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Climate Dispatches: How to take a community approach to climate change

Matt Cunha-Rigby
Guest columnist

The purpose of this ongoing series of “Climate Dispatches” is to share with our neighbors how climate change affects our community and how we can all make a meaningful difference.

As we all try to manage the disruption to our lives that is resulting from the COVID-19 pandemic, it is difficult to think beyond the challenges that are immediately in front of us, and rightfully so.

We are concerned for the health and well-being of our families, friends, and communities, and there is great uncertainty in how it will impact us into the future. When we do get through this, and we will, it will be because each of us did our part to keep ourselves and everyone around us safe, and because we as a community came together to support one another.

When we look at how we are confronted with the impacts of climate change, it will also take individual and community action for us to be successful. It is important that each of us, individually, make conscious decisions to minimize our impact, according to the resources that each of us has, and within the limitations that we face. It is also important that we come together as a community to advocate for larger change, to influence the systems that make our daily lives possible and help them support a sustainable and equitable future.

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When we look at how we are confronted with the impacts of climate change, it will also take individual and community action for us to be successful.

My wife and I moved to the mountains to be closer to things that we love, to become part of a smaller community, and also, in part, to reduce the emissions associated with driving up here every weekend. But I still have a large carbon footprint. I travel for work almost every month; our home uses more energy than it should; and we find ourselves driving around town more often than we’d like to. We try to minimize this footprint, by purchasing carbon offsets for travel, making efficiency improvements to our home as we can afford to, prioritizing bikes and transit over driving whenever we can, and eating a less impactful diet.

However, this can only do so much. It reduces my individual impact, which is really important and has positive effects on our local community, but it doesn’t largely influence our global emissions. If we are to have a more significant impact at a larger scale, then we also need to advocate for why climate change is important and why we should take immediate steps to address it.

Locally, we can each make our voice heard. We can show up for Truckee Town Council meetings and Truckee Donner Public Utility District meetings; we can reach out to our Town Council members to let them know why this issue is important to us; we can comment on regional planning efforts by the Tahoe Regional Planning Agency, Tahoe Transportation District, Truckee Planning Division, and USFS Tahoe National Forest; and we can participate in the Town of Truckee 2040 General Plan Update. We can use our voice to drive the future of our region in a meaningful way.

Locally and regionally, we can be involved with groups that are working towards a carbon neutral Truckee-Tahoe region and that support the Town’s intent to: 1) power the community with 100% renewable electricity, and 2) reduce community greenhouse gas emissions by 80% by 2040. Truckee’s 2020 goals include action towards these renewable energy and carbon emissions targets. The Citizens’ Climate Lobby North Tahoe Chapter and 100% Renewable Truckee Coalition are groups of local residents trying to help the town realize this goal, and they can use your help.

At a state and national level, we can contact our state and federal representatives to let them know that climate change and related issues that are important to us, and we can tell them that we support specific pieces of legislation that drive state and federal policy in a positive direction. We can support groups like Protect Our Winters (POW), 350.org, the Sierra Club, and other organizations that are part of the U.S. Climate Action Network, who are actively working on our behalf to drive policy decisions that will modernize our energy infrastructure and move us to a clean energy future.

We are already seeing the impacts of climate change in our region, from longer, more severe fire seasons to warmer winters and extreme variability in snowpack. If we hope to meet the 1.5 °C temperature increase established by the IPCC, then we have to act quickly. We need to reduce emissions by at least 45 percent from 2010 levels by 2030, and we need to be carbon neutral by 2050. It will take collective action to get there.

Not all of us are able to reduce our individual emissions significantly, but we all have a voice and can become active in our local community. I saw the author Ibrahim Abdul-Matin speak a number of years ago, and in discussing the need for us to work towards a sustainable future, he said, “Don’t let the harm you are doing now stop the good you can later.” No matter our circumstances, we can have an impact, and it will be much greater if we work together.

Learn more about how you can become engaged with local efforts to combat change by contacting the Citizens Climate Lobby North Tahoe Chapter and 100% Renewable Truckee Coalition.

Matt Cunha-Rigby, a resident of Truckee, is an architect and sustainable leader.


 

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