Panel explores ways Spokane adopting SDGs
In a recent panel on "Building a Sustainable Spokane," four community leaders examined the city's progress toward achieving the United Nations' 17 Sustainable Development Goals (SDGs)—adopted in 2015 as part of the 2030 Agenda for Sustainable Development.
They are a blueprint for peace and prosperity for people and the planet, and a call to action developed with input from people around the world, including Spokane.
The goals are no poverty, no hunger, good health, quality education, gender equality, clean water, clean energy, decent work, industry innovation, reducing inequalities, sustainable cities, responsible consumption, climate action, life below water, life on land, peace and justice, and partnerships for goals.
The panel was part of the Sept. 28 Earth and Spirit Gathering at Unity Spiritual Center sponsored by One Peace Many Paths.
Panelists Pat Jones of Eastern Washington University Community Indicators, Maggie Gates of The Lands Council, Karli McIntyre of 350 Spokane, and Breean Beggs of the Spokane City Council discussed the city's progress toward the goals.
Pat hopes for better outcomes than he thinks are possible by 2030. Spokane Community Indicators gathers data on 205 variables to discern trends related to people, culture, recreation, education, health, housing, transportation, public safety, the economy, the environment and other priorities. That information helps improve local public and private decision making.
"Christ said 'the poor will always be with us,' so I don't think there will be no poverty in 2030, but I believe there will be less. Spokane's poverty rate is already down," he said.
"My vision depends less on poverty being reduced and more on health being better," Pat said of his work measuring city and county trend lines. "I hope we will be better off than 10 years ago."
Working with the Lands Council since graduating from Gonzaga in May, Maggie said she is an idealist in face of the climate crisis.
"Either we strive toward the goals, or my vision is pie in the sky. Many political leaders promote the Green New Deal. They focus on climate, environment, race, gender and the economy with an equal lens," she said.
Everyone needs to work together, said Maggie, pointing out that the Lands Council is doing its part by planting trees for forest restoration, and encouraging people to eat less meat, ride bikes and live more sustainably.
She calls for systemic change along with individuals making changes. Everyone needs more street trees, bike lanes and public transportation. She urges people to buy local food, plant community gardens and use more solar energy.
"It's about political will," said Maggie, who is also in the Sunrise Movement of young people who care about the planet and speak out against global warming.
"I'm an idealist," she repeated. "I'm inspired by what is happening and the energy in Spokane. We are helping people dream and gain power.
"How will we know if we are making progress? The Sept. 20 Climate Strike was a sign of progress. I've been here four years, coming from Colorado to study at Gonzaga University. I feel momentum building," she said.
Karli, a GU environmental studies graduate, said "we can only go as far as the goals we set.
"I liken climate crisis action to Martin Luther King Jr.'s work for civil rights. He knew he would not see the end of racism in his life, but gave a vision of what it would look like," she said.
"We are on the forefront of climate action, with recognition of the intersectionality of issues. All the goals are related. As we talk about them, we engage people. Homeless people seeking a place to lay their heads, and hungry people worried about where they will find food may not focus on climate change," she said.
"We will move action on climate change as people see its interconnection with economic issues. Before people will act on the climate, they need to have housing, shelter, heat and food," Karli said.
In his work with the city, Breean also emphasizes the intersectionality of the goals.
"We have racism so we have poverty. We need both environmental and community sustainability," he said. "Spokane's biggest challenge is being the state's poorest urban center. Income equality is wide. If people are struggling, they do not act. If they are doing well, they wonder, 'Why change?' We need everyone to look at sustainability.
"We need to pay attention to data from Community Indicators as we set goals," said Breean, who envisions and articulates specific goals, and seeks to reinforce people doing the right things, rather than scaring people to act.
"I recycle and grow vegetables. We need more bike lanes and bus routes. We offer business people incentives," he said. "We need data to inspire. The biggest obstacle is a lack of faith that the goals can be achieved by 2030."
On a recent visit with city leaders to Copenhagen, he saw that transportation was not a political issue. In the 1970s, residents decided they did not want to depend on Gulf oil. The political parties promoted sustainability, so only 40 percent of trips are with vehicles. Most are with bikes. Industries opened green jobs.
"We are a diverse city but people work together so it's not us vs. them, but us." Breean said.
Panelists then discussed developing effective community action with there being so many organizations in Spokane.
Pat said collaboration has improved over the last 20 years.
"City Council sets the tone," he said. "Community Indicators formed to address gaps in services for domestic violence, substance abuse/mental health and housing.
"We do not want people to reinvent programs. The thousands of nonprofits in the county need to know what others are doing," Pat said, praising community collaboration on Expo '74, the Centennial Trail and Convention Center expansion in 2000.
"The University District at the Riverpoint campus downtown brought together universities that often do not play together," he said."The 17 SDGs demand collaboration of organizations. Resources follow collaborative efforts."
Pat is involved with the collaboration of groups for a complete count in the 2020 Census.
Maggie said an example is the way the Lands Council, which "reaches out across the aisle to get things done." Wildlife director Chris Bachman brings together different interests on wolf management—ranchers, county commissioners, environmentalists and pro-wolf people.
"What comes out of meetings with all the stakeholders is inspiring," she said.
Karli said the panel is an example of collaboration with nonprofits and city leaders sharing perspectives.
"Climate Strike organizers created an opportunity and diverse people showed up, from toddlers in strollers to elders using walkers," she said.
Climate change will affect everyone regardless of their income, whether people are in Spokane or the Bahamas, she said, noting that environmental groups are working together.
"350 Spokane, the Lands Council, Roast House Coffee and North Face recently met to discuss collaborating on sharing resources to do more in Spokane, as well as on the Spokane and Colville Reservations and among Palouse farmers to act on the sustainable development goals," Karli said.
Breean said that while some groups are more invested in being right than in collaborating, he saw collaboration when 30 organizations came together in the "I Love the Spokane River" campaign.
"We need to pursue the soft spot, that moves us from our hearts to find alliances," he said.
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Copyright@ The Fig Tree, December, 2019