A More Hopeful Climate Story | Environment | Hudson Valley | Chronogram Magazine

Over 60 percent of Americans say they are “concerned” or “alarmed” about climate change. Each of those millions of people has had a wakeup moment—or moments—when the reality and seriousness of this threat became real. One of mine was receiving a cell phone picture of a field of blooming daffodils, sent by a friend in Brooklyn in mid-February.

For many people, the recent report from the Intergovernmental Panel on Climate Change was that kind of wakeup, confirming that warming is underway and human activities are the main driver. The UN headline, “Code Red for Humanity,” is a stark call to action. But it sends a disempowering message—that we are not yet taking action. It speaks in a voice that is frustratingly similar to calls to action over the last 30 years.

Could something be different now?

Buzz is building about Regeneration, the new book by Paul Hawken, mastermind of Project Drawdown. Hawken’s special gift is framing the exact story that needs to be told to move us forward to slow and ultimately reverse climate change. Drawdown sent a message of confirmation that the solutions are within reach. It helped to shift the focus of the climate narrative away from fear in favor of imagination. This one is subtitled “Ending the Climate Crisis in One Generation.” It chronicles hopeful signs of progress in getting orders of magnitude more people involved and broadening the action agenda to emphasizing repairing the natural systems we have damaged, so that the Earth is more capable of self-healing. It is an anthem to the leadership of the young generation that so understands the stakes and will face the consequences.

Ideas and images do inspire action. Drawdown helped to spark a “just do it” movement of grassroots climate innovation that has even included a project, Catching Carbon, to crowd-fund carbon capture technologies. “Just do it” is also the guiding principle of the US Climate Alliance, 24 states, and Puerto Rico that are working together to implement climate action plans that achieve the goals of the Paris agreement, even as the last administration withdrew the nation from that pact. Commitments like these are the reason that business is booming in clean energy, big automakers like GM are setting timelines to phase out gas cars, and over 300 companies including Apple and Walmart are part of the global “RE 100” with timelines for shifting to 100-percent renewable energy.

New York famously passed the Climate Leadership and Community Protection Act in 2019. Since then, while interagency teams are developing policies for implementing the full Act, the state took concrete action with funding for major offshore wind installations, a study of electric grid upgrade needs for transmitting that power, programs to make electric vehicle charting easy to afford, and major investments in energy storage.

In the Hudson Valley, we are spearheading a regional climate action strategy with partners including county agencies and major environmental organizations. It is a springboard for dozens of major projects including:

• Helping towns identify solar sites that people are unlikely to fight about

• Working with transportation agencies to get renewable energy and battery storage installed at transit hubs so that commuters’ EVs can get a clean charge

• Developing business opportunities in recycling based industries to cut down on the trash that is currently trucked to landfills

• Conserving water—which requires energy to transport and process

• Creating new ways to pay farmers to use methods that draw carbon into the soil

• And dozens of allied groups are already working on aspects of these solutions.

Trends like these reflect a more encouraging story than the IPCC’s, making it clear that it is not too late to get involved productively. In this story, we are still at grave risk, but many of us are mobilized. Yes, the work needs more people. But there is leadership. There are coherent efforts underway. Humanity is not paralyzed or lazy or apathetic. We are climbing a very difficult learning curve. If you are concerned and want to be more involved, there is a wealth of opportunity to take action in fulfilling ways.

Climate Solutions Week Hudson Valley (October 17–24) is a platform for discovering these opportunities. With dozens of events all around the Valley and online, it is your opportunity to refresh your commitment, build knowledge, and pull in all your friends who are ready to step up.

Sustainable Hudson Valley is a regional organization whose mission is to speed up, scale up, jazz up, and leverage progress against climate change, creating communities where people and nature thrive.

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