Ever since the Copenhagen climate treaty talks ended in impotence two months ago there hasn’t been a single ounce of positive news on the international scene about our chances of cutting the world’s greenhouse gas emissions and getting CO2 levels back down to the safe 350 ppm zone. Here in the United States our President and Congress haven’t shown the leadership or sense of urgency necessary to prevent a climate catastrophe and they’ve given the people no hope for their children’s future at the national level. Many in Congress have acted unethically and immorally with the responsibility they have been trusted with.
As the Creative Greenius and organizer of the South Bay Los Angeles 350 Climate Action Group that’s just unacceptable to me. If they can’t get the job done in Washington, DC or at the UN – and it’s obvious to me that they cannot – then we will take the reins of responsibility from them right now and we will get the job done here locally.
That’s exactly what is happening now.
Last night at the Hermosa Beach, California City Council meeting, Mayor Michael DiVirgilo, confirmed that he and the City Council are committed to making their iconic beach town a Carbon Neutral City at the earliest possible date. Hermosa Beach’s Green Task Force was directed to come up with the plan and a special joint session of the Council and the Task Force was scheduled for March 30 to get the carbon neutral ball rolling. This makes Hermosa Beach the first city in the South Bay of Los Angeles County, and the first city in all of Los Angeles County to declare their intent to become carbon neutral and sustainable. And that makes them the leadership model we will replicate in all of the other 87 cities that make up this County of 10 million people.
None of this is happening by accident.
Your Creative Greenius was there on the scene to witness the historic action and to add my remarks to note the occasion. Check out the video excerpt courtesy of Hermosa Beach’s website after the jump, and discover, in classic Paul Harvey tradition, the rest of the story…
I don’t live in Hermosa Beach, but two of my best friends do. Long term environmentalist, Dency Nelson, who I’ve written about before, and Robert Fortunato, who is building the first net zero energy house in the City. The three of us have been meeting regularly since last fall on green issues. All three of us had had positive individual experiences with Mayor Michael DiVirgilio, including his hosting of the 350 Candlelight Vigil on December 11.
We began sharing our ideas with the Mayor in early January and it was obvious he was not just open to listening, but wanted to actively engage with us. He encouraged us to develop our ideas into steps the City could take action on. He reminded us of Hermosa’s leadership role in signing the Cool Cities agreement and the just passed small wind ordinance that allows homeowners to generate renewable energy using wind turbines. He also confirmed his support for a 350 CO2 target.
Energized by the idea of a local elected leader who gets it and wants to actually do something, we took our inspiration from Robert’s Green Idea House and developed a broad proposal to apply that same thinking on a citywide level. The vision of a carbon neutral city that is both economically and environmentally sustainable began to take shape.
Our group of three then met one-by-one with the other Council members, sharing our concepts with them, soliciting their input and direction, and offering to help in any way we can. We also met with Phil Friedl, the head of the Hermosa Green Task Force and others, including School Board members to solicit their advice and support.
Everyone we spoke to quickly shared the same vision and saw the better future that it proposes for Hermosa Beach.
In a stroke of serendipity, the City Council’s goal setting workshop took place on January 30 fresh on the heels of our round of initial meetings. Amazingly, the only members of the public who attended that meeting and participated in it were me, Robert and Phil Friedl. All three of us lobbied on behalf of the proposals we had been circulating and talking about.
But it was clear we didn’t have to win any of the goal-setting councilman over. They were already there.
One-by-one they each proposed their goals for the term ahead and one-by-one they each spoke about the sustainability and environmental goals that mattered most to us. Cutting city GHG emissions and delivering on their Cool Cities pledge of reducing them to 7% below 1990 levels was embraced. Developing a long term sustainability plan for the city was another goal supported. Cutting overall energy use by the City was included. Establishing a Green Enterprise Zone was on the list.
And acting on the carbon neutral city goal was not only endorsed, but here’s what it said on the front page of the Beach Reporter:
“One of the first ideas discussed was making the city even greener. The council excitedly agreed to direct staff and the Green Task Force to develop a timeline and plan for how to become a carbon-neutral city. One of the steps would be to bring in more environmentally friendly aspects that could be implemented into the municipal buildings and later into residences. Mayor Michael DiVirgilio said residents should expect to see more solar panels and wind energy systems on public buildings within the next two years followed by ways for homeowners to join in on improving the environment. He wants to generate energy from renewable sources.
The council would like to see all the public buildings become more energy-efficient, which would mostly entail fixing “energy leaks” where heat and cool air can escape, for example. Also, there would be an abundance of electrical vehicle hookups around town to entice the usage of energy-saving cars and draw in visitors.
“I see this as a big opportunity for Hermosa Beach to be the leading city in Los Angeles when it comes to innovations,” he said. “Our small size becomes an advantage. We can efficiently and economically create change. We want to move swiftly. If we don’t, someone else will. I’m tremendously excited about the opportunity.”
With that kind of positive energy and leadership at the local level and the support of the community and activists like me, Dency and Robert, there is no way that Hermosa Beach will fail in its quest to become the Green Idea City and carbon neutral.
And as Hermosa Beach goes, so goes the rest of California and the rest of our state. We don’t need President Obama and the Senate and the House. We have Mayor DiVirgilio, Councilman Duclos, Councilman Bobko, Councilman Tucker and Councilman Fishman.
Our Governor already gets this and has been acting before Copenhagen to show the way forward. Schwarzenegger isn’t waiting for the US Congress or the President or the combined world leaders in Copenhagen to stop playing politics and get with the program. He’s forming regional alliances and cutting deals for California. That’s exactly the right way to go when leadership from the top down no longer works for the people. And that’s exactly what we’re doing here locally in the South Bay of Los Angeles, where the score is now
1 city headed for carbon neutral, 87 more to go.