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Making the Climate Message Tangible

December 1, 2009

From the desk of Ms. Green Quick Fixes

The Massachusetts Climate Action Network (MCAN) conference that brought 350.org’s Bill MCKibben and the U.S. Environmental Protection Agency’s (EPA) Gina McCarthy to Massachusetts a few weeks ago was an enlightening experience.

There was a lot of energy and enthusiasm and praising Massachusetts for the hard work on climate change education and action. The conference itself provided education in the areas of cap and trade versus cap and dividend, grassroots carbon efficiency, tools for engaging local energy committees and activism, Green Communities Act, factory farming’s effect on global warming, remediation and adaptation planning, and so much more.

But it was clear that a lot more work needs to be done at Copenhagen next week, and after. Bill McKibben and others were disappointed by the day’s news that action may not happen until the next climate conference in Mexico City. Thankfully news since has been more positive with most countries offering emissions reduction targets. We all eagerly anticipate U.S. action in Copenhagen.

MCAN’s Executive Director Rob Garrity began the full-day conference at Massachusetts Institute of Technology’s with a crucial point, asking “Why aren’t they getting it?” The “they” are those that have not yet joined the choir. “Are they not getting it because we’re not giving them something to believe in and think about?” he asked.

The notion gave me pause for thought.

Some folks are surely getting it as Gina McCarthy, Assistant Administrator for EPA’s Office of Air and Radiation, was certainly positive enough in outlining just how far this nation has come in the area of global warming since the Obama Administration took the helm.

In April, the Supreme Court ruled in favor of Massachusetts in “Massachusetts v. EPA,” agreeing that greenhouse gas emissions (GHG) do endanger public health and should be regulated by EPA. Rule work is already underway, and through complimentary measures, U.S. Department of Transportation café standards for emissions reductions are in review by the U.S. Office of Management and Budget. A mandatory GHG reporting rule is also in final! By this time next year the U.S. will have data on emissions and according to McCarthy, reporting will “drive companies to look at efficiency.”

This and other government work she discussed is news for 2009, and good news at that.

But certainly there are some folks in our communities—and there are their carbon copies as far as position repeated across the country—that just don’t get it. Even in Massachusetts, the home of federal GHG lawsuits, Congressman Markey, and the Green Communities Act, there are folks who want to do business the old way. Some of these folks run our communities and set us back. They keep their cards close to the vest and do not learn from their progressive neighbors, and they may refuse to take advantage of the great benefits designed for those that step up on climate action.

McCarthy’s advice is to make the action message tangible. “We want the relationships that transit-oriented communities can give us…Get them to see it, feel it, taste it,” she said.

I like this advice and I hope over the next few weeks with the energy surrounding Copenhagen, cap and trade, Green Communities Act funding, and new GHG laws, you all speak to others about what’s in store as far as change.

I hope you will talk about the positives of cleaner air, cheaper energy, and the benefits of a green economy with your neighbors, friends, and family. Because you never know if they just didn’t get it before they talked to you.

For making changes at home and for more information on Massachusetts initiatives, such as the Green Communities Act, be sure to check out GoGreen’s Resources page. For climate change resources, discussion points, and action in Massachusetts, visit MCAN.

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