Tag Archives: biodiversity

San Jose’s Ash Kalra Gets An ‘A’ On Climate Change

San Jose Asemblymember Ash Kalra (CA-27) got an ‘A’ from the California League of Conservation Voters (CLCV), winning a 99% rating as a climate change champion when CLVC released its annual California Environmental Scorecard this year.

Unfortunately, the state of California got a dismal C.

The Scorecard is a comprehensive analysis of where the state’s leaders stand on the environment and climate change.

Kalra was named Nature Defender  by CLVC for championing AB 3030 in the state assembly, to preserve biodiversity and access to nature. He  was recognized as “someone the environmental community can always count on to be the progressive leader and environmental champion that California needs.”

Kalra’s  track record supporting a range of environmental bills on the assembly floor (buffer zoners for oil and gas safety, clean cars, and transparency within the Department of Toxic Substances Control), earned a 100% rating for two consecutive years (2017 and 2018), and a 99% in 2019.

Most recently he co-authored AB 1289, with Assemblymember Richard Bloom (D-Santa Monica), to help smaller family farms stay in business by transitioning from animal agriculture to sustainable plant-based agriculture.

Kalra stated that CLCV was his ‘go-to group “ for environmental leadership because they were helping combat the climate crisis with new, innovative proposals designed “to strengthen clean air and water for our communities.”

Mary Creasman, CLCV CEO, said that though California had a reputation for being progressive, 2020 was largely a year of ‘climate change inaction.’

Only 11 (nine Assemblymembers and two Senators) out of 120 legislators scored 100%.

Governor Gavin Newsom earned a score of 87% despite California’s poor track record on climate change initiatives last year, only because he issued executive orders  at the year end to conserve biodiversity and boost climate resilience

CLVC said that the climate crisis took a back seat in Sacramento last year. For the first time, the annual Scorecard revealed that 70% of the California Legislature accepted campaign contributions from oil companies and major oil industry Political Action Committees (PACs). According to their analysis, 60% of Democrats and 100% of Republicans took these dollars.

Even though Kalra and a small band of legislators fought for climate justice, they failed to convince a majority in the legislature to pass bold policies. In reality, corporate interests are still calling the shots in Sacramento when it comes to the environment and public health, added Creasman.

“Corporate polluters continue to have an outsized impact on policy in Sacramento.”

With less than nine years left to address the most severe impacts of climate change, the California League of Conservation Voters is calling for renewed action in Sacramento and, in particular, the development of a comprehensive climate action plan for the state.

Mike Young, Political and Organizing Director at CLCV urged the Governor and the legislature to work together to renew their focus on the climate crisis. He pointed them to the Biden Administration’s climate action plan, with justice, jobs and public health at its center, nothing that “We need a vision for the future that centers the health and safety of Californians.”

CLVC called for California to create a clear climate action plan of its own, because “the country and the world is looking to California for leadership.”

California’s Overall Score: 74%

Governor Newsom’s Score: 87%

Assembly Overall Average Score: 71%

Senate Overall Average Score: 73%


Meera Kymal is a Contributing Editor at India Currents

Children volunteering at a Save The Bay project

Saving The Bay On A Sunday Morning

At the Front Door: Climate Change & the Bay Area –  a column on climate change in our lives

A few years ago, I started to wonder what success means to me. I came across the story of Watsi, the first non-profit to join Y-Combinator. In his startup school video, Chase Adams, the founder, talks about his journey building Watsi. The most impactful part of his story is the message that success to him meant helping just one more person and trying to do something that mattered more than his personal needs. This message resonated with me. The companies we work at, the job titles we hold, the money we make, the size of our homes, the cars we drive, the holidays we take, are not a measure of how successful we are.

The question to ask is, can we make a positive impact on at least one life, human or otherwise? If so, it is impossible for us to fail. 

I started on my journey to find something that mattered more than just my personal needs and wants. I found that environmental related charities received only 3% of all charitable donations and volunteering hours. This was a surprise to me given that climate change is the biggest threat we face. There were large gaps in awareness of the climate change crisis and a lack of  involvement from governments, business leaders and communities to solve the problem.

I started looking into how to be part of the solutions and where to start. 

Through friends at work, I connected with  organizations such as Save the Bay and  started seeking out other local organizations. I found that Our City Forest held several volunteering events over the weekend to plant trees in the Bay Area. It was a perfect opportunity to engage our children in something we can do together outdoors while also helping to make our community greener.

Kids participate in tree planting with Our City Forest in the Bay Area
Seema’s son volunteering with Our City Forest

I enrolled in Climate Reality Leadership Corps training led by Al Gore and engaged with my employer’s Green Employee resource group. As I started to become more aware of the various problems we face, so did the kids. They started to ask questions about things that didn’t look right.

“Mom, why is there so much plastic packaging?” “Why are there so many cars on the road?”

I encouraged them to pose the same question to business leaders and government officials – how will they solve these problems? I helped my kids write letters to the head of BART, the mayor of San Jose and to business leaders at Emirates, Kiwi Crate, and Amazon. Sometimes we heard back, but more importantly, we talked about how important it is to use our voice and refuse to accept the status quo in situations that can be harmful to our future. Kids are now using their skills to help create media to spread the message of climate change and what each of us can do about it.

Last year, on a cold November Saturday morning, I woke up my 7 year old son and 4 year old daughter early, packed some snacks and headed towards Marin. We were going to volunteer with Save The Bay at Bel Marin Keys to help restore wetlands. This was our first volunteering event together and we had a blast being outdoors, working to help restore nature. Since then, as a family, we have volunteered to plant trees, created videos and stories to share information about climate change, written to business leaders and government officials to do their part to tackle climate change and designed clothing to promote climate advocacy.

At home, we started with small changes to reduce our personal impact. We switched to bamboo toothbrushes, started to buy used books, exchange clothes instead of buying new ones, limit water wastage, use refillable bathroom products and to limit the use of products that have plastic materials or packaging. But we know that the biggest impact that we can have at a personal level is transitioning to clean energy for heating, cooling and transportation and changing our diets to be meat and dairy free. 

We have taken advantage of the opportunity to switch to 100% clean electricity through TotalGreen San Jose and are looking into how to transition to electric heaters from natural gas. And, while being vegetarian is an easier change for us, growing up with dairy products makes this change harder. However, black tea is turning out to be just as satisfying!  

When we think about sustainability, what we have to give up is not as important as t what we will gain. We will gain a healthier life, breathe cleaner air, drink purer water, live in a world where nature and biodiversity are thriving, giving us the opportunity to explore nature at its best. 

Start with small changes and work your way towards a truly sustainable lifestyle that becomes second nature to us. 


Seema Jethani is a sustainability advocate and a Climate Reality Leader with the Climate Reality Project.  She lives in San Jose with her husband and two elementary school age kids with whom she has been actively working in the community on the climate crisis, through various initiatives such as volunteering, social media engagement and petitioning elected officials and business leaders.

Edited by Meera Kymal, the contributing editor at India Currents.

SJ Teen Pioneers Globally Lauded Biodiversity Project

Young people are integral towards the fight for a sustainable future. From social media to student platforms, teenagers have used their collective voice to pioneer a new wave of eco-friendly advocacy and innovation. To learn more about Gen Z’s unique position within the environmental movement, I had a chat with Almaden valley teen, Adarsh Ambati. A junior at Archbishop Mitty High School, Adarsh was the only U.S. finalist for the global Gothenburg Sustainability Youth Award and the International Action For Nature Organization’s Eco-Hero. After the devastating California wildfires, Adarsh learned more about the disaster’s impact on endangered species — most notably, California’s amphibian biodiversity.

IC: What prompted you to work in the sphere of environmental sustainability?

AA: The Californian drought was instrumental in developing my awareness of climate change. I found that changes in migratory patterns, habitat shifts, disruptions in food-web, the prevalence of pathogens, parasites and diseases, wildfires, and floods, are directly or indirectly a result of climate change. This interdependence of the climate on even niche areas of ecosystems developed in me an interest in understanding ecology and biodiversity, which propelled me into the world of environmental sustainability.

IC: Why amphibians? How do you learn about the pathogens impacting endangered species in the first place?

AA: Because of the California Drought, I grew up not only verbally hearing about the importance of water but practically witnessing the devastating effects of water shortage – lush green lawns turning brown, the creek in front of my home drying up silencing the croaking of the frogs, deers moving on, and ravaging wildfires.  As a 6th grader, I used to accompany my brother to BioCurious, our community lab. Seminars and workshops regarding climate change at the lab provided me with a lens for understanding the environmental effect of climate change on organisms and their ecosystems, which spurred my interest in environmental sustainability. After further research in the field, I discovered the Batrachochytrium Dendrobatidis fungus that is endangering hundreds of frog species around the world. After reading more about this crisis in the novel, The Sixth Extinction, I promised to do my part in helping maintain the Earth’s biodiversity. With the help of mentors from my local community lab, BioCurious, I embarked on this Amphibian Biodiversity Protection Project.

IC: Why do you think it’s important for young people to use their platform to advocate for sustainability and the protection of biodiversity?

AA: The environment encompasses all that we need to sustain life on the planet. Today, massive problems ranging from water shortage to raging wildfires, which are triggered by climate change, threaten the environment and, indirectly, all life as we know it. While legislation and grassroots activism are 100% necessary to curbing and reversing man-made problems, innovative solutions are also crucial to solving such issues. So, I would implore all young innovators today to pursue environmental projects as the destruction of the environment will affect our generation the most. If we as youth choose to ignore the problem, it will only magnify until it can no longer be solved. By setting our minds to developing innovative solutions that help the environment without drastically changing one’s life, we can little by little overcome such worldwide issues. As these issues pertaining to the environment affect youth the most, it is imperative that we start to create projects aimed to help, protect, or sustain our planet immediately.

IC: What’s the future of this project? Do you plan on further developing or refining your in-field technique?

AA: After further testing with the fungal protein, I hope to expand into the next phase of the project – manufacturing the physical lateral flow strips using Ribosome Display. These test strips would allow researchers the unique ability to test in-field and be able to better protect the amphibians. So far, I have proved that a protein can be biologically engineered to build an in-field diagnostic for this fungal pathogen. My next goal will be to manufacture and continue to test this project.

IC: Do you have any advice for other teenagers trying to initiate sustainability projects of their own?

AA: For any youth trying to initiate sustainability projects of their own, my advice would be to be aware of the environment, think critically for innovative problem solving, and most importantly be open to taking criticism. In our world, there exist many problems ranging from massive losses of biodiversity to the seemingly insurmountable problem of climate change. We have to be aware of these problems so that we can solve them. Next, we need to think critically across various scientific disciplines to create the best solution for the problem at hand. For example, for my amphibian project, I had to combine my passions for environmental sciences, biology, chemistry, and physics to develop the most optimal solution. The next step is arguably the most important. Being able to accept criticism is one of the hardest to develop yet the most valuable quality an innovator can have for their projects. Through these three steps of identifying a solution, critical problem solving, and accepting constructive criticism, your sustainability projects will be increasingly successful.


Kanchan Naik is a senior at the Quarry Lane School in Dublin, California. Aside from being the Youth Editor at India Currents, she is also the editor-in-chief of her school newspaper The Roar and the 2019-2020 Teen Poet Laureate for the City of Pleasanton. Follow Kanchan on Instagram at @kanchan_naik_