Environmental Sustainability and Local Climate Action

Tagged , , , , , , , , , , , , ,

The climate crisis poses an existential threat to life on earth. We cannot keep treating it like it’s a fringe issue. While people in power give lip service to sustainability, it’s the first thing on the chopping block when negotiating the details of policies and plans. We need people in power who won’t let that happen anymore.

One of the primary reasons I decided to run for office is I want more people in government who will really talk about sustainability and what we need to do to truly make it happen here in Cleveland Heights.

Sustainability + Equity

I say primary because sustainability is not my only priority. As I tell every voter I speak with, I am running on a value platform of equity, sustainability, and community. Because how we treat the most vulnerable people in our community and how we treat our environment are connected.

The health of our environment impacts ALL of us, but it impacts the most vulnerable the hardest. And how we treat our most vulnerable people is a direct parallel to how we treat our environment. We must change our civilizational paradigm of consume and discard.

Why Local?

In the absence of adequate climate action at the federal or state levels, local governments must step in and drive change from the ground up. This can help signal to higher levels of government that there is a groundswell of support for an aggressive climate response.

But localities also have an advantage that larger-scale programs don’t: we can be more innovative, and we can be more nimble when we need to make adjustments to our plans—and because of the unpredictability of how climate change is progressing and unfolding, we will be continually making adjustments to our plans.

But climate action is more than trying to mitigate the severity of climate change. It’s also about adaptation, and how we adapt will vary widely by regions and even localities. We need our local experts to provide informed predictions of what we can expect here and then create plans to prepare for what’s coming. Whether it’s increasing precipitation, changing seasonal patterns, disrupted food supply systems, incoming climate refugees—we need to anticipate what we’re going to face and then get ready for it.

A Sustainability Committee

First, and at minimum, we need to create a permanent Sustainability Committee filled with local experts in issues relating to sustainability. Now, the good news is that our Transportation Advisory Committee is currently working to expand into the Transportation and Environmental Sustainability Committee. And while I am so grateful to them and for them, nonetheless, I want a committee dedicated to advising our city’s decision makers and creating plans so that Cleveland Heights can make good on our commitment to sustainability.

So, what are just some of the things I’d like to see our future Sustainability Committee create plans to accomplish?

  • Renewable Energy. I want to see all electrical energy from Cleveland Heights to come from renewable energy sources. This includes developing and expanding programs to install renewable energy technologies on our homes and other buildings as well as ensuring that the electricity that comes from our power grid is sourced from renewables.
  • Energy Efficiency. We also need to use less energy. We need to be constantly working to make our public buildings more energy efficient, as well as change our building codes and regulations to ensure that all future builds, renovations, and upgrades are done to meet high energy-efficiency standards.
  • Biodiversity. The climate crisis is being caused not just by greenhouse gases being pumped into our atmosphere but also the rapid and widespread destruction of our biodiversity. So we need to also focus on regeneration—building back up our local native biodiversity, maintaining the green spaces we have and working with them to increase needed biodiversity within them, and regreening wherever possible.
  • Food Supply. As global food supply chains destabilize and agricultural regions shift, we will need to develop more local food systems. I would love to see our government help organize and grow a local network of food producers to ensure that everyone in our community has the healthy food they need.
  • Water. Water is going to become an increasingly sought-after resource. We need to not only streamline our codes and regulations to help our residents create systems for water capture but also work across our community to develop more green infrastructure for storm water storage and flow needed for our local natural environment.
  • Reduced Waste. I would like to see our city create Zero Waste and Zero Plastic plans, with the goal of reducing our contribution to landfills by 90% and to eliminate any new plastics from entering our city—all by 2040. In addition, we can create programs to reduce litter in Cleveland Heights through the installation of public trash and recycling receptacles throughout the city as well as citizen volunteer programs for picking up trash and creating a culture of care for our lived environment.
  • Transportation. Cleveland Heights, like almost all of America, is car-centric when it comes to transportation. We need to develop a multi-pronged plan to change that. We must diversify our transportation options, create streets and roads that accommodate all kinds of travelers, and advocate at the regional level for clean, accessible, expanded, and affordable public transportation.
  • Education and Culture Change. But all of this hinges on our community coming together to make it happen. It cannot be done only from the top-down. And this is why the most crucial thing that our Sustainability Committee will need to do is lead community-wide education and culture change about sustainability, regeneration, and adaptation. We need ALL OF US working together toward this critical collective goal.

A Sustainability Director

It’s important to understand that the reason we are at this point of crisis is because everything we do is unsustainable. Unsustainability is systemic. So, to become sustainable, this work cannot be treated as a side project. It must be incorporated into everything we do.

This is why we need a Sustainability Director. We need someone who works across departments at City Hall to incorporate sustainable practices in every facet of our public work. The Planning Department, Parks and Recreation, Housing and Housing Preservation, Economic Development, Community Services, Public Works—all of these have a role to play to help Cleveland Heights become sustainable. And that’s what our future Sustainability Director will make happen.

Social Justice

And, finally, sustainability must always be done with a commitment to social justice and equity. We must proceed at every step to ensure that vulnerable and marginalized communities are a key part of our work. When we prioritize their voices, challenges, knowledge, and needs, our overall work will be more effective. As I said, we need all of us, and this means that no one can be left behind.