Climate change – how do we effectively address it?

From my readings and observations I have noticed two distinct methods of addressing climate change. The first method is along the lines of the trickle down approach or top to bottom. There is the idea that individuals are too overwhelmed with the guilt of climate change and any change made on the individual level is not sufficient enough to make a difference so any change needs to be made at the highest level. This approach is about creating policy at the national and state level or even at the international level. These policies could be such things as reducing greenhouse gas emissions to below a certain level by a certain future date. For example in California there are several bills that address the environment such as Assembly Bill 32 Global Warming Solutions Act which includes implementation of the cap and trade program. Or Senate Bill 375 Sustainable Communities Strategy, which requires a regional approach to reducing greenhouse gas emissions through linking housing with transportation.

Yet how effective are policies at a state or national level? Something I have noticed is that policies are only as effective as their implementation. Just because a policy is written and on the books does not necessarily mean it is being implemented or followed through on in any way.

This brings to light the second approach. The bottom up or grassroots approach. This approach is at the individual and community level. It is about behavior change through small-scale projects, public participation and doing your own part to improve your community. The collective action of community members for the good of the environment is vital to making any real change. The grassroots approach is about harnessing local initiative and ensuring policies are implemented. If community members are engaged and taking action even at a small level then some movement is being made towards addressing climate change. Some actions could include planting trees, organizing community gardens, pushing for more public transportation service and bike lanes, and holding community workshops on how to conserve water and energy in your home.

So with these two methods how do we effectively address climate change? It seems that a two-pronged approach, an all encompassing approach is most useful. Policy needs to be set at the top government levels and action needs to be taken at the community level. This can be a meeting in the middle of the trickle down and bottom up approaches. When we see such gridlock at the national level and the apathy of so many high level government figures towards the plight of the environment and society well being then we need to be more proactive. Being proactive is addressing local climate issues at the community level and pushing local government players towards making better decisions, policy and implementation.

I am hopeful that we can, as communities, address climate change is ways that are meaningful, useful and thoughtful.

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