How locals can make an impact on climate change

Environment with Ean

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I am excited to be authoring the first installment in a monthly column on environmental issues. Around the world and in Denver, people are taking to the streets for direct action to demand policy solutions for the climate crisis. Make no mistake, this is a climate emergency. We must all mobilize in unprecedented numbers in order to transform our society in a way that leaves a better world for the future generations.

With the anxiety of the looming deadline (going on 11 years) for action, it can be overwhelming. Where do you start and how can we reach the goals outlined by the International Panel on Climate Change? Conservation, water, equity, environmental justice, sustainability, resiliency, transportation, renewable energy, zoning, and building codes are just a few of the issues that need to be tackled in order make the change. It is my hope that this column can serve as a source of a relevant and timely issues that you can engage with — even with your busy schedule. Believe me, phone calls, emails, protests, petitions and citizens’ initiatives really do work!

A little about me: My birthday is Earth Day. As a child my mother told me it was honor and to think globally and act locally. I recall spending time at the library reading encyclopedia entries about the destruction of the planet and the awakening of the masses to the need for change. I spent my early activist career fighting for the purple dumpsters in parks, protected bike lanes on streets, and increased access to healthy foods in all communities.

I have worked for three branches of local government, run for Denver City Council, and have been part of the driving force for citizen based initiatives to effect change in our city and our state. One of note that people may recognize me from is the Denver Green Roof Initiative. As the Deputy Director of the campaign we took on moneyed interests and the well connected. We succeeded in passing a law that aims to improve the energy efficiency of buildings, improve our air and water quality, and reduce our urban heat island.

Currently, I work for GreenLatinos, a national nonprofit that convenes a broad-based coalition of Latinx people around the country on conservation, public health, and environmental justice issues. I serve as the secretary of the Environmental Caucus of the Young Democrats of America. In this role I work with my peers around the nation to drive federal policy. I also am contributor to “Metro,” a public affairs radio talk show on KGNU. My topics solely focus on environmental, social and economic justice.

I am from Denver and I believe that at this moment we have the opportunity to lead this country and the world with sound policy solutions. I want to use this column to share my experience on what is working and what roadblocks stand in the way.

In the vein of living up to my goal in my first of the column, let’s start with a few hot topics that you can engage in today:

Denver has committed to 100% renewable energy goals and has incorporated climate action into our lead planning document known as the comprehensive plan. Together with other organizers we have successfully pushed for the creation of the Office of Climate Change and Resiliency, a new cabinet level to organize our response the emergency. We have a plan and office, but what we are missing is the funding. The saying goes that if you want to live up to your values as a society then you will see it reflected in the budget appropriations. Mayor Michael B. Hancock has submitted a 2020 budget for $1.49 billion to the Denver City Council for review. Go online and check out the budget, and then call your elected officials to engage with budget decisions around climate issues. The process comes to a close in November with an opportunity for public comment on the budget decision.

Denver is also organizing a stakeholders group to examine possible legislation for dedicated funding sources to enact policies. The current timeline has the group convening in December and bringing forth policy recommendations by May 2020. Follow this group, show up and testify, bring forth your ideas. Many hands make light work, and as I said, it is going to take all of our creativity for us to met the challenge. I look forward to the future of this column, and please reach out if there are topics that aren’t getting the attention they deserve.

Perhaps you are a procrastinator like me, and your creativity and work ethic kick into high gear at the 11th hour. Well the human race has waited until the end to take on the climate crisis, but I believe in you and me to get the job done. In closing, I would like to quote Dolores Huerta, who says, “A leader is the person that does the work. It is that simple.”

It’s time for you to lead.

Ean Thomas Tafoya is a climate and government activist. he can be reached at @BelieveEan on Twitter.

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