Posted by: macjohns | October 28, 2010

Without Struggle, There is no Progress: The Latest Greenwise Sacramento Meeting

Sacramento-

On September 30th, 2010 Mayor Kevin Johnson; Governor Arnold Schwarzenegger; New York Times columnist, Tom Friedman; and Senator Darrell Steinberg (author of SB 375) held a public meeting to discuss the mayor’s Greenwise Sacramento initiative.

The initiative has five policy focus areas including: water and nature, energy use, waste and recycling,  urban design and green building, and green technology. Every focus area has an individual, appointed by the mayor, who is tasked with working in that specific area.  The initiative calls for a regional action plan that will include six counties and 22 cities. While the mayor concedes that working at a regional level will be considerably more difficult because of community fragmention, he is motivated to make it work and to turn Sacramento into an “Emerald Valley”.

Past meetings have featured the mayor’s key messages as well as celebrity endorsement, including the endorsement of Van Jones, former advisor to President Barack Obama. Community input is highly encouraged and hundreds of people have been in attendance at Greenwise Sacramento meetings.

This particular meeting focused on changing the public mindset, changing the culture, and changing our policy direction to deal with sustainability and the reality of climate change. The connection was made between the rapid growth of green technology, the current economic slump, and our need to fuse the two into a policy direction that promotes equipping students with the skills that will be needed for a green economy. Mayor Johnson expounded on the idea that Sacramento’s economy, which is heavily reliant on public sector employment and the real estate industry, could be further diversified by becoming a leader in green innovation.

When Tom Friedman took the stage he electrified the crowd. He described the financial crisis of 2008 and the ongoing (worsening) environmental crisis as connected by the same systems of production and waste that favor fossil fuels for cheap energy. He called these collective crises our “warning heart attack”  and stated that “that’s why Bear Stearns and the Polar Bear faced extinction at the same time”.

While worrying about our inability to enact policies like mandatory recycling of electronics at the manufacturer’s expense (like China and the EU), Friedman also explained the magnitude of our environmental problems in plain English. One of the best being his analogy of the body as it relates to slight increases in temperature:

“If your body temperature goes from 98.6 to 100.6, you don’t feel good.  If it goes from 100.6 just to 102.6, you call the doctor.  If it goes from 102.6 to 104.6, they take you to the emergency room.  Same with our planet.  Small changes in global average temperature have huge climate effects.”

The next phase of his commentary stressed the need to solve a great many problems, including energy poverty in the global south, by building industries around cheap, clean, and renewable forms of energy. California and Sacramento were lauded as leaders  in this field.  The idea of a price signal was central to his commentary and explained that there is no such thing as a painless revolution. We can choose between a green revolution brought to us by BP and Hummer or a green revolution that will lead to short term price increases that are mitigated by time and advances in clean technologies.

Governor Schwarzenegger’s comments were more geared toward encouraging people to resist the lure of “creating jobs” by voting yes on Proposition 23 (which would suspend California’s Global Warming Solutions Act-AB32). He attacked the oil companies’ intent for putting the measure on the ballot and challenged participants to examine the oil companies’ real interests in creating jobs by destroying legislation that has helped to create so many of them. The governor further commented on the fact that smog -related air pollution is killing 19,000 Californians per year and roughly 100,000 Americans. Indeed Proposition 23 could turn out to be both a job and a people killer. Tom Friedman agreed and stated that California’s new standards are a challenge and, as such, are a potent source of new innovation and, ultimately, employment.

Events like this, coupled with celebrity backing and a push for citizen participation seem to be potent galvanizing forces; not just against regressive legislation like Proposition 23, but also for a collective vision of Sacramento as a leader in green technology in a state that has already built a reputation for environmental stewardship and advocacy. I would highly encourage anyone reading this to become a part of this movement as it could be our regional and global “saving grace”.

If you would like to learn more about the Mayors Greenwise Sacramento Initiative, please visit the website below for details and information on how you can get involved.

http://greenwisesacramento.org/

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