Long Beach, Calif., where I spent my first 17 years, has had many notable contributions to the world. Snoop Dogg. Cameron Diaz. Sublime. Some not-so-classic Paris Hilton music videos. I’m proud to have grown up there for more substantial reasons, too, like the fact that it makes the top five in America’s most diverse cities, and has one of the best public school districts in the country.
But when it comes to living green, Long Beach’s pedigree leaves something to be desired. Oil is big business. The city was designed with cars in mind and little attention to transit alternatives. And, being in the desert, Long Beach has to take half of its water from the Colorado River or Northern California’s Bay Delta Region (neither of which are exactly well-supplied with the stuff themselves).
To further illustrate: As I walked down the beach near my father’s house when I visited in February, I saw far more bits of colorful plastic than I saw seashells, more dead animals than live ones, and the view looked out onto oil drilling sites and a fleet of tankers lined up to enter the harbor. When I came back, the bottoms of my feet were covered in splotches of tar.
New Mayor Robert Garcia, elected last June, wants to clean up Long Beach’s environmental rep. At his first State of the City address in January 2015, Garcia issued an urgent call for global warming adaptation. “That means changing the way we produce and use energy, supporting transportation that is not reliant on fossil fuels, reducing greenhouse gas emissions, creating green space, and looking at every way we can to reduce our carbon footprint,” he said in his address. He’s already commissioned the Aquarium of the Pacific to craft a Climate Change Action Plan — i.e. suggestions on what the city should do in order to get ready for everything from sea-level rise to heatwaves. The plan is due at the end of this summer.