Copenhagen: just add water

Los Angeles City HallThis Monday I had a chance to meet with Los Angeles mayor Antonio Villaraigosa before he heads to the United Nations Climate Change Conference in Copenhagen. The Mayor will be meeting with mayors from the world's 40 largest cities that are engaged in climate response, and with other world leaders to share strategies and make commitments to action they can take on the local and regional level.

The mayor asked TreePeople and several other local environmental groups what messages he should take to share with the other participants and delegates.

When given the chance, I quoted a truly great Los Angeles Times op-ed and urged the Mayor to "Just add water" to the Copenhagen agenda.

No-brainer solution for LA's water: poised for defeat?

Water imageEverywhere we turn (including last week in the Los Angeles Times), the case is being made that the combination of conservation and natural approaches is the quickest, cheapest, best — and eventually unavoidable — way to meet Southern California’s water needs. By taking these approaches we can also address pollution, help to fix our broken economy, and respond effectively to climate change.

Yet, somehow policymakers seem to be missing the point.

They continue seeking large expensive technological “fixes” such as new dams, new canals, and new desalination plants.

Right now Los Angeles has an opportunity to easily and automatically integrate conservation and natural designs into all the new buildings and large retrofits of existing properties at little or no additional cost, through a suite of approaches called “low impact development” or LID. LID works with nature (trees, rain gardens, mulch, etc) and technology (redirected downspouts, cisterns, permeable paving) to capture, clean, store and reuse rainwater right where it falls.

The City of Los Angeles is currently considering a Low Impact Development ordinance. It’s a no-brainer…but it may be defeated by forces resistant to change.

Ride the bus to Copenhagen!

In a month, delegates from around the world will meet in Copenhagen in an effort to hammer out an international treaty to protect our climate. Already the experts are saying that chances for a deal aren't great. This week Angela Merkel of Germany, a world leader among nations in reducing greenhouse gas emissions, announced that if the U.S., China, and India didn't clarify their negotiating positions before the meeting began, she wouldn't attend.

The big question we face is: Can we adopt policies and make changes fast enough to protect us?

Two years ago I decided to find out for myself  if I could cut my own energy use quickly and dramatically reduce my carbon footprint. Even though I already owned a Prius, I decided to go for the unthinkable, for a Los Angeles commuter, and get out of my car. I vowed to commute car free two days a week.

That meant getting on the bus.

Let me show you how it works for me in this short video by Jeremy Kagan.


A faster road to a healthy, climate-safe future

Two weekends ago thousands of people in 181 countries called for action to reduce the risks of climate change. The International Day of Climate Action was organized by the group, which calls for a dramatic rollback of greenhouse gas emissions. (The picture was taken at one of the 5200 demonstrations around the world, this one in Istanbul.)

Rather seeing this as an impossibly expensive task, I believe there are abundant cost-effective opportunities to fix the causes of climate change while adapting to protect people from the threats and deadly impacts that are already occurring. The focus needs to be on re-engineering our nation's outmoded infrastructure so it protects human health, the economy and the ecosystem.

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