April 22 is Earth Day!

sylvia_photoThis February, I was pleased to attend the Green Venice Expo at Mark Twain Middle School, an event organized by our area neighbors, the Venice Neighborhood Council. The day was filled with informative talks about waste and consumption, recycling, eating locally, and sustainable living. Transition Culver City was one of the many local environmental groups who set up information tables for the public. Luxury electric car brand Tesla Motors even brought in one of its famed Model S sedans to display, and I briefly got to sit inside!

Doing small things like buying energy efficient light bulbs, painting your rooftop white, or reusing containers makes many of us feel good. Yet, when it comes to sustainability on a grand scale, America still lags behind the rest of the world. For example, France just passed a law requiring the rooftops of all new buildings in commercial areas to be covered in plants or solar panels. Green rooftops lower temperatures and reduce energy consumption, as the vegetation absorbs carbon dioxide. I also read that an architecture firm has proposed designing a system of bike paths in London to be built above existing rail lines. If achieved, the project would be quite an amazing innovation, perhaps even surpassing the extensive bike path network that impressed me on a trip to Copenhagen, Denmark, a few years ago. Canada’s largest grocery retailer is going to start selling “ugly produce” at discounted prices as a way to cut down on food waste. Germany and Denmark are leading the way in solar and wind power, with the latter country, according to the Sierra Club, aiming to be free of fossil fuels by 2050.

America certainly has wind turbine and solar energy projects, but if we are to really combat climate change, our country must treat the problem as a top priority and build solutions into public policy. That means counteracting the oil and gas industry lobby’s influence, and demanding that representatives and political candidates who take campaign money from the industry, cease doing so. It means demanding the mainstream media stop treating climate change as a debate, start relegating deniers to the fringe where they belong, and stop misinforming the public on the issue. It means stopping Republicans from derailing green projects and enacting stupid policies like prohibiting public officials from mentioning the words, “climate change” (see Florida’s Rick Scott).

Fortunately, President Obama and his administration are taking climate change very seriously. In February, the environmental community cheered when Mr. Obama vetoed the controversial Keystone XL pipeline, a project that would have had devastating impacts, while only creating a minuscule number of jobs. Years of work and protests by environmental activists, led by 350.org, pushed Mr. Obama to do the right thing. GOP Senators were unable to overturn his veto. It was a great day for the environment. While Mr. Obama is leading the way on the federal level, here in Culver City, Mayor Meghan Sahli-Wells is leading the way locally. The Mayor, whom I call The “Green Mayor” for her tireless advocacy of biking and sustainable living, will speak at our April General Meeting. April is her last month as Mayor before the City Council rotates the position, so come with your questions about Culver City issues!

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