Education in Oakland

East Bay Atlantis

Posted by novometro on June 20, 2006


Anyone watching the Al Gore global warming documentary “An Inconvenient Truth” at the UA Emery Bay would have had the uncomfortable experience of seeing large swaths of the East Bay, including the theater they were sitting in, vanish under water on one of Mr. Gore’s Power Point slides.

The camera didn’t linger on the image for very long, so it was difficult to see exactly where the new shoreline would sit if all the ice in Greenland were to melt. But a closer look can be found at this site. It’s a disturbing picture. Lake Merritt is reunited with the bay. Almost all of West Oakland is submerged. Emeryville joins Atlantis.

Often, there is something perversely thrilling about a good disaster map. One that shows the wake of devastation should a meteor the size of a Volkswagen Beetle strike Manhattan, say, or one that outlines the range of a North Korean missile. They are compelling because we know the calamity they illustrate is unlikely to actually happen. But we should look at this map as public officials and citizens in New Orleans ought to have studied maps showing the ruin that would follow a category 5 hurricane hitting the city.

Mr. Gore says that in the next 50 years, it’s quite likely that sea levels could rise high enough to turn downtown Oakland into an island, if manmade carbon emissions are left unchecked. That makes the new mayor’s plan to make Oakland a “model green city” all the more relevant.

Ron Dellums usually casts his plan to promote green businesses and technologies in terms of the economic benefits that would accrue to the city. He is right. Venture capitalists are pouring billions of dollars into alternative energy. Oakland’s own Clean Edge, which studies the alternative energy market, predicts that so-called clean energy technology market will grow from $40 billion last year to $167 billion by 2016.

There’s more than just money involved. During periods in the nation’s history when Congress has been unable to pass legislation opposed by corporate interests, cities have served as incubators for ideas that ultimately become federal law. Chris Rhomberg, a sociology professor at Yale, and the author of “No There There: Race, Class and Political Community in Oakland,” points to the various labor law movements in the United States which have urban origins.

As long as the United States remains one of two industrialized nations not part of the Kyoto Protocol, it will be up to cities like Oakland, which will pay a stiff penalty for ignoring climate change, to act.


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