Wait a second. Is that Fred Keeley? Rehearsals for Tuesday’s tour and parade have been kind of intense.
A team of snorkelers, boogie boarders and life jacket-clad activists will wander Pacific Avenue for an ocean-themed, only-in-Santa Cruz parade this Tuesday, Jan. 24.
It’s all in the name of climate change education. Tawn Kennedy of Greenways to School wants to show Santa Cruz how downtown could look by 2112 if the city doesn’t meet its goals for cutting greenhouse gases (though, granted, we have little control over what the Earth’s other 7 billion people will do to cut theirs). Under current predictions, if climate change continues at its present rate, much of downtown Santa Cruz will be underwater.
The parade will feature octopi costumes and a Venice-style boat parade. Santa and his elves might even make a appearance from the melting North Pole to what Kennedy is calling the “Pacific Avenue Canal.” The flood sounds so cheery it’s almost frightening.
“All of this is very, very hard to imagine because it’s so scary,” says Transition Santa Cruz’s Michael Levy, another organizer for the event. “One way to think about it is by laughing.”
Kennedy and Levy want the underwater tour, being promoted as “part comedy and part hard-hitting political analysis,” to draw attention to the city’s Climate Action Plan. That plan, currently awaiting final approval from city council, aims to reduce emissions 30 percent by 2020 and 80 percent by 2050, using 1990 levels as a baseline. City staff took environmentalists’ previous round of comments into consideration for their latest plan, but the activists say the city could have done better.
Come Tuesday, County Treasurer Fred Keeley will suit up as a tour guide for the underwater parade, riding a time-traveling boat pulled by bicyclists up Pacific Avenue. Keeley, playing the ghost of Santa Cruz future, will show participants a sea of hypothetical post-global-warming woes.
The scene will be like a slow, nightmarish Disneyland ride—lots of fun characters and pretty colors with some worst-case-scenario environmental politics thrown in. Kennedy says the vessel will have room for about four passengers, but all other participants will walk on the sidewalk alongside the boat, which will be moving at a pedestrian’s pace. Kennedy doesn’t think drivers will get too upset. “I don’t foresee the boat interfering with traffic,” says Kennedy. “If people really need to, they can go around.”
Environmentalists’ remaining concerns about the Climate Action Plan are twofold. First, the plan has no citizens’ advisory committee or community oversight board. Without that, Kennedy and Levy worry the plan might never be enforced. Councilmember Ryan Coonerty, who worked on the plan as mayor last year, is reluctant to create such a board. Instead he’s calling on neighbors and businesses to help take the reins on cutting their emissions.
Activists’ other chief concern is that public works is planning for cars in certain places as they prepare to widen intersections and the bridge over San Lorenzo River to Highway 1.
“We’re planning a lot of bike routes and safe routes to school too,” says. Coonerty “We have to do it in a way that meets the needs of our community. I believe we can do it in a way that reduces our carbon footprint.”
Participants in Tuesday’s parade are encouraged to dress up and bring their own snorkels, rubber duckies, boogie boards, life jackets and wetsuits. Levy says the goal is to make sure the city meets its own ambitious goals. “It easily could become a plan that just sits on the shelf and looks pretty but doesn’t get implemented,” says Levy. “It’s up to all of us to make sure that doesn’t happen.”