Nancy Faulstich and Pam Sexton
Crisis and Opportunity
Today we stand at the historical crossroads of climate crisis, a global pandemic, and heightened awareness of the brutal and systemic racism and inequities in our communities, nation and beyond. There is, in this moment, great challenge and great opportunity, a chance to use our collective intellect and creativity to move toward a common vision of a better future.
Regeneración – Pajaro Valley Climate Action was formed with a broad and beautiful vision for our Pajaro Valley community: everyone thriving in harmony with the natural world. To get there, we support inclusive and transparent processes to adapt to and mitigate the negative impacts of climate change. Extreme injustices and inequities have enabled and fueled the dangerous pace of global warming. As we move toward our shared vision for the future, solutions must be not only sustainable, but equitable and just.
Transforming the transportation sector is key to moving toward our vision. In Santa Cruz County, transportation accounts for over 50% of our carbon emissions. We must rapidly decrease our reliance on fossil fuels to turn the tide on global warming and prevent further disaster. As we make this shift we can expect increasingly rapid damage to current transportation infrastructure because of higher temperatures and more severe storms, flooding, and fires. Our solutions must align with our current reality and also look to a truly sustainable future.
Our vision is centered on our community and those things that will help them thrive as people move around to access jobs, schools, health care and other basic needs. Farmworkers need to get from home to the fields; parents need to take children to child care centers; youth need to get to school; people with disabilities need to be able to access stores, clinics, and all public spaces. Mobility is a human right, meaning we need to ensure that everyone in our community can utilize transportation services. We need to invest to serve the needs of our essential workers, and divest from transportation modes that serve only an elite few.
As we transform these systems we must ensure that they are safe, reliable and affordable. Watsonville is very dangerous for pedestrians and bicyclists, so while there is public interest in active transportation many choose to drive instead. Convenience should not be an entitlement of the rich. We need to invest in public transportation that brings us all together, that pulls public transit services off the bottom rung of the ladder to make it work for everyone. They must be funded so that they can endure a crisis – such as we are experiencing now. Covid has helped shine a light on the dual system that exists: those with money can stay home and drive private cars when they do go out while essential workers often rely on public transportation.
What Would Transformation Look Like?
Within our vision of everyone thriving, and the key principles laid out above, what are some specific changes we’d like to see?
Active Transportation Options
We see more walking, bikes and clean-powered public transportation. There will be bike and walking trails that are well-lighted, wide enough for safety in passing, and convenient to the traffic needs of our community. There will be more bicycle workshops to help people feel comfortable commuting by bike.
Public Transportation Options
We see a modern rail service with bus connections included in our public transportation system. It will transport workers and students to Watsonville, Monterey, Cabrillo, UCSC, downtown Santa Cruz, hotels, restaurants, the Boardwalk, etc. Rail transit will have ample space for bicycles (unlike our current limit of 3 bicycles per bus).
We see our cities providing ample public transportation services for the varied needs of these communities, including free shuttles going up and down main streets. Free transit passes will be available for students, government employees, and anyone needing this support. Everyone will have the option to telecommute when at all practical and leave space on trails, rails and roads for those who need to work away from home.
Less Personal Vehicle Use
We see fewer cars, trucks and planes. Everyone will understand the heavy footprint of these fossil fuel dependent modes: that every mile of distance traveled is like another bag of garbage dropped in our communities.
Urban areas will begin charging for the true cost of parking, road, and airspace use for unnecessary private auto and airplane trips. Our historic subsidizing of these transportation modes through road expansion and petrochemical subsidies will stop and instead go to public transit, active transportation paths, and green energy. This will greatly expand access to clean and convenient public transit and to safe bike and pedestrian options.
Electric Vehicles and Carpooling Options
Those cars, trucks and planes that are needed, for example in rural or more remote areas, will be as eco-friendly as we can make them. Group transportation will be the norm, both employer and individually organized. And there will be strategically placed carpool parking lots where people can leave cars and then continue on. Electrical charging stations will be accessible and affordable to those who need them. Everyone will have access to and understand how these newer vehicles work. (You can click here to view a new video about electric vehicles, created by Greenpower in collaboration with Regeneración and several community partners, that features Jacob Martinez, Executive Director of the Digital NEST.)
The Way Forward
Planet Earth is our mother boat. We’re all in it together and we must now focus on working collectively, cooperatively, inclusively and transparently to attain the future we need and want. Policy decisions have always mattered, and now it is clear to all that they are matters of life and death for our grandchildren, for humans, and for many other species. Remember this wise saying? “We make the road by walking.” Today, with every decision we make, we must make our path toward a common vision of the future.
Regeneración was founded in early 2016 through a series of conversations with community leaders. These conversations illuminated the need for a climate justice organization in Watsonville. Regeneración emerged to address this need. Regeneración was founded on the principle that climate change is a social justice issue with local impacts and must be engaged with on a local level in order to build resilient communities. Click here to visit the website, or follow Regeneración on Facebook or Instagram.
Nancy Faulstich founded Regeneración in 2016 together with a small group of Pajaro Valley residents. Now Regeneración’s first Director, Nancy was motivated to work for climate action and resilience upon realizing the plight that younger generations, including her twelve year old daughter, will face. Her goal was for everyone in the Pajaro Valley to become fully aware of the reality of climate change and to move together to address the causes and strive for justice. Prior to her work with Regeneración, Nancy served as a bilingual preschool and kindergarten teacher and literacy specialist with the Pajaro Valley School District for 25 years.
Pam Sexton started volunteering with Regeneración following her return to the Pajaro Valley in 2019. Pam’s commitment to climate action and resilience are rooted in international solidarity activism. Witnessing the courage, persistence and creativity of ordinary people against a U.S.-supported genocidal occupation in the small Southeast Asian nation of Timor-Leste, Pam understands the power of collective action for social justice. Pam now teaches at the Watsonville Aptos Santa Cruz Adult School.