A key piece of keeping 16 restaurants successfully running is ensuring abundant supplies of quality local ingredients. Among those, seafood is paramount. I love fresh, raw, light food, and seafood fits that bill with its clean, healthy versatility. The culture of Seattle is steeped in a history of productive fish and shellfish resources. But of late, I’ve become aware that to continue enjoying access to the oysters, geoducks, salmon and countless other delicious staples of Northwest seafood, we must ensure effective carbon policy for our state.
Washington is on the front lines of ocean acidification, which occurs when carbon emissions from the atmosphere are absorbed by the ocean and cause a chemical change, making the water more acidic. This change in seawater threatens many species — the full gamut of shellfish (oysters, mussels, geoducks, clams, scallops) to crab and fish. Warming also causes scary shifts in our ocean ecosystems. Recall the “warm blob” of 2015, which caused toxic algal blooms, shutting down Dungeness crab and razor clam fisheries along the West Coast. These incidents are glimpses of the future we can expect in the coming decades.
Abundant, affordable seafood is a highlight of living in the Northwest, and it’s important to me that supplies don’t become so scarce as to be the exclusive domain of those with fat wallets. Appreciative, educated diners make the Seattle dining scene great. Nobody here would be caught eating unsustainable, shadily sourced fish. And yet many don’t realize that while sourcing local sustainable seafood is important, if we truly want to carry on the centuries-long legacy of the Northwest, we must cut our carbon emissions through a strong, fair policy for Washington state.
Unlike the predictions of many naysayers, carbon policies are proven effective. With 10 states in the United States operating under carbon markets (nine states in the Regional Greenhouse Gas Initiative plus California), several more in the process and more than 40 national and 25 subnational jurisdictions with policies in place worldwide, plenty of data paints an eloquent picture: Done well, carbon policy can boost economies, create jobs, save billions in health care and drastically drive down carbon emissions.
Such a carbon policy is on the November ballot — Initiative 1631, a fee developed by a coalition of environmental groups, tribes, labor, business, communities of color and others. It puts a price on pollution and invests the revenue in clean energy, clean jobs and other emissions-reducing projects. A handful of proposed carbon policies came before the Legislature this year, including one backed by Governor Inslee, but it probably won’t come as a surprise that the Legislature failed to act. That’s why I’m looking to you, Washington voters, to approve I-1631 in 2018.
Initiative 1631 will invest more than $2 billion in the first five years in emissions reductions, wildfire prevention, sustainable fisheries, aquaculture, agriculture and other critical projects. And, importantly, it includes direct allocations for low-income and vulnerable communities — helping them “become the solution” rather than burdening these struggling populations. The text of I-1631 states: “There must be sufficient investments made from the clean air and clean energy account to prevent or eliminate the increased energy burden of people with lower incomes.” This is critical in a city that is becoming increasingly more unaffordable.
We’ve been given the gift of this wonderful planet, and if we want it to take care of us, we must take care of it. The snow-capped mountains, temperate rain forests, fertile fields and pebbly beaches of the Pacific Northwest — and all the delicious seafood, fruits and vegetables that spring from them — can bring joy for many more generations if we make the right decisions now. Speak up to friends, colleagues and legislators and let them know you support strong, fair carbon policy for Washington.
Ethan Stowell is the owner of 16 Seattle area restaurants. Reach him at firstname.lastname@example.org.