Infrastructure = Ecosystems

May 7, 2021

Infrastructure = Ecosystems

May 7, 2021

A guest blog post by Sarah Royce and Álvaro Palacios Casanova, submitted for their capstone project, in partial fulfillment of their UC California Naturalist certificate. The views expressed by guest authors are their own and do not necessarily reflect the view of the UC California Naturalist Program, its affiliates, or employees.

If you see infrastructure as only roads, bridges, and harm to ecosystems, look again! Done right, infrastructure investments can be good for the environment and our communities. As trainees in the UC California Naturalist program, we see the urgent need for bold infrastructure initiatives that center community health, economic well-being, and climate resiliency. 

A naturalist understanding of infrastructure extends to the wildlife we observed in a recent class trip to Chimney Rock in Point Reyes National Seashore— fields of Douglas iris, elephant seal pups playing in the tide pools below, and pelagic cormorants flashing their white lower flank patches. Wildlife supports earth's life systems; it provides what is known as ecosystem services, which are critical to climate resiliency.

President Biden's $2.3 trillion infrastructure proposal—the American Jobs Plan (AJP)—has a lot in it for California Naturalists to support.  The AJP creates green jobs to speed up the economic recovery and address the climate crisis. The plan dedicates 40 percent of climate and clean infrastructure investments to frontline communities that have borne the brunt of an extractive economy for decades and have systematically been left out of economic opportunities. It also includes investments to support rural communities that will be impacted by the market-based transition to clean energy. Biden proposes to eliminate tax preferences for fossil fuels and make sure polluting industries pay for environmental clean-up.

The AJP's $50 billion infrastructure resiliency component includes protection and restoration of forests, wetlands, watersheds, and coastal and ocean resources. If it becomes law, the AJP will invest another $10 billion to mobilize the next generation of conservation and resilience workers.  Creating a Civilian Climate Corps who are trained and paid a livable wage would put a new, diverse generation of Americans to work conserving our public lands and waters, bolstering community resilience to climate change, and advancing environmental justice.

The AJP was born out of collective national demand to take climate action.  Recent polling shows it's broadly popular among voters across the country, and even more so when respondents understand it will be financed by increasing corporate taxes. 

But does the AJP go far enough? Many environmental groups want even stronger action than is promised by the plan. Fifteen national organizations including Sierra Club, Climate Justice Alliance, and the Sunrise Movement have proposed a THRIVE (Transform, Heal, and Renew by Investing in a Vibrant Economy) agenda mapping out investments needed for a just transition to a regenerative economy. 

“Two trillion dollars over eight years as proposed by President Biden last month is not going to get the job done in time," Kari Fulton, policy coordinator with the Climate Justice Alliance said during a news conference on April 20.

The Sierra Club's economic renewal report found that an investment of $1 trillion every year for 10 years is needed to cut climate pollution in half while addressing economic, environmental and racial justice.  

“The urgency of this crisis demands action," said Jared Huffman, who represents California's 2nd Congressional District including Marin and Sonoma counties and is a co-sponsor of the THRIVE resolution in the House of Representatives. "Winning slowly is the same thing as losing.” 

The prospects for the AJP depend on Congress, so now is the time for all environmental voters to learn about the issues and weigh in with our elected representatives. 

As California Naturalists, we learn how to be stewards in protecting our ecosystems.  In this critical window of political opportunity, we call on everyone to hold our representatives accountable for stewardship of the planet.  The resources below can help you learn more about the infrastructure proposals, and specific actions you can take during the legislative process.  Speak up now to defend the ecosystems we cherish! 

--Sarah Royce, Álvaro Palacios Casanova
UC California Naturalist training program, Point Reyes Field Institute


To take action, go here:

To find out more about THRIVE, see: