By: Zoe McDonough (Class of 2022)

Dramatic decline in native plants is causing problems in California
The Golden State is home to around 6,500 different species of native plants, but alarming recent evidence suggests that they are being pushed out by invasive plants, causing an extreme negative reaction in the surrounding ecosystems (“Native Plants and Climate Change”). This harming of the natural balance of the environment can affect water quality, biodiversity, the economy, and can also increase the risk of fires, which, where we live, is already higher than we can afford. In order for citizens of Marin to be able to contribute to the solution, we must first identify what is causing the issues, why it is important to correct them, who has already begun to help, and simple, affordable ways in which people can help restore native plants.

The issue lies in invasive species

With all of the forms of transportation that we have in our world today, it’s not surprising that different species of plants and animals are being carried to different locations along with people and their belongings. However, sometimes when these species arrive in new lands, they start to take over, which is what is currently happening in California. These harmful non-native species, also known as invasive species, have altered the entire ecosystem in a very negative way, because they can’t support it in the way that native species can. For instance, when invasive plants such as ivy cover the ground, it reduces the number of roots in the grounds, leaving nothing to bind the soil together. This leads to a higher likelihood of ground erosion when floods occur. Also, the displacement of native plants that is happening due to invasive species is harming the biodiversity in the environment. Instead of having a variety of shrubs, herbs, and trees, there is starting to be one big monoculture, with no difference in species. Additionally, when people grow them in their own gardens, they can be vulnerable to numerous health detriments due to the fact that they require chemical fertilizers to grow. Lastly, and almost most importantly because of where we live, invasive plants aren’t accustomed to droughts like our native plants are, causing them to die in the summer without enough water. Areas dominated by these dry weeds are way more susceptible to catching on fire, while other tree-climbing plants like ivy serve as conductors for fires. This allows the fires to reach the tree canopy, making them harder to contain and more threatening towards structures. Luckily, there are ways to stop the spread of invasive plants, and some people have already begun to help.

Not all heroes wear capes: some wear gardening gloves

There is a non-profit organization called the California Native Plant Society that, in their own words, are “on a mission to save California’s native plants and places using both head and heart, bringing together science, education, conservation, and gardening to power the native plant movement.” There are many things that they are doing to help restore native plants and eliminate invasive plants. One thing that they are doing is advocating for legal protection of native plants and science based land management. They are also creating California’s first conservation index, filled with all of the native plants that need saving. Another thing that they are doing to help plants is educating the public about why native plants need to be protected. They talk to students, host conferences, create educational videos, and provide guided tours and hikes to look for native plants. One example of them talking to students is when a representative from CPNS volunteered to be the community partner in a student group project involving native plants. She provided guidance, knowledge, and materials that the groups needed in order to make a difference in the community. Lastly, the California Native Plant Society also goes out in the fields and works to remove invasive species from the ecosystem and restore native plants. They provide resources for anyone who wants to help, and they constantly host events for people who want to take action. However, there are smaller ways in which one can help make a difference, like not purchasing invasive plants for your garden. Doing this will also be more beneficial to the garden because native plants require less water than other plants, and no chemical fertilizers. There are already many people who have banded together to make a difference in our homes, but in order for the effect to be larger, more people need to join the cause.

Making a difference, one plant at a time
At this moment in time, there are many issues environmentally in California. The imbalance of plants in the ecosystem has caused a lot of damage in almost a chain reaction. However, there are people, like the California Native Plant Society, that are already starting to help, and they have created change for the better. But we can take it one step further, and with the help of everyone in Marin, we can not only reduce the amount of invasive plants in the state, but we can also help native plants flourish as they used to once more.

By: Millicent Harrison (Class of 2022)

A New Hope for Renewable Energy

Just under a month ago, California set a very lofty goal, to achieve zero carbon emissions by 2045. This huge change brought about by Kevin de León and Jerry Brown outlines and solidifies California’s economic plan for the next twenty-seven years. To put that into context, most freshmen will be forty-one by the time these goals come to fruition. Unfortunately, the goals set will affect California’s fossil fuel industry, and many residents and local businesses may not be willing or have enough financial backing to switch to renewable energy sources. Renewable energy sources such as solar panels and windmills may be becoming more mainstream, but are they affordable and efficient enough to highlight the renewable energy effort?

Accomplishing Weighty Goals

To achieve or not to achieve. Last month, California hosted the Global Climate Action Summit, which kicked off the climate goal of the century. California Governor Jerry Brown made this change possible by signing Senate Bill 100 into law. SB 100 was the brainchild of State Senator Kevin de León, who advocated for this bill for two years. This bill passed legislature on September 10, 2018, as some people had hoped it would. The bill-turned-law states that California must achieve zero carbon emission from electricity by 2045. However, SB 100 only states that electricity must be carbon free. Executive order B-55-18, signed later that day, states that all of California must be greenhouse gas emission-free by 2045. The point is, “electricity only accounts for about 16% of California’s greenhouse gas emissions.” (Roberts) This is crucial to understanding how both SB 100 and B-55-18 differentiate from each other, and how they benefit and reinforce their similar policies. The amazing thing is that if this goal is actually pulled off, California, as the “‘world’s fifth largest economy’ will have pulled off the most significant carbon policy commitment ever.” (Roberts)

Some people argue that the technology to make such a giant leap just doesn’t exist yet, and for the moment, their arguments are entirely justified. However important solar, wind, nuclear, and hydropower are for reaching zero emissions, they cannot be the sole technologies California utilizes in upcoming years. The main problem is that the amount of power that comes from these various technologies fluctuates depending on the conditions. If a day is cloudy and cold with little wind, then solar, and wind power will contribute little to the demand for energy that day. Not to mention that people will likely be inside using their heating systems to the maximum. Based on this evidence, the technologies currently being used will not be sufficient enough to provide carbon-free energy for the entire state. In order to succeed in becoming carbon-free, new technologies must either be invented or put to use in the next twenty-seven years.

More Effort Means More Impact

In order for California to meet its goals by 2045 everyone has to pitch in and reduce their carbon footprint. However big or small, every effort counts. Things like turning off lights when not in a room, limiting shower time, and walking or biking places instead of driving are all steps the average person can take toward helping our state. While the law and executive order primarily target businesses and the economy on a larger scale, there is no reason not to try to be more conscious of the energy we use and waste. Going the extra mile to reduce carbon emissions should not be a chore, it should be a habit. More importantly, it should be fun. Exercise, clean living, and spending lots of time outdoors will create a healthier overall population. Without factories, cars, and other industrial businesses belching carbon dioxide and other greenhouse gasses into the air, people will be able to get outside and enjoy the beauty of nature in one of the world’s most unique ecosystems. Reaching zero carbon emissions by 2045 may be a far-fetched goal to some, an outlandish idea, but since when have the boundaries of impossible ever stopped humans from evolving?