creeks contributing to its natural beauty and abundance of wildlife. But our shrinking snowpack, historically low reservoirs, record-breaking heat, smoke-filled skies, and parched lands and forests make clear that times are changing. Future climate projections are dire. Let us not compound these problems locally by letting Rise Gold extract and waste ourvaluable groundwater.
My husband and I recently had the pleasure of watching the film “Summer of Soul ( … Or, When the Revolution Could Not Be Televised)” at the Del Oro Theater. The documentary chronicles a pivotal moment in Black culture by interweaving interviews from festival attendees and performers along with clips pertaining to the political and social climate in with the festival footage. The festival featured amazing talent from Stevie Wonder, Sly and the Family Stone, and The Fifth Dimension to Nina Simone, B.B. King and Mahalia Jackson.
I was amazed to encounter such incredible music through this film — musicians like The Staple Singers, The Edwin Hawkins Singers, and Mongo Santamaria — that I probably would not have encountered in my day-to-day life.
Although the festival took place over the course of six weekends in 1969 and was attended by thousands, the event was overshadowed by Woodstock. For nearly 50 years, the footage sat in a basement because, according to original producer Hal Tulchin, no one wanted to buy footage of “Black Woodstock.” I and my fellow filmgoers almost missed this opportunity, as Hal Tulchin passed away in 2017 and many of his archives and memorabilia in his basement were destined for the trash bin.
The Harlem Cultural Festival is just one small sliver of our country’s past that was nearly forgotten because our society has historically chosen to ignore and even silence non-white voices.
Instead of continuing to push aside and denigrate these voices, we need to include them. In that respect, I was happy to see that the California Board of Education adopted the Ethnic Studies Model Curriculum so that my school-age children will have the opportunity to learn a more robust history of our country and learn more about the multitude of people who comprise it.
(Note: The Ethnic Studies Model Curriculum is a guidance document that provides support to teachers and administrators in developing courses and/or instructional content in a specific topic area. It is strictly a resource. It does not replace classroom curriculum or materials, nor are schools required to use it as it is a supplemental resource. https://www.cde.ca.gov/ci/cr/cf/esmc.asp).
We are at a critical juncture in the great experiment that is the United States of America. Although our country is multiracial, since the first Europeans encountered Native Americans upon their arrival, we have done a poor job of listening to those who are not white.
We need to decide if we want to embrace the shared humanity of all our citizens by learning more about the experiences of our fellow Americans, which includes Native American, Black, Asian American and Pacific Islander, Latinx and others. Or do we continue to marginalize nearly 40% of the people in our country?
I submit that most Americans, regardless of race, don’t want our country to fail. In order for our great experiment to continue, we must be open to learning from one another. Our history can no longer be one-sided. It must include more perspectives and recognize the imperfections of those involved and of the policies and laws created, as it is this recognition that allows us to continue striving to improve our country for all our citizens.
Watching “Summer of Soul” on the big screen, I not only enjoyed the musical performances, I learned also about the political and cultural climate in the summer of 1969 from a Black perspective, thereby enhancing my understanding of that era. Thankfully, the footage of the Harlem Cultural Festival was salvaged so that we can learn from and enjoy it today.
Hopefully, my kids will also learn about the Harlem Cultural Festival in school alongside the discussion of Woodstock so they have a better understanding of that time in our country’s history. Let us continue to seek out and save these treasures from our past to share in our great American story.
As we residents of Nevada County struggle to adapt to extreme drought, heat waves, water shortages, periodic power outages, and threat of forest fires, Rise Gold is trying to persuade us that reopening the Idaho-Maryland mine would do us good. Yet regardless of its recent flawed and deceptive survey, the mine would negatively affect the community in many ways, including in our ability to adapt to and mitigate the impacts of climate change.
In June, our region got a taste of a record-shattering heat wave which, further north, led to many deaths. We are in a historic “severe to exceptional drought,” resulting in depleted reservoirs and mandatory water restrictions. Fire insurance rates are skyrocketing and policies are being cancelled as fire season extends to almost year-round and as wildfires become ever-more ferocious, burning more acres. Even as we pack our go-bags and create fire safe spaces around our homes, we know that catastrophic forest fires could come at any time. Reopening the mine would only make these climate-related impacts worse.
The leaked report of the 2022 Intergovernmental Panel on Climate Change (IPCC) warns of “progressively serious, centuries’ long and, in some cases, irreversible consequences” that will impact people around the world with multiple climate calamities at once: drought, heatwaves, cyclones, wildfires and flooding, leading to widespread hunger and disease. So far, the earth’s average global temperature has risen slightly over 1 degree Celsius, which is about 2 degrees Fahrenheit. Just imagine what it will be like if it rises to 3 or 4 degrees Celsius! The IPCC report warns, “Life on Earth can recover from a drastic climate shift by evolving into new species and creating new ecosystems… humans cannot.”
Nevada County has had the foresight to respond proactively by adopting the Nevada County Energy Action Plan, which was developed by the Sierra Business Council, with support from PG&E, in collaboration with Nevada County and community members. The plan, based on scientific climate forecasts in the context of our region, states: “From record temperatures to proliferating wildfires and changing precipitation patterns, climate change poses an immediate and escalating threat to the region’s environment, economic strength, and public health.”
The plan is intended to “guide local government decisions that will help achieve greater efficiency, reduce costs, and demonstrate the County’s commitment to energy independence and community resilience” and to “inspire residents, businesses, and other public agencies in Nevada County to participate in community efforts and maximize energy efficiency, renewable energy, and water efficiency.”
This plan should guide analysis and decision-making about the mine as it relates to climate. It points to goals, strategies, and ways to implement policies that will enable us, as a community, to adapt to projected climatic changes and mitigate harm by lowering greenhouse gas (GHG) emissions. But reopening the mine would take us in the opposite direction.
Adapting to climate change means developing resiliency so that we human beings, our fellow creatures, and coming generations can survive and thrive as much as possible. This means carefully preserving our region’s air, land, and water. The mine would further pollute our air, replace life-sustaining ecosystems with mine waste, and deplete our precious groundwater, putting wells at risk and sending millions of gallons of treated wastewater daily down Wolf Creek. Adaptation means generating sustainable forms of livelihood, housing, education, business, agriculture, and more—locally-based as much as possible—and moving away from fossil fuels to justly-sourced renewable power. Many community members, local businesses, and local nonprofits are working to attain just such a vision. Rise Gold’s extractive business model does not align with these goals.
Because it is a global problem, we must also do our part to mitigate the harm of climate change by reducing our regional carbon footprint. The Nevada County Energy Action Plan calls for gradually reducing annual residential electric use by 12 percent. Rise Gold’s projected electrical use would cancel out this goal by annually using electricity equivalent to 5,000 new homes and could strain our already overburdened power grid.
Even more significant would be the massive carbon emissions caused by diesel-powered heavy equipment used for: constant construction during the first year and half; ongoing continuous excavating, underground blasting, drilling, rock crushing, loading, hauling, unloading, spreading, and compacting to create engineered fill up to seven stories tall; continuous mine de-watering by pumping, treating, and sending millions of gallons of wastewater down Wolf Creek; increased new diesel truck traffic (up to 100 round trips a day, seven days a week, sixteen hours a day). This would result in significant increases of GHG emissions rather than decreases as outlined in the County’s Energy Action Plan.
Please, let’s put this debate to rest once and for all and not waste everyone’s time and energy by pretending we should seriously consider reopening the Idaho-Maryland Mine every time another penny-stock company comes along to propose it. The County has taken a proactive approach with its plan to foster resiliency and mitigate the harmful effects of climate change. Let’s not turn back now.