Earth Day 2018 was yesterday, April 22, but the fight against climate change can’t be a once-a-year thing.
Did you know that President Nixon created the Environmental Protection Agency in 1970, the same year as the first Earth Day? Yet with Donald Trump and Scott Pruitt undoing environmental protections, we’re back in an era of dirty politics, literally.
Activism and state and local action are needed, now more than ever.
Task #1 is to defeat Governor Hogan in November. It’s outrageous, for instance, that Hogan last year rescinded Maryland’s “zero-waste” goal and mandatory-recycling targets. Until November, and after, Montgomery County can and should lead the way.
Last December, the County Council declared a Climate Emergency with a goal of reducing greenhouse gas emissions by 80% by 2027 and 100% by 2035. That’s good! The Council is taking a next step, creating a new Climate Policy Director post. (As a Takoma Park Councilmember, I supported hiring an Environmental Sustainability Manager in 2014, and I know the impact that dedicated staff can have on environmental education, planning, and programming.) Zoning Text Amendment 18-01, introduced by Councilmember Tom Hucker, will allow solar generation of up to 2 megawatts of electricity at a site, enough for 200 typical residential homes, equal to removing 310 passenger cars from the road. Excellent… noting however a need for ZTA modifications to respond to Ag Reserve concerns.
The choices the next County Council makes will leave a profound mark on our environment. A number of points are especially critical:
- We must move to 100% green energy — solar and also wind and geothermal — via net-zero commercial and residential building standards, retrofitting, and rapid transition to electric vehicles, with the charging facilities to support them.
- Let’s stop burning our trash. Via waste reduction and waste recovery, we can shut down the Dickerson incinerator without simply sending our trash to landfill. The County should push for much-higher recycling participation and move toward broad organics (food-waste) composting and away from single-use plastics, and we should explore technologies for atmospheric-carbon drawdown.
- Let’s preserve and restore our watersheds, expand our parks, plant trees, make wise transit and development decisions, and improve walkability and cycling infrastructure.
We know how to do these things. For instance, the City of Takoma Park has provided curbside food-waste collection to all single-family homes since 2014. Takoma Park bans disposable single-use plastic bags and has considered a requirement (like San Francisco’s) that food-service establishments use only compostable disposables and collect all disposables and food waste for composting.
Actually, the County has been taking sensible environmental steps for a decade — I count a variety of January 2009 Montgomery County Climate Protection Plan recommendations that have been realized — but the challenge remains daunting. For each success like the creation of a Green Bank to finance energy efficiency projects, there are a dozen unrealized ideas on the table, and we have faced defeats such as a court ruling overturning the County’s Healthy Lawns Act, which banned nonessential pesticide use.
Today is Earth Day + 1. I’m dedicated to making every day Earth Day, via local action to combat climate change and protect the environment. Are you on board?