Taran Singh is a long-time Newark resident, engineer, and poet who is committed to making sure his children and future generations are able to enjoy the beautiful open spaces and natural resources that he loves.
Singh grew up near the Himalayan mountain range in India, which ignited his love for the natural environment. He also attributes his environmentalism to his Sikh identity, which has instilled a deep respect and worship of nature.
“My love for nature comes from a deep place. I think the value of being a Sikh is that you respect life in all shapes and forms,” he comments.
Singh discovered the wetlands on his daily walks where he found that Newark’s shoreline offers him respite and peace of mind. During the COVID-19 pandemic, he started to see more people out walking along the shoreline, and with the stay-at-home order, he was forced to think more deeply about Newark and what was going on locally. It was during this time Singh decided to get more involved politically, running for city council in 2020 and 2022 with the slogan “Engage, Evolve, Solve.” He campaigned by walking and biking around Newark to listen to as many residents as possible.
“I think COVID in many ways slowed us down. To think, if I’m going to call this home, what does it really mean to be home? And I started asking myself, this is my hometown, this is where I’m going to live and die. What am I going to leave behind? And that’s what drove me to think bigger and take action.”
Singh got involved in local politics because he believes climate action will only happen with increased public engagement and awareness. In particular, he has seen first hand how impactful local decision makers are and wants to see more people get involved in local processes that can actually have huge effects on their lives and communities.
“There’s not enough coverage of what is happening locally. And that impacts our lives in a lot of ways. Instead, the news is muddled by politics of a higher order that technically has very little impact on our lives.”
His campaign for Newark City Council helped introduce more environmental awareness to Newark. “I have no agenda in this field; I just want people to care about where they live and care about the future there,” Singh recalls. While he did not win election, the 2020 voter turnout was nearly 80% which was a historical record for the city.
In addition to general climate awareness, his campaign shed light on the disproportionate impact of climate change on disadvantaged communities. “People in the middle and lower class are going to suffer the most. The city needs to be more inclusive in bringing those people and voices in.”
Throughout his political and community organizing, Singh has been committed to protecting the Newark shorelines and creating healthy vibrant communities across the city.
“I think the onus is on politicians to start building frameworks for coastal cities that are facing rising sea water,” Singh says. Some of this protection, according to Singh, requires greater restrictions on building in vulnerable areas and a holistic understanding of how our communities can be designed to let people and nature live in symbiosis.
However, he sees political inaction on a national scale as a barrier to addressing these critical issues. In reflecting on these impediments, he believes that community power is necessary to build climate resilience and preserve the Bay Area’s natural environment. “Climate action is not just on the City, it’s on the community. And we’re talking not just about protecting nature, but also keeping what we currently have.”