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Close to Home: Health, the planet and a Sebastopol charter school

  • Paul Fritz

The Intergovernmental Panel on Climate Change released its fifth assessment Report Sept. 27. The report states climate change is unequivocally taking place, and “It is extremely likely that human influence has been the dominant cause of the observed warming since the mid-20th century.”

It is clear that the burning of fossil fuels is the prime contributing factor to human-induced climate change. In California, cars are responsible for roughly 40 percent of carbon dioxide emissions. If we are going to reduce the impacts of climate change we must reduce the number of vehicle miles traveled. To accomplish this, we must curb our tendency to sprawl and instead build communities that support walking and biking and allow us to leave the car at home.

Land-use decisions are made every day, and with each decision we have the choice to exacerbate sprawl or to move toward more walkable and bikeable communities.

One local example is the Sebastopol Charter School, which is in contract to purchase 18 acres on the north side of the West County Trail between Highway 116 and Hurlbut Avenue for the creation of a new campus. The site is outside Sebastopol's urban growth boundary, which was approved by voters as a means of controlling sprawl development. By selecting this site, the Sebastopol Charter School continues to expand the sprawl at the northern edge of Sebastopol.

We used to develop schools in the neighborhoods they served, allowing students to walk and bike. Recent decades have seen schools move away from this model, resulting in schools located in places where students cannot walk or bike safely. This not only has implications for climate change but also for the health of our children.

The Sebastopol Charter School is now located on two campuses in Sebastopol that are walkable and bikeable for many children. The proposed campus at the edge of town will result in more families driving to school. And although the proposed site is located along the West County Trail, I would not feel safe allowing my child to walk to school alone. Unlike walking through neighborhoods in town, the path is isolated and out of sight of watchful eyes.

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