Global Warming: Local Solutions
By Brenda Cooper, September 12, 2006
In late August 2006, at the annual World Science Fiction Convention in the LA area, I sat in on a panel about global warming. There were so many bodies packed into the rather large room that we created a local warming effect.
“Global warming is one of the rapid-change and potentially disastrous issues facing us all”
A month or so ago, my partner Toni and I were riding horses in the Cascade Mountains in Washington. The local outfitter that set up our weekend trip made sure to point out the significant spruce bud worm damage to a large swath or forest. The worm’s habitat has moved up significantly in elevation during the last few years due to warmer winters, and is thriving in an area without many defenses against it. Trees all around us were dead or dying until we ridden about a thousand feet above the base camp.
People care about global warming.
As futurists, people who come to our talks often ask up how to actually work to create what we call a “preferred future.” Often these questioners seem a bit disheartened an understandable reaction in this time of rapid change and uncertain futures that could happen quickly. Note how changed we have been by 9/11.
Global warming is one of the rapid-change and potentially disastrous issues facing us all.
Yet there are a lot of people working hard to find solutions. Individual choices matter. Even more, local politics matters here. Back at the science fiction convention, there was a lot of unhappiness expressed about the US federal government’s stance on global warming. But when I opened the Seattle Times this morning, I found a great example of local activism. And more importantly, sensible local activism. A group of people on Vashon Island, largely populated by commuters to two large nearby cities (Seattle and Tacoma), are making a bid to become entirely energy independent by around 2015. They’re being smart about it – combining an aggressive program for energy conservation (primarily weatherization, etc.) with a bid to build new power generation capabilities including a mix of renewable sources. Studies suggest a savings of 95 million dollars. Read that figure again. A lot of that savings in through reduction in energy use, which is creating through positive change to build and refit homes and businesses to be more energy efficient (can you say economic development opportunity?). Imagine if we did the same thing in bigger cities.
While not quite as aggressively as Vashon, cities all over the country are signing on to try to meet the Kyoto protocol. Seattle was an initial driving force in that effort, but many other large US cities have followed suit. The small city I work in, Kirkland, Washington, has also signed on. I’m sure that not all of us have made it far enough to meet Kyoto protocols, but it’s a different way of thinking. Its going in the right direction. Some had been due to leadership like that of Mayor Greg Nickels in Seattle, but a lot of local government action is driven by local people wanting sane energy sources.
Global warming could use more national and international leadership. But it’s one of those problems where local and individual efforts matter, and at least some of the right steps for a better future are pretty clear: reduce dependency on oil, waste as little power as possible, and invest time (and money) in renewable resources with less impact on the climate.