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Activists make a spectacle to keep climate emergency in Tacoma City Council's sight

Volunteers from 350 Tacoma display their 16-foot-long glasses and eye chart flyer during a rally Thursday in downtown Tacoma.
Courtesy of 350 Tacoma
Volunteers from 350 Tacoma display their 16-foot-long glasses and eye chart flyer during a rally Thursday in downtown Tacoma.

It’s been two years since the Tacoma City Council unanimously declared a climate emergency. Now, activists say council members have lost sight of that measure, so they’re getting creative.

Volunteers with the climate action group 350 Tacoma took to the streets Thursday, carrying a gigantic pair of spectacles through downtown. The glasses are an eye-catching 16 feet across and weigh about 50 pounds.

This display is meant to call attention to a debate that’s going on in the Tacoma City Council. It’s about fossil fuels and changes to zoning that could be used to ban any expansion of the infrastructure that supports them.

Activist Dan Villa said 12 members of the group dressed in white coats and played the role of optometrists – handing out flyers that resembled eye charts.

“We’ve noticed that the city council has declared a climate emergency, yet their behavior isn’t quite matching up with that. We believe that they actually, some of them might be shortsighted,” he explained. “So we’ve created this giant pair of glasses to help correct that.”

He says the council has failed to deliver on past promises because they have not banned the expansion of fossil fuel infrastructure in the city, “which is, like, the first and most important step that you take after declaring an emergency, right? If you say your house is on fire … you stop pouring gas on it, right?”

Villa expects the group will stage this parade at least two more times in different areas of the city in the coming months.

Back in 2019, when Tacoma passed a climate emergency, councilmembers spoke passionately about the power of the youth activism that led to their unanimous vote. Now, the council is divided regarding a ban on fossil fuels.

Some members saying they’re concerned about fuel supplies for things like the military at Joint Base Lewis-McChord.

Additionally, the Port of Tacoma is home to tank farms for liquid natural gas and oil, which support a vibrant shipping industry.

Staff at the city council say policy work is underway and a public hearing will be taking place in the coming months. Read a letter from the city's Infrastructure, Planning and Sustainability Committee here.

In July, Whatcom County banned all new fossil fuel infrastructure in a bid to transition to a greener economy.

Bellamy Pailthorp covers the environment for KNKX with an emphasis on climate justice, human health and food sovereignty. She enjoys reporting about how we will power our future while maintaining healthy cultures and livable cities. Story tips can be sent to