Wednesday, March 24, 2010

Hello Climate Change Movement, What About Me?

I am not climate change skeptic. But I am a climate change movement skeptic. When people talk about the climate change movement, it’s usually by people with inflated egos with the ‘I’m the only one who can save the world’ complex that throw around unnecessarily complex statements about IPCC meetings and percentage cuts of emissions by 2015, 2020, or 2050, depending on the country, spokesperson, or organization. It is very rare to find someone who is working in the climate change movement that is able to speak simply, thoughtfully, and passionately about why I should care about climate change and what I can do to help my community.

Given the wild throwing around of various numbers, percentages, exotic city names, and almost unbelievable impacts, it’s difficult for me to find my place, my spot where I get to do something. (And I sit less than 3 feet from about 15 people who have the word climate change in their job title.) I’m not a save the polar bears or polar caps or anything else with polar in the sentence kind of girl. I’m a the-front-yard-of-my-childhood-home-is-going-to-be-under-water-if-we-don’t-do-something-really-fucking-fast kind of girl. And a toxic-chemical-contamination-in-the-Gulf-coast-will-only-poison—more-communities-when-hit-by-the-next-hurricane-so-we-should-really-be-trying-to-find-safer-alternatives-because-we-all-know-hurricane-season-starts-EVERY-june kind of girl.

Those things make sense to me. My family, my town, the state I grew up in, makes sense to me. I also happen to have all of my family living just feet from the ocean and just a few miles from the Gulf, so maybe that's why. But this winter, all families saw such unpredictable weather across the country and Europe that at some point we thought ‘FUCK!’ So now that we are thinking ‘FUCK!’ and everyone who wasn't snowed or flooded in is about to be pounded by hurricane season and heat waves, what do we do?

There are at least three bills in congress that every 'climate expert' has an opinion about, but I have to admit I kind of think our governmental officials in Washington are in the midst of a pretty intense who has the biggest dick contest, that I hate to interrupt to see what is happening with those bills. It is very difficult to juggle measuring tapes and zippers and other bits and think about constituents all at the same time, it seems.

So, I'm wondering why more communities aren’t simply passing their own climate change policies, especially those that live in areas like Miami and New Orleans. Some things that are happening that impact your community is that there are over 30 communities around the country that have passed a policy related to climate change, several states are basing legislation on California’s emissions reduction policies and EPA is trying to help by regulating emissions through the Clean Air Act that directly affect impacted communities, especially those living near industry with smokestacks.

I feel that a community coalition of stakeholders (small business leaders, students, nurses, emergency responders for example) that helps to expand the knowledge of their own community on their town’s climate change impacts could be an effective approach. This way members of your community can have a voice in deciding how to mitigate impacts and create a plan of action, while also pressuring your state to take action, where the federal government is failing. Creating a coalition like this only works when it is truly for the empowerment of the community to find real solutions, which if successful can also help place additional pressure on strategic members of congress to stop spending so much time trying to read that measuring tape. 

Of course creating a coalition of people is just one step. I think creating a community values statement could also be powerful. A statement that lays out what the community thinks is important in confronting the social and environmental injustice of climate change. A list of community principles. This would require community discussions and roundtables and an expansion of the coalition to even more people. Also, the policy itself needs to be written with these values in mind by the people who are participating. And then it needs to be passed, which often requires lots and lots of talking with neighbors and knocking on doors and maybe a BBQ or two. People working that hard gots to eat.

If I lived in one place and did not have my life’s possessions scatted throughout soon to be 4 cities, I think this is one way how I could find my place in the climate change movement. 

[update: Check out a story about Davis, CA, Rochester, NY, and 50 cities in MA taking on climate campaigns.}

Renee Claire

No comments: