When Opportunity Knocks ...

The "12 Steps" (or "12 Guidelines") to Transition encourage us to form bridges to local government.  But sometimes government drops opportunity right in our laps. 

Last week, in response to a governor's order, California issued a "Climate Adaptation Strategy" in draft form for public comment.  Catch that last part:  for public comment.  They're asking for our opinion on it.  They want to hear from us. 

ALL of us.


The power of precedent

In 2006, in the absence of federal action on global warming, California lead the way.  California passed the Global Warming Solutions Act to limit greenhouse gas emissions.  Nine other U.S. states promptly followed the example with similar legislation. 

The U.S. EPA under the Bush administration blocked the California law.  Again, California lead the way, fighting the blockade into the highest courts.  By that time, eleven other states were watching the progress of the lawsuit, with their states' legislation awaiting rhe legal precedent.  With the Obama administration, the California law was permitted to stay.  That cleared the path for binding global warming legislation to move into place in multiple U.S. states.

The significance of the California Climate Change Adaptation Strategy is that other states will surely copy it.  It is a major step toward integrating climate adaptation into our long-range planning, and thus into societal thinking.

The document does a good solid job of describing the difference between mitigating global warming and our urgent need to adapt to climate change.  And the predominant focus of the Strategy document is toward creating that adaptation, very much in line with our Transition processes.

But the document has problems

As we in the Transition movement now know, we can't effectively work on climate change if we haven't taken peak oil into account.  The two go inextricably together.  (Recall page 38 of Rob Hopkins' Transition Handbook)  We will be coping with both  -- and with the repercussions of peak oil which includes severe economic upheaval -- simultaneously.  It's crazy to address one part and overlook the other.

The California Climate Adaptation Strategy Discussion Draft is single-focused about climate change.  It attempts to address climate change issues in many sectors of society, but it does so with no mention of peak oil, and no real push toward power-down.  Thus the Strategy is inherently flawed.

And we in the Transition movement are the very people who are best positioned to analyse it, to tell them precisely how it is flawed,  and how to fix it.

But I don't live in California

The California document was issued for public comment from stakeholders.  Tell me, if California (which grows about 25% of our nation's produce, and 100% of certain specific produce items) doesn't adapt to climate change, will that affect your life?  Of course. 

You are a stakeholder.

If California (which is the most car intensive state in the U.S., which is the most car intensive country in the world) doesn't power-down its oil consumption, will that have an impact on you?  I won't lapse into expletives here, because you know the answer.

California's adaptation to climate change is critical for all of us, Californians or not. 

You have every right to comment on this document.  And as a knowledgeable member of the Transition movement, you have more foresight -- about the intersection of peak oil and climate change; about realistic, workable adaptations and solutions -- than 99% of the people who will be commenting on this document.  You are infinitely qualified.

Read the document.  When you find something that makes you say "HEY WAIT A MINUTE!!!!" make a note.  Think about what you've learned during your work with Transition.  Help guide this document into something that addresses the full scope of what we face:  climate change PLUS peak oil.

If you're part of a Transition working group, perhaps find the portion of the California Strategy document that is about your focus area, and submit comments on that section from your Transition group.  Even your partial, in-process Transition explorations will be well-informed, compared to the comments of others which won't consider peak oil plus climate change.

Even if you submit a comment on just that one small item, it's something.  Your one small comment adds to the body of public comment on this groundbreaking document.  And just like in the Transition movement, a workable adaptation strategy will have to spring forth from the collective creativity of all.  Your voice counts.

How do I comment? 

Comments are due by September 17, 2009

California has provided several ways to make comments.  They will accept electronic comments.  They will accept letters.  And there are public meetings (which several members of California Transition Initiatives are planning to attend en masse).  If you aren't close to Sacramento this coming Thursday, probably a letter or an electronic comment is the best choice.

Plan out your comment in advance.  Write a draft.  Then read it to a teenager, or read it to someone who knows very little about peak oil.  When that person asks questions, reflect the answers to those questions as you revise your draft.  Keep it simple.

If you aren't a California resident, explain to them why you are a stakeholder:  why does the California Strategy matter to you?  (hint: see above.  It's your future, too).

Remember it's a government document.  They like to know that they're not alone.  Quote any reliable government document you know of that recognizes peak oil.  There are some listed here, and plenty that I don't know about.

Remember that it's a climate change document.  The California governor ordered a strategy for climate change.  We have to modify it as a climate change document.  That means that we can't change it into a "peak oil plus climate change" document (as much as we would like to), we have to stay within the definition.  All we're striving to do is to point out which climate change adaptation ideas won't be possible, since we'll be going through peak oil at the same time as we're implementing the strategies.

Format?  We've posted online a few comment documents that we've issued through the political action working group at Transition Los Angeles.  In the coming days we'll add a link from there to our own draft of comments on this California Strategy.  You're welcome to use what works for you.  I don't think the format matters, as long as it is clear and courteous.

Your "cc" list is just as important as the content of your document.  Send a copy to all your local officials, from your local mayor and city council to your state legislators and U.S. representatives.  If you are a new Transition group, and your local government officials don't know about you yet, this is an opportunity to let them know you exist.  We usually include a small paragraph that tells who we are (see our examples, linked above).

Submit your comments by September 17, 2009.  Don't count on any flexibility on the date.

The power of a movement 

Rob Hopkins has been profoundly affected by Joanna Macy.  Joanna Macy talks of this great revolution we are experiencing, a revolution in human thinking.  She says that there are three types of action which will move us forward in this revolution. 

The first is Holding Action, which is stopping the destruction.  Holding action is the activists who chain themselves to fences, or the letters we write to politicians which cry out "Stop GMOs!"

The second type of action is Creating New Structures.  This is where the Transition movement has taken firm residence.  We are designing a potential path forward, a survivable, gentle energy descent.  We are creating new structures within our local neighborhoods, and within our society as a whole. 

Our approach to the California Climate Adaptation Strategy should be similar.  Rather than protesting the problems in the document, we are supporting the document.  We are trying to make it better.  We are trying to add the things which we already know -- from our work with Transition -- will work as we design our future.  And we're trying to get them to edit out a few of the things we know won't work.  The tone of our letters should be of support and encouragement, and creating new structures.

We have the power, working together as a movement, to gently guide this giant machine of a society onto a gentler course.  And our ability to make our collective voices be heard in a political arena -- a precedent-setting, policy-forming arena -- are part of our power.

Thank you in advance for the work it will take to write your response.  Thank you for the thought you'll put into it.  Thank you for having to courage to stand up and make your voice be heard.  Thank you for doing all you are doing to make a better future, a better world.  Thank you from my young children and their peers for the effort you're putting into crafting a possible future for them.

-- Joanne Poyourow, Transition Los Angeles city hub

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