Climate Dispatch: Sam Ruderman and climate resilience |

Climate Dispatch: Sam Ruderman and climate resilience

Sam Ruderman

For this month’s Climate Profile, we sat down with Sam Ruderman, a climate change professional and advocate based in Truckee. Sam has six years of experience in the environmental field and has worked across the private, public, and nonprofit sectors. Having spent most of his career focused on climate change mitigation and adaptation, we wanted to ask him a few questions about his experience and views on climate resilience.

How did you get involved with Citizens’ Climate Lobby?

I joined Citizens’ Climate Lobby in 2018 shortly after I saw an advertisement for our local CCL chapter on social media. The account’s posts grabbed my attention, and I quickly dove into researching the organization. I remember being particularly impressed by CCL’s comprehensive research and overall approach to decarbonization — a carbon fee and dividend system similar to those I had studied in college–along with its commitment to working across the aisle. I attended my first meeting and was equally impressed by the dedication, intelligence, and thoroughness of the chapter leaders and members. It was inspiring and refreshing, and I wanted to contribute to the organization’s progressive efforts to influence change.

What does climate resiliency look like to you?

A climate-resilient community is one that proactively and effectively prepares for the impacts of climate change. This means implementing plans and policies aimed at minimizing future harm from climate-related hazards and, because these impacts are inevitable, strengthening the community’s ability to adapt to changes in the environment. In practice, this looks like deployment of local, renewable energy generation and storage; improvements to public health and safety infrastructure and resources, especially for the most vulnerable community members; implementation of robust forest health and wildfire projects; support for local businesses and economic diversification; and robust community outreach and education.

What are your priorities in your climate career?

My overarching goal is to be at least a small part of the solution to the very large challenge of climate change. I aim to contribute to the development and implementation of climate change mitigation and adaptation solutions that meet the needs of the communities I work in. In my current role as a Climate and Energy Project Manager at Sierra Business Council, I focus on improving building energy efficiency throughout the Sierra Nevada. I believe energy efficiency is and will increasingly continue to be one of the key tools in our toolbox for addressing climate change. Energy efficiency measures reduce greenhouse gas emissions and enhance resilience to climate-related hazards while simultaneously providing a variety of economic, social, and environmental co-benefits. Outside of work, I’m a strong advocate for putting a price on carbon. Fortunately, I have CCL as an outlet to support that priority.

What’re your goals for your Truckee-Tahoe community and what do you wish to see?

Ultimately, I wish to see a thriving, resilient community similar to the one I described earlier. But as a mountain town and world-renown tourist destination, our community faces a particularly unique set of challenges. The local climate and natural resources upon which our people and economy depend–the lakes, forests, snowy mountains–they’re all significantly threatened by climate change. Simultaneously, the incredible landscapes and outdoor recreation opportunities that draw millions of visitors to the region every year face increasing adverse effects from tourism. It’s quite easy to see how this combination of forces is contributing to a growing number of day-to-day impacts in the community, such as hours-long standstill traffic, reduced revenue from shorter winters and smokey summers, and housing shortages.

I don’t mention this to highlight the “doom and gloom,” but instead to emphasize the importance of locally tailored solutions that represent the local context and community character. In addition to some of the things I’ve already mentioned, I believe sustainable tourism planning is a crucial piece of the puzzle. We’re already experiencing the effects of high levels of tourism, and if we want to prevent more severe impacts in the future, we need to act now. Our local governments, businesses, and advocacy groups are on the right track, but I hope to continue to see aggressive action and proactive solutions to address these issues.

What are golden nuggets of advice you wish to share on how to get involved with taking climate action?

Personally, I believe that folks shouldn’t feel morally responsible or obligated to do everything under the sun in the name of battling climate change; they should do what they can, based on what they’re able to do and what they care about. I’ve always liked this quote: “We don’t need a handful of people doing environmentalism perfectly; we need millions (or billions) doing it imperfectly.” The idea here is that if you recycle and eat less red meat, or you compost and have solar panels on your home, that’s wonderful, and you shouldn’t get down on yourself because you don’t drive an electric vehicle or aren’t vegan. We all have our own ways of contributing to the solution, and while I do believe that everyone should strive to do as much as they feasibly can, that doesn’t mean that everyone has to do, or even has the ability to do, everything.

I’m also a big fan of the expression, “Think global, act local.” When I was getting into the environmental field, I had pretty grandiose ambitions for how I imagined I’d make a positive impact at a large scale. Over time, I came to realize that a lot of larger scale solutions depend on “on-the-ground” efforts–individual and grassroots initiatives at the local level. Efforts at the state and federal levels are crucial of course, but smaller scale, local engagement and participation is just as important, if not more important. Take CCL for example: where would the organization be without the commitment of 200,000+ volunteers across hundreds of local chapters? Climate change presents a planetary challenge, but I believe that we can all play a role in our communities.

Sam Ruderman has six years of experience in the environmental sustainability field and has worked across the private, public, and nonprofit sectors. He specializes in climate change mitigation and adaptation planning as well as building energy efficiency. Sam lives in Truckee and works for Sierra Business Council, a local triple bottom line nonprofit.

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