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    Water Future: Will We Have One?

    1-PHOTO-Page 6-OttoBy Oakland Vice Mayor Rebecca Kaplan

    Historically, LGBT lead­ers and elected officials have needed to fight for our rights even when we were the only ones bringing up a topic, which often made oth­ers uncomfortable. In addi­tion to working for progress on LGBT rights, our LGBT leaders also have a history of bold leadership on other is­sues that might seem unre­lated to LGBT concerns, but which also require thinking outside the box, and propos­ing new, sometimes contro­versial, solutions.

    So, Harvey Milk, proudly the first openly gay Supervisor in San Francisco, led the adoption of “pooper scooper” laws, and fought for racial justice in city hiring and promotion. Other LGBT lead­ers have been at the forefront of innovation including undoing the archaic “war on mari­juana,” fighting for sustainable, transit-oriented development, and more.

    Now California faces a new crisis—an incon­venient truth that our water supplies are not meeting demands, and a combination of warm­ing weather, heavy water usage, and the pollu­tion of our drinking water with toxic chemicals by the petroleum industry has the potential to threaten our water supply, human health and our long-term survival.

    Solving this problem requires confronting un­comfortable realities and questioning the practices of the powerful, such as the ongoing use of dan­gerous “fracking” for fossil fuel extraction in California, which threat­ens our drinking water and can increase earth­quakes. It requires being willing to change the ways we do things, such as using greywater/recycled water, charging higher prices for big water users, adopting a moratorium on fracking and injection of danger­ous chemicals into drink­ing water supplies, and changing agriculture pat­terns to better align with water use (and, by the way, hemp uses far less water to produce similar output as cotton—which is a heavy water use plant).

    I recently led the Oakland City Council’s unanimous adoption of a resolution in support of a fracking moratorium. And last week, Senator Mark Leno—one of the leaders at the State level pushing the administration to protect our water supply from poisons—along with seven of his Senate colleagues, sent a let­ter to Governor Brown warning that Califor­nia’s current oil extraction efforts are reckless and that it could lead to a contamination of our groundwater.

    Is water an LGBT issue? Well, we certainly all need a future in which we have safe water to drink, and if we can bring innovative solutions to California’s long-term viability, and contrib­ute to the shift needed to accomplish it, then we should do so.

    Rebecca Kaplan has a long history of working for fair­ness, justice and progress, and is the first out lesbian ever to hold elected of­fice in Oakland. Elected in 2008 and re-elected in 2012 as councilmember at-large, she represents all of Oakland. Her colleagues elected her as Vice Mayor in 2015.