It's hard to overstate the importance of neighbors coming together and being prepared for disasters, natural or otherwise.
Because when there are emergencies like power outages, wildfires, earthquakes, floods or global pandemics, we need to rely on each other. Our friends, neighbors and family can make a vital difference when governments, utilities, or public safety agencies come up short.
I'm a firm believer in the power of community. And a community that's united around a common goal is one that gets things done.
Let me tell you about an initiative that's addressing this very challenge in a proactive way: Cool Block. This program, which has a big-picture focus on climate change-related impacts, has a "one block at a time" approach, helping folks get to know and work with their immediate neighbors to plan for emergencies and disasters.
Cool Block began in California and will be adding more states to the project, and ultimately other communities around the world. The 4-to-6-month program offers unique tracking technology to show folks the impact their household actions are having on the environment, both in terms of reduced carbon emissions and increased water conservation.
The latest cohort of 14 Mountain View block leaders began meeting and planning in January, focusing on sustainability and community-building. Some groups are still meeting virtually, but others are congregating in person as conditions permit. One group installed a rain barrel. Another is compiling a contact list for all the neighbors on their block. And another is looking into options for solar in HOA communities.
I was drawn to the program because of its ability to foster a greater sense of community — something I think we need more of. Three years ago I proposed that the County support a three-year pilot program, and with additional support from the City of Mountain View, Cool Block was set in motion. Last year we extended our contract with Cool Block for another two years.
Cool Block is creating old-fashioned neighborliness in a 21st century way through the use of technology. Neighborhoods can track their progress online and see how their neighborhood compares to others. It also provides them access to city department resources to help them implement their chosen actions.
This proved to be especially useful when COVID hit. Back in 2020, a few of the teams that signed up for the inaugural session persevered, continuing with their goals and objectives virtually. The combination of a warming planet and global pandemic has triggered a heightened awareness about the importance of resilience and environmental sustainability.
A better world, a better neighborhood, happens block by block.
Joe Simitian is a member of the Santa Clara County Board of Supervisors. He represents District 5, including Mountain View, and can be reached at [email protected]