Viewpoints

Heidi Harmon: As a mom and mayor, I am committed to improving the environment

San Luis Obispo Mayor Heidi Harmon.
San Luis Obispo Mayor Heidi Harmon.

As we celebrate moms across our community this Mother’s Day, it’s a perfect time for me to reflect deeply on the two great people who made me a mom, and all the ways that I love, cherish and fight for them.

Though my kids have grown and no longer live under my roof, they will always live in my heart and my mind. For me, being a good mom has meant different things over the years. It has meant showing as much unconditional love as possible, standing with them when they need support, and knowing when to say yes and when to say no. My love for my children is what brings me to my political life and is the motivation that fuels my passion to advocate for climate solutions. It’s what leads me to dig deep and work hard every day for the many families and children living in our community.

As a mom and now mayor of San Luis Obispo, I have a deep concern about the world we’re leaving our kids, and the children across our community who are growing up today facing the imminent and real threat posed by climate change. We know fossil fuels are endangering clean air and water with toxic pollution and putting the health of our children at risk, which is why it is more important than ever to diligently and proactively take action to protect our families and future generations.

That’s why here in San Luis Obispo, I am proud to support a vision of 100 percent clean and renewable energy. Our community has seen the impacts that fossil fuel pollution and climate change here in our town and across California. From record drought to devastating forest fires, the impacts of climate change are endangering our safety, our economy and our way of life. And if we are seeing these consequences here in SLO, we know that our more vulnerable communities around the county and the world will suffer to an even greater extent.

The same dirty fuels that are threatening our climate are also threatening the air we breathe and the water we drink. According to the American Lung Association’s State of the Air report, “San Luis Obispo reached its worst level ever” for year round particle pollution. Nearly 4,000 children living in our community suffer from asthma and are at increased risk from air pollution. In fact, our county received an “F” grade for our air quality. Our families and children deserve better than failing air quality.

Fortunately, we have the solutions to these problems and I’m proud to say that San Luis Obispo is already taking steps to combat these threats. Our city has adopted a Climate Action Plan and we are actively working to reduce dangerous emissions in our community. Still, we can and must go further.

We’re not alone in confronting these threats and advancing bold, ambitious solutions. More than 25 cities across the country have committed to 100 percent clean and renewable energy. This includes many cities in our state like San Diego, San Francisco, San Jose and South Lake Tahoe. These cities are taking these steps not only because it will improve our air and protect our kids’ health, but because it will strengthen the economy and create more opportunity for the next generation of workers.

Clean, renewable energy means more money back in our neighborhoods for things like schools, churches, libraries and services throughout communities. At the same time, investing in clean energy means investing in American jobs and prosperity. Solar jobs in the United States have increased at least 20 percent per year for the past four years. California is now home to over 100,000 workers in the solar industry.

As mayor, I know that the transition away from fossil fuels to 100 percent renewable is an opportunity to strengthen San Luis Obispo. And as a mom, I recognize that it is an obligation and responsibility I have to my kids, and to all of our kids.

With a federal government bent on rolling back the progress we’ve made, now is the time for mayors across the country to step up in support of healthy families, cleaner air, and stronger communities powered by 100 percent renewable energy. You will find me standing in the thick of the work that is ahead of us, and I hope you will join me. No effort is too small, and no one is exempt from the call to participate. Showing up to work together and for each other is our highest calling in this time, for the sake of our children, our climate, and our globe.

Heidi Harmon is serving her first term as mayor of San Luis Obispo.

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