“It’s too cloudy in Georgia for solar” was the oft-repeated refrain by the utility companies in Georgia for decades.
Georgia doesn’t get enough sun? I thought, confused, the first time I heard this, late 2011. The same Georgia that is a top agricultural state? The same Georgia that is the largest state in terms of land area, east of the Mississippi River?
I remember asking a south Georgia farmer in early 2012 — do you think it’s too cloudy in Georgia? Ha! replied the blueberry farmer, we need three things to grow our crops, a lot of water, a lot of land and a lot of sun! The latter two, Georgia being quite blessed with plenty of both.
I love blueberries. Blueberries in my pancakes on Sunday mornings, blueberries in my smoothies, salads, or just handfuls right in my mouth to start the morning off right, with a boost of antioxidants. Everyone should eat more blueberries!
If states were known by their main crop commodity, Georgia would have become known as the blueberry state instead of the peach state, years ago. $1 billion is the estimated worth of the blueberry industry in our state. Approximately 90 million pounds annually are grown in Georgia!
Later I’d learn about the devastation caused by Hurricane Michael in 2018 that hit that same farming community where I’d encountered the blueberry farmer years before. An area of Georgia that was already recovering from a previous season, with schizophrenic weather going from record freezes to unseasonably warm winter weather, that caused the destruction of two-thirds the typical crop that year.
Weather that has become increasingly disruptive and unpredictable because of human-caused climate change, leading to global warming. Communities all across Georgia were ravaged by superstorm Michael. Costing taxpayers billions to help with the cleanup and shore up of the farming economies of middle and south Georgia. Climate change affects across the nation and the world are disrupting food systems in unprecedented ways. A 2012 USDA report [Climate Change and Agriculture in the United States: Effects and Adaptation] highlights a major concern for farming dependent communities — “Increases in temperature coupled with more variable precipitation will reduce the productivity of crops, and these effects will outweigh the benefits of increasing carbon dioxide.”
One particular bright spot in all of the potential consequences we are facing from climate change here in Georgia is the expansion of homegrown domestic energy production in those same communities most vulnerable to weather disasters, and uncertainty in the domestic and global agricultural commodities markets. Solar energy is bringing hundreds of millions of dollars in investments to parts of Georgia that haven’t seen that kind of money or interest in a generation. Generating tax revenues for struggling school systems and vital county services, to create more good-paying jobs. Some states are showing that farms and solar are a dynamic duo, from creating more pollinator supporting habitats to bolster a struggling bee population, crucial pollinator-dependent crops, to actually powering the blueberry farm facilities themselves, helping lower energy bills and reduce carbon emissions. Over in the Netherlands new “solar farms” are actually expanding production of blueberries, by adding the design of the sites to incorporate dozens of acres of land for growing more crops.
Our future elected leaders, at all levels, should be Blueberry and Solar Energy evangelists.
That is why I support a Green New Deal, for DeKalb County, and for all Georgia, and for America.
But how can DeKalb County make these changes if other jurisdictions won’t act? How can we make a difference if leaders at the state and federal level won’t act?
Simple, we must be the change we wish to see in the world. We must lead by example.
DeKalb County can lead the state and even the entire Southeast in clean energy, in environmental justice, in transit equity, in sustainable, affordable housing, in cleaning up our air and protecting our creeks, streams and rivers.
I first ran for office because I was tired of waiting for politicians to stand up for what needed to be done. Climate change is real. It is here. And it is a threat not just to us here at home, but to 100 million people all around the world who risk becoming climate refugees because of global warming. The time to act is now.
That’s why I’m proud and excited to introduce my DeKalb Green New Deal. Here are the highlights:
- Commit to a county-wide 100% Clean Energy and Clean Transportation future by 2035. Fund a Sustainability Director and implement the transition plan.
- Ensure a just and equitable transition to a clean energy economy, those who have been impacted the most by environmental injustice should be the first to receive the investments.
- Expand regenerative landscaping and urban farming practices county-wide. Using fewer pesticides, herbicides and other cancer-causing chemicals polluting our streams, and soil and people.
- Fight for fare-free transit. Expand transit investments by passing a 1 penny sales tax to implement new rapid-transit corridors county-wide.
- Enact a Conservation Community Development ordinance to preserve more green space in future housing developments, protecting our trees and stream buffers.
- Bring back the park and greenspace bond program, to fund land purchases for permanent conservation areas, parks and recreation, and wildlife sanctuaries.
Will you help me pass a Green New Deal in DeKalb? You can help us today by pitching in a donation to our people-powered movement to act on climate!
Taking action on climate begins at the local level. But it doesn’t stop there. We must add climate action to the legislative priorities of DeKalb County. We must lobby, and put pressure on the state, regional and federal leaders to support the just transition that our community will make, and support the larger worldwide effort to cut greenhouse gas emissions, and reverse global warming. The lives of millions of people all over the world are at stake. The health, wellbeing, and quality of life here in Dekalb County are at stake if we don’t take immediate steps to transition away from a dirty energy economy. We must act now. Join us. Together our movement will spread like wildfire, not a wildfire that will decimate and destroy life but will breathe new life into a political system that refuses to take accountability over the planet we are leaving for future generations to live on.
Here are additional policy points based on Bernie Sanders’ Green New Deal platform, I believe would benefit DeKalb residents and all of Georgia the most:
- Supporting local metro farmers by investing in ecologically regenerative and sustainable agriculture. This will transform our local urban agricultural systems to fight climate change, provide sustainable, local foods, and help break the corporate stranglehold on our farming systems.
- A just transition for workers. This plan will prioritize the fossil fuel workers who have powered our economy for more than a century and who have too often been neglected by corporations and politicians. We must create a transition fund that will guarantee five years of a worker’s current salary, housing assistance, job training, health care, pension support, and priority job placement for any displaced worker, as well as early retirement support for those who choose it or can no longer work.
- Justice for frontline communities — especially under-resourced groups, communities of color, Native Americans, people with disabilities, children and the elderly — to recover from, and prepare for, the climate impacts, through a Climate Justice Resiliency Fund. And providing those frontline and fenceline communities a just transition including real jobs, resilient infrastructure, economic development.
- Saving American families money by weatherizing homes and lowering energy bills, building affordable and high-quality, modern public transportation, providing grants and trade-in programs for families and small businesses to purchase high-efficiency electric vehicles, and rebuilding our inefficient and crumbling infrastructure, including deploying universal, affordable high-speed internet.
- Investing in conservation and public lands to heal our soils, forests, and prairie lands. Reauthorize and expand the Civilian Conservation Corps and fully fund the Land and Water Conservation Corps to provide good-paying jobs building green infrastructure.
- Reaching 100 percent renewable energy for electricity and transportation by no later than 2035 and complete decarbonization of the economy by 2050 at latest — consistent with the United Nations Intergovernmental Panel on Climate Change goals — by expanding the existing federal Power Marketing Administrations to build new solar, wind, and geothermal energy sources.
Ted Terry is the former mayor of Clarkston, Georgia — the most ethnically diverse square mile in America, and a current candidate for DeKalb County Super 6 Commission. www.tedfordekalb.com