All Politics is Local and Green Politics are No Exception


Recently, we have seen yet another example of major leaders talking about global warming. It was one of the cornerstone issues of the recent Group of 8 Nations' meeting in Europe.

Unfortunately, as has been the case throughout his administration, President Bush once again rejected proposals to adopt concrete greenhouse-gas emission targets.

The fundamental issue is that creating international policy about global warming would include carbon-emission reductions for businesses and would surely affect the world economy. Just how is anyone's guess -- and that is the problem with such international endeavors; they are vague and abstract notions.

President Bush has seized on this vagueness to stall any international agreement on climate-change actions and/or reductions in greenhouse-gas emissions. Rather, he is calling on a series of meetings of the world's largest polluting nations to set goals by the end of 2008.

To be sure, carbon-emission policies must change. But sadly, until the ramifications of climate change are felt on a global level, it will be difficult to argue the status quo and the immediacy of action that is needed.

Many scientists say if we don't act on curbing carbon emissions soon, it will be impossible to thwart the world's warming. Once, of course, those ramifications are felt on a global level it will be too late to change the status quo of policy -- and in turn the course of climate change.

That's why it's so important to enact local policy change. Policies, like hot air, rise. Enough local policy changes and soon national policymakers then international policymakers -- in this case President Bush -- will wake up and see the urgent need and cry for worldwide carbon-emission reductions.

Mayors from cities all over the world met last month in New York to discuss climate change. It was a rousing display of support for initiatives that affect those closest to the heat of global warming: state and local communities.

It's in our homes, garages and in our yards where climate change takes root. Recycling, landfills, pollution, water and energy issues take on new meaning when they are up made close and personal.

And we can effectively vote with our individual actions: Turning off the lights, adjusting the temperature, even changing the light bulbs to more energy-efficient types are votes of appeal.

One of the principals behind The Green Book, that I have just written with Elizabeth Rogers, is how the collective power of small individual actions can create huge positive change.

For example, if you run full loads in your dishwasher and don't pre-rinse your dishes, you'll save 20 gallons of water per load or over 7,300 gallons of water a year. When all your neighbors join you, the positive effects ripple. Turning even a small town green through a series of these small steps would have a major impact.

And who would feel the impact first and see the positive effects of the change? That's right, local, city and state officials.

The more we do and the more we are heard, the more likely it is that legislation will be enacted that can pave the way toward a cleaner and greener world.

Unless you live next door to your congressman, your actions will probably, at first, go unnoticed on a national level. But in your town, city and state, the differences are made apparent with less trash, and less energy drains on the grid. (Local representatives are probably even more likely to spot you bicycling instead of driving around on a summer's day.)

They'll see your shifts in habit for what they truly are: casts of opinions, and for them, votes. This year there are several gubernatorial races and hundreds of mayoral races taking place across the nation, never mind all the town selectmen elections.

Capitol Hill is too far away to see individual actions, but locally actions matter -- votes, too.

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