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Exploring the Climate Crisis in the Windy City
Combat Climate Change Today
This is the Save Our Happy Place weekly climate action newsletter making it easy for you to help protect the places you love from climate change. Subscribe to get access to simple & effective climate actions, sustainability, and eco-friendly lifestyle tips to make helping the planet easy.
As part of our core climate activism philosophy here at SOHP, we believe it is essential to celebrate the places we love and educate ourselves on how they are being affected by the climate crisis. This practice is also a great way to remember we are all part of a larger ecosystem.
As part of a series to introduce you to fellow community members and their happy places, this week our guest climate action curator is the amazing Jin Park. He is a climate activist and the voice behind @chicagocarbonneutral. He will be familiarizing us with the current climate status in Chicago and Illinois and how we can all help save our happy places.
We are deeply saddened by the horrifying act of violence that occured in Highland Park, Illinois yesterday. Our deepest condolences are with those affected. We stand in solidarity with the many voices calling for a safer United States.
Life and Climate in Chicago with Jin Park
Upon arriving in Chicago in 1999 as a 10-year-old boy from South Korea, I quickly learned that this city’s weather is no joke. The winter here is particularly gray and slushy starting in late October and ending in April - that’s half the year. As a resident, I find it particularly amusing when so many of us rush outside in shorts and flip-flops the moment the temperature outside is above freezing. We make sure to fully enjoy these less miserable days. And then, along with some pouring rain and the piercing sounds of cicadas, summer arrives with an incredible rush of energy from all living things. The transformation into summer is always the most fun feeling! It brings back memories from childhood and high school. Summer in Chicago feels like the rebirth of a phoenix. The city becomes the most complete place one can hope to live in.
How is the climate crisis affecting Chicago?
Chicago was built on a swamp and this makes the city susceptible to flooding. The glacier in Lake Michigan is melting and the water level is consistently increasing, making lakefront buildings vulnerable to severe flooding. Illinois as a state has seen a rise in the average temperature for all four seasons by just about 1.5 degrees Fahrenheit. There’s also been a steady increase in precipitation over the past few decades. Illinois has gotten both hotter and wetter.
How is Illinois handling the climate crisis?
Illinois passed a very aggressive climate change bill in September 2021 called the Climate and Equitable Jobs Act (CEJA). This bill covers a wide range of problems facing the state due to climate change and provides guidelines addressing each of those. It includes plans on shutting down fossil fuel plants without hurting the workers. It specifically aims to protect black and brown neighborhoods that are most impacted by climate change. Illinois is committed to being a nationwide leader in pursuing a aggressive green transition, which is an encouraging and welcome sight as a Chicago resident. Kudos to everyone that made this a reality, and it may be up to us the people to keep the government accountable to these goals.
Special shoutout to Ariel Hampton and the Illinois Environmental Council (IEC) for helping me put together this information!
Finding Your Voice in the Climate Movement
If you feel lost in terms of how to react to climate change or feel like you can’t change the world, don’t worry my friend because you are not alone. Even if you have no background in climate change or science, we all have to start somewhere and it is ok to take baby steps. No matter what stage of the climate journey you are in, try not to burden yourself with guilt around not having acted sooner or with more force. Kudos to you for reading this and taking an interest! Together, as a group impassioned around saving our planet, we can spark a worldwide change.
The general consensus among the people around me is that they are concerned with climate change, but most are lost as to how they can help or feel like it is already too late. A lot of damage has are already been done and that is the truth. However, the reason I believe we cannot lose hope is that there are already so many environmental organizations just within Illinois, and they are all working diligently in their respective fields to mitigate climate change. I don’t think humans have truly united to fight climate change yet. Therefore I believe there’s a lot more that can be done.
How to Support Climate Policy In Your Town
Whether Your Live in Small Town or Big City Try These Two Tips
1. Vote for Environmentalists
The bottom line, regardless of which city one resides in, is that the most important thing an individual can do is to vote for environmentalists. As for Illinois, IEC will be providing a score chart for the upcoming election, to guide all voters on which candidates support climate change policy. Stay tuned for it! For those both in and outside of Illinois, check out the Environmental Voter Project.
2. Become a Lobbyist for the Planet
Reaching out to your representatives on all levels of the government is another way for individuals to make an impact. Build a relationship with local politicians, city council, and school board members and ask them which bills have they supported in the past and relay some personal concerns. They exist to serve and most will be glad to hear your stories. Office visits, phone calls, zoom calls, emails, and social media are great ways to connect with them and hold them accountable.
Meet Jin Park a Climate Activist in Chicago
Where is your happy place?
My two happy places in Chicago are Montrose Beach viewing downtown from the Northside of the city and the spot where the planetarium is just southeast of downtown. From Montrose Beach, you can get the best overall view of the city from further away and enjoy the breeze from Lake Michigan. The spot next to the planetarium sits at the end of a pier, providing a view of looking “inwards” into the city. It’s certainly up there in my mind as the most beautiful spot in the world.
What inspired you to become a part of the climate movement?
Climate change caught my attention very seriously after viewing Breaking Boundaries on Netflix. It gave me a real sense of urgency with visuals that helped me understand that we are battling against time to save our civilization and other species. Shortly after that, I became more alarmed after learning of the heat wave in the Northwest of the U.S. as well as the terrible flooding that took place in Germany. It became clear that the planet is responding to what capitalism has done for the past 100 years. As a child, I wondered what happens to the air when toxic fumes from a running car just kept coming out without any filtration. I was like 4 or 5 having these thoughts. The older you get, you just accept reality and don’t think twice about it. It gets buried because we know we cannot live without it. Personally, the increasing amount of natural disasters reawakened those concerns from childhood, and I knew I couldn’t keep ignoring them. I sometimes fight with the thought “we are already doomed, what I do might be a waste of time”, and I arrive at the conclusion, “If I want to be proud to my future children, the only option is to succeed or die trying.” Quite extreme, I know, but it’s needed for motivation!
What do you love about Chicago?
My favorite part about Chicago is the lakefront beaches and trails to enjoy for any occasion including BBQs, frisbees, football, weddings, biking, running, and dates! With respect to those 300 people that lost their lives in the Great Chicago Fire of 1871, this huge city-wide disaster provided a stage for the world’s most renowned architects to come and show off their talents. As a result, we have some gorgeous buildings in all directions and a really impressive skyline. The city planning is really cool too. Personally, I don’t need to rely much on GPS to get around because the grid system here makes sense, and it’s easy to get places as long as you know which way the Lake is. The last point I will brag about is that we have a variety of foods and bars to keep yourself super cultured. I obviously love this place and it will always be home to me. I’d like to set a foundation to protect it.
What is one thing you recommend someone visiting to do?
Oh boy! Please seek out Portillo’s for the absolute number one best fast food, Lou Malnati’s for a great deep-dish pizza, and do not miss the Chicago architecture boat tour. It’s around $30 per person and is worth every penny with gorgeous views and is quite informative. I also recommend biking along the lakefront. I would steer away from visiting between October and April. It’s too cold to enjoy the views.
What is one-way people in or visiting Chicago can do to be more mindful of their environmental impact?
There are thousands of ways to be more mindful of your surroundings and the environment. I hope that you can find your own answers! Personally, I operate from a place of love and respect for Mother Nature and other humans. I try to remember that I am a product of the sacrifices of my ancestors and will do my part in doing the same for the future generation.
Thank you for reading. Please look me up on Instagram @chicagocarbonneutral for more! Stay excited, stay positive! - Jin Park
Some Rays of Sunshine
The Headlines We’re Happy to See
Vehicle Emission Testing Bill was proposed in Chicago to bring back emission testing sites into the city to mitigate environmental harm. - Read More
Illinois Governor signed a bill shutting down coal plants for good. - Read More
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