By Marina Andalon
Daily Press Staff Writer
In surf parlance, the Endless Summer is a utopia of perfect waves and never-ending exploration. However, a real endless summer of drought and escalating temperatures is more hell-like than heaven-sent and locals are doing what they can to protect the former from the latter.
Residents formed Climate Action Santa Monica (CASM) in 2013 to explore local solutions to climate change and the organization expanded this year to include a new youth focused component. The City, CASM and their new Climate Action Corps gathered recently to celebrate their success so far and discuss future efforts.
“I am excited that this event is happening especially since it is relatively new,” said Cris Gutierrez, Lead Co-Facilitator of CASM Climate Corps of the reception for the Climate Corps members. “We, CASM, want people especially the youth to know there are other ways of transport. Doing this and showing our appreciation to the people who worked to help our city can also help our environment.”
The idea for youth climate ambassadors grew out of a forum CASM organized in 2015. At that time, officials appreciated that youth leaders would be strong advocates for sustainability and the program received a boost this year during a meeting between CASM and City Manager Rick Cole.
According to Climate Action Santa Monica member Zac Gaidzik, CASM brought their idea of youth ambassadors and Cole suggested sending them out into the streets to gather useful data.
“We all kind of looked around at each other and said ‘oh yeah, that would be kind of nice, how do we do it?’ and then what followed was when a bunch of people all get an idea and all figure out how to make that idea a reality,” he said.
The members of the youth program are interns of all ages, ranging from high school students to college students, all living in Santa Monica. Their goal each weekend has been to get the word out on the street to the community about different forms of transit that can benefit the environment along with information about climate change. The interns went from the Santa Monica Pier to high schools to the Farmers Market, making sure to inform locals about the issue and asking for feedback.
Students were particularly focused on discussion transportation choices and attempted to engage people in a discussion of movement without a car.
Abderezak Azib, a local student at Santa Monica University, participated as a Climate Corps member and felt this program not only helped the community but also helped him with self-development.
“It was definitely eye opening to see how many people were unaware of how much public transportation is around us,” he said. “I am looking forward to sharing my experience and eager to see what else the program will do for the city these next years.”
With the summer winding down, CASM members gathered at the Church in Ocean Park recently to debrief the program and discussion future outreach efforts. Members of the Corps were able to discuss their efforts and were presented with a City Council proclamation from Mayor Pro Tem Ted Winterer recognizing.
Although the youth corps is a pilot program, Gutierrez is hoping to make it an ongoing program for students who can be the next environmental leaders in the community.
For more information, visit www.climateactionsantamonica.org.
Daily Press Editor Matthew Hall contributed to this story.