WATSONVILLE—In spring 2018 Watsonville nonprofit Regeneración: Pajaro Valley Climate Action held a special event to announce results of a landmark community survey. 

The event brought together a number of agencies and residents, and its success prompted the organization to kickstart an annual forum, aiming to shed light on how people in the Pajaro Valley are responding to the ever-growing climate emergency. 

The fourth annual Climate of Hope forum, entitled “Community Visions for a Healthy Future,” will be held virtually on May 26.  

“We are asking, ‘What does it mean to have a climate-resilient community?’” said Regeneración founder and executive director Nancy Faulstich. “We’ll be focusing on the Pajaro Valley, but bringing in voices from across the state. In particular, we are thinking about agricultural communities, and how all of these communities can participate in developing a better future.”

A featured speaker this year will be L. Vance Taylor, head of the Office of Access and Functional Needs at California’s Office of Emergency Services. Taylor will discuss the ways in which communities can ensure safety for all residents during emergency disasters.

“People with disabilities, mobility challenges, or who depend on refrigeration for their medicines … [and] those who wouldn’t understand evacuation orders that are only in English,” Faulstich said. “What are we doing to make sure they’re not getting left behind?”

The forum will also feature Ana Rosa Rizo-Centino, director at One Step A La Vez, a youth-led center providing behavioral health outreach, engagement, prevention and intervention services. A panel moderated by Michelle Sevilla, network manager of the Central Coast Climate Justice Network, will also be held.

“We don’t want a ‘resilience’ where low income communities of color continue to be underserved and underfunded, overall systematically disadvantaged,” said Regeneración community organizer Natalie Olivas. “The forum is really about how we can make new systems that don’t make our communities suffer the worst impacts of climate change. Instead, we want to uplift new models and ways of being.”

The forum will include input from various sectors including transportation, food and agriculture, housing, building electrification and more.

“We’re hoping to bring all of these people together to think about how the history of these sectors have been unjust and oppressive, and how we can move forward,” Olivas said.

Olivas says that Regeneración is ensuring that discussion topics are as accessible as possible, by asking presenters to steer clear of using jargon, and also offering Spanish interpretation. 

“The climate movement has kind of been brushed off as a scientist and politician thing, but really it’s about everyday people’s lives,” she said. “We’re hoping that everyone, including youth, will be able to watch this and get something out of it.”

Added Faulstich: “We are absolutely in a crisis. And you wouldn’t know, just going out into the world, turning on general news, or going into your church or school. We need to get to the point where we’re engaging many, many more people about this problem. I think a lot of people don’t understand how serious the situation is. It’s a long term public health crisis.”

Climate of Hope is made possible by a grant from the California Environmental Protection Agency’s Environmental Justice Program, as well as a number of local individual and group donors. In addition to speakers and presentations, Regeneración is teaming up with a number of other local nonprofits. Digital NEST is creating a video to go alongside the forum, and Pajaro Valley Arts’ current exhibit, “Sacred Soul: Cultivating Natural Rhythms” is being promoted as well.

“We’re just really excited to plug in with these local organizations to make this program happen, and make it more relevant,” Olivas said.

Regeneración is encouraging the community to engage more with this year’s forum, and gather in small groups to watch.

“We want people to get together and view the forum with friends, family, in a group,” Faulstich said. “A number of organizations will be watching it together, and we urge people to join them. We wanted to make it more of a hybrid event so people can get some of that inspiration and excitement of experiencing it directly with other people.”

Faulstich said she hopes that everyone, whoever they are and wherever they are from, knows that they can make a difference in the climate crisis.

“You can decide to put your mind to this and do something about it,” Faulstich said. “Small actions do matter, but collective action is even more important. Getting involved is the most important thing we could be doing at this point to ensure there will actually be a livable world in the future.”

Climate for Hope will be held May 26th, 4-6pm on Zoom. To register for the forum click here. A livestream will be available via Regeneración’s Facebook page.

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Reporter Johanna Miller grew up in Watsonville, attending local public schools and Cabrillo College before transferring to Pacific University Oregon to study Literature. She covers arts and culture, business, nonprofits and agriculture.


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