Eureka, Calif. shows rural America ready to fight climate crisis
The scene in Eureka, Calif., on Nov. 2, when 100 residents hit the streets to fight climate change. | Henry Millstein / People's World

EUREKA, Calif.—Over 100 residents of Eureka—population 26,000, the largest city in Humboldt County on California’s north coast—rallied Nov. 2 in downtown to call for action to curb climate change as the U.N. climate summit commonly known as COP26 continued to meet in Glasgow, Scotland.

Mary Sanger of 350 Humboldt, the local affiliate of the international climate action group, set the tone for the rally when she declared, “We haven’t been waiting for nations to step up and fight against the climate crisis,” pointing to the agreement reached, after pressure from grassroots activists, three years ago by local municipalities and the Humboldt County Board of Supervisors to move to 100% renewably-sourced electricity in the county by 2025. She noted, in particular, that Humboldt is one of the best sites in the country for wind energy; a proposed offshore wind project could generate enough power for all the households in the county.

Alex, a local high school senior, stated, “I’m here to represent the youth voice, which is so important.” She described her personal efforts to show environmental responsibility, including being vegetarian and recycling, but went on to say that “as a young person, I’m aware that none of these things will be enough to cause big-scale change… We have to be aware that our community alone cannot turn the tide.”

She pointed to Arctic drilling and colonialism as major factors in climate change, saying, “We must demand a return of land to those whose it is rightfully,” referring to Native Americans. Humboldt County has the largest Native American population of any county in California. Alex insisted that people press government for change on the scale that is needed.

Andy Barnett of the local Rotary Club drew loud applause when he pointed out that Rotary International last year declared environmental protection a central issue for the worldwide network of service clubs.

Similarly drawing vigorous assent from the crowd was the announcement that the Humboldt County Supervisors have taken up this issue and are planning a climate advocacy group to advise the board. Attendees at the rally were encouraged to write their supervisors in support of the move and to volunteer for the advisory group.

Dan Chandler of 350 Humboldt pointed out that while there was a great deal of idle talk at COP26, delegates had reached at least one significant agreement, to cut methane emissions by 30%—still inadequate but at least a step in the right direction.

Nonetheless, environmental activists Greta Thunberg, after storming out of a meeting she described as “greenwashing,” pointed out that participants in COP26 “are actively creating loopholes and making plans to profit from this destructive system” and that “we need immediate drastic annual emission cuts, unlike anything the world has ever seen.”

Chandler concluded by insisting that “If humanity gets out of this mess, it will be because we act” and urging everyone present to join a climate action group. Judging by the reaction from the crowd and the many honks and waves from passing motorists, many people in this rural community are ready to take up the challenge.


Henry Millstein
Henry Millstein

Hank Millstein is a long-time peace and labor activist. He's a fiction writer and journalist and a member of the National Writers Union.