EPA sponsored a meeting in Madison, WI 22-24 May 2012 that assembled representatives from the 50 organizations with Climate Showcase Communities grants—tribal governments, municipalities and non-profit organizations. SustainDane, which uses Energy Stewards® for its MPower program, has one of the EPA grants and hosted the meeting along with the City of Madison.
We heard a variety of stories about innovations and challenges. The original intent of the Climate Showcase Communities grants included a focus on climate impacts. The folks at the conference last week generally believe that climate is changing, human activities are driving the changes, and we have a responsibility to act now to reduce the impact of changes on communities.
Of course, as the grantees interact with a wide range of people in their local communities, they meet people who don’t believe climate change is linked to human activity. While attendees reported that few people deny that climate is changing, climate issues take a back seat to saving energy dollars and promoting jobs in the short run. We know that these days government at all levels from the feds to state and local municipalities spend most of their limited resources on issues other than climate change.
Given the challenges to effective work on climate, Randy Solomon from Sustainable Jersey cited the policy expert John Kingdon. Starting in the 1970’s, Kingdon studied ways that initiatives get the attention of legislators in the U.S. and move from an idea to a law or regulation. Randy passed along this insight from Kingdon’s work: If you strongly believe in your position and your position rests on a foundation of solid reasoning and science, prepare your solutions for the time that communities and governments will see the problem and need answers. In other words, be ready to provide your expertise and skills.
That sounds like good advice to help all of us to stay focused. We need to continue to build skills and networks of colleagues. Energy Stewards aims to be part of that effort.