Looking Back at 2020 and Looking Ahead

In  2020, Climate Action Santa Monica, like everyone else, adapted and shifted gears. While we stayed focused on the climate crisis, we expanded our work on personal levels and organizationally to do what we can for undoing racism, helping our community through the pandemic, and rallying the vote.  

We hold most dear our commitment to youth — those who participate in our Climate Corps, coming up to its 6th year.  Despite budget cuts and lockdowns, we keep the program going.  No longer able to send the kids to public events for“climate conversations” we helped them build their own voice as advocates with the City, role models to their peers, and project leaders. They developed individual and team projects using social media, working in gardens, exploring solutions to extreme heat events, and more. We are thankful for support from the City of Santa Monica and Metabolic Studios/Annenberg Foundation, without which this would not have been possible.  

This difficult period also demanded that we stay on top of the numerous policy issues that  these times brought with them: for example, how to have safe socially distanced transportation. It was a busy time for policy.

CASM is proud to say that we are locally focused. Climate change must be addressed at the federal level, but what we do here at home is something that we can have more control over to make change. We are committed to helping Santa Monica be a leadership community that demonstrates that positive community supported change on behalf of a better future for the planet is possible.

We hope that you will support us as we move forward with LOCAL programs to reduce the city’s carbon emissions through policy, public engagement, and urban planning and youth leadership.

As we look ahead to 2021, our efforts will be focused on the following:

  • New clean energy technology – Solar, Electric Vehicles, etc.
  • Clean and Green Mobility
  • Expanding Climate Corps to a year-round, more robust program
  • Grow our team of Climate Enthusiasts!

More detail on our 2020 Accomplishments, to date, is below.

Thank you,

CASM Steering Committee

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Your financial contribution makes our work possible and we appreciate your support.

2020 Accomplishments

Supported preservation of funding  and staffing for the most important climate change-related programs during budget cuts.

Supported and participated in development of amendments to the Bicycle Action Plan to provide additional protected Bike Lanes and help reduce Santa Monica’s transportation related carbon emissions.

Developed working relationships with mobility providers and innovators including Lyft, Spin, and the Zero Emissions Delivery Zone (project of LA CleanTech Incubator) for the purposes of expanding low-carbon mobility options. 

Fostered climate conversation through:

Worked to increase renewable energy availability and options through:

  • Solar Resources for Renters handbook with the City of Santa Monica
  • Solar for Condominiums Webinar co-hosted with the City of Santa Monica and SUNRUN Inc.
  • Formation of an Energy Working Group to evaluate and plan for energy related programs and initiatives
  • Recruited and supported 18 Climate Corps participants
  • Re-shaped the program for COVID safety to include year-round participation in climate education, career development opportunities and paid internships.
  • Supported team and individual projects including upcycling, gardening, creative communications, eco-art, climate games and urban heat island strategies
  • Hired new Climate Corps Coordinator
  • Created Climate Corps Handbook
  • Compiled data from more than 1500 Climate Corps survey encounters from previous years, with findings on transportation preferences, preferences for climate action and identifying communication strategies.

SAMOCAN (Santa Monica Climate Action Network)

Donate to Climate Action Santa Monica

Your financial contribution makes our work possible and we appreciate your support.

De-Mystifying Recent Fires – with CASM Advisor Bill Selby

On a recent CASM “Climate Conversation,” Bill Selby, a geographer and retired SMC professor, shred insights with CASM youth and Steering members to make sense of the recent fires.  

Excessive burning fossil fuels traps heat energy in the atmosphere causing instability and extreme weather events to occur more frequently.  This has been predicted for decades and is  what we are experiencing now.

The multitude of lightning strikes that ignited recent fires was the result of a bizarre weather pattern:  a tropical storm settled over California, uniting humidity with hot temperatures.  The storm’s significant energy generated lightning, but not enough rain to overcome the heat and suppress fire.

Our environment is changing:  forests, which were moderately dry before are changing into chaparral and oak woodlands.  Our oak woodlands are changing into grasslands, and our grasslands are becoming deserts.  This process of might normally happen over many many centuries, but it is happening over decades now.  More frequent fires are accelerating the change.

Want to learn more?  Visit Bill Selby’s blog, Rediscovering the Golden State Want to get notices of upcoming CASM Climate Conversations?   Have a topic you would like to learn more about? Shoot us an email!  climateactionsantamonica@gmail.com

The Earth-Saving Power of Trees

As any long-time Santa Monica resident will tell you, our summers are getting hotter, our winter rains are getting scarcer. (How much is Santa Monica’s climate changing? Read More here).

Trees are one of the most effective ways Santa Monica residents can combat climate change.  There is also correlation with increased tree canopy and lower temperatures, as well as cleaner air and less crime. Unfortunately, across the country, city tree canopies are shrinking due to natural disasters, disease, and other factors. In addition, lower income neighborhoods are seeing less canopy coverage and therefore higher temperatures.

The problem of canopy loss has become so large that the City of Santa Monica (along with cities across the nation) are seeking help from residents. Luckily, it’s one of the simplest and most effective climate change solutions we can all take part in!

How do trees help combat climate change?

Trees naturally absorb carbon dioxide as well as other global warming emissions that are released by cars, gas-powered equipment like lawn mowers and leaf blowers, beef production and power plants. In turn, they release oxygen into our air. 

The Center for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC) reports that asthma rates are at an all-time high. As the most prevalent chronic disease in childhood, asthma affects one in every twelve Americans. By planting trees, we help reduce pollutants that trigger asthma and other respiratory diseases. People living in polluted urban areas are far less likely to be hospitalized with asthma when there are lots of trees in their neighborhood.


Trees also help cool the air and reduce temperatures because they provide shade. They also engage in “sweating”, (evapotranspiration), which lowers temperatures. Shade and evapotranspiration alone can reduce summer peak temperatures by 2-9℉!

Santa Monica: Let’s get planting!

Below are a few ways to bring trees and all their benefits into your life. If there is very little space and no way to accommodate even a small tree, consider a large bush or hedge. Live in an apartment? No problem! You can still contribute to increasing our tree population!

  • If your curbside/parkway area is lacking trees or has any diseased trees, call the City’s Urban Forester via the City Hall hotline at 310-458-8411. Here is a designated tree-planting map for 2019 and 2020. If your street is not included in either of these plans, check out the City’s designated plans for upcoming years
  • To provide feedback and input for the City’s urban forestry planning, you can attend meetings at the City’s Urban Forest Task Force, which meets six times a year, the fourth Wednesday of every month, usually at the Santa Monica Main Library. For more information, visit the Santa Monica Urban Task Force’s website.
  • Even small spaces can accommodate trees. Whether you own or rent, walk around your property to see which space(s) make sense for plantings. Tall bushes are also a great option if a space cannot accommodate even a small tree.

    For a list of tree or bush species with specific height and sun requirements, visit your local nursery or use the online Las Pilitas directory. Some wonderful options for small spaces are the Mountain Mahogany which acts as a beautiful low-water privacy hedge, Toyon, Coffeeberry, and many varieties of Manzanita. (Choosing plants that are native to southern California and which have “low” water requirements means less maintenance than plants from other regions, thereby reducing or eliminating your need for water, fertilizers and pest control. By planting natives, you’re also providing food and habitat for our local birds and other native fauna.)
  • Fruit trees are also a great option if you’d like to further enjoy the benefits of your trees. Choose organic when buying. A few extra dollars is worth the healthier variety you’ll be feasting on for years to come.
Manzanita is a great option
Photo from Las Palitas Directory

A few tips for planting:

  • Use planting instructions to understand the growth habits of the tree and guide you both while selecting as well as during planting to determine how far apart to place each plant. Trees and bushes should be spaced based on their height and width at maturity.
  • Plant in the fall: Again, follow planting instructions. Ideally, you’ll want to plant during dormancy and when plants can receive regular watering. Any tree or bush will want regular watering the first 2-3 months, until it establishes. 
  • Mulch: Use mulch around the base of your new plant to minimize water needs and provide slow-releasing nutrients into the soil. Mulch also invites beneficial worms and small soil insects that help keep your soil aerated and healthy.

If you are not able to plant trees on your owned or rented property, consider donating your time or money to a local tree-planting nonprofit organization. One local group that has been championing tree canopy increase in the Los Angeles area for over three decades and which has wonderful volunteering opportunities is Tree People, located in Coldwater Canyon.

No matter where you live in Santa Monica or how much time and money you have to invest in tree plantings, there is something you can do to help increase our city and county’s tree population. If we want to thwart climate change and clean up our air, all capable citizens can and should be active citizens.  Planting trees is a great option.

A beautiful Magnolia Tree, a common species in Santa Monica