The excitement is palpable. I can feel it. 2008 is going to be one heck of a year. Change is not only in the air, it’s on the ground in force. Let’s look back on just some of the green aspects of the past year for reference.
During 2007, our community experienced the opening of the Springs Preserve, a world-class facility focused on the concept of green living, and the Molasky Corporate Center, Las Vegas’ first office building with a LEED Gold certification. The cities of Las Vegas and Henderson, whose mayors have signed the U.S. Conference of Mayors Climate Protection Agreement, continued making progress on various sustainability issues. Clark County adopted a landmark sustainability initiative.
The University of Nevada, Las Vegas hosted two key events: an energy symposium focused on renewable energy and a sustainability conference. Green building programs and standards were launched or adopted, while the state’s green building tax incentives survived torturous rounds of debate and modification.
Nevada enhanced its renewable energy incentive program. Two major solar power installations, Nevada Solar One in Boulder City and the Nellis Air Force Base photovoltaic system, came online in 2007. In addition, a plan for a major new factory to manufacture concentrating solar power systems was announced in December. Our utilities ramped up their efficiency programs.
Membership in the U.S. Green Building Council — Nevada Chapter quadrupled to more than 400 members by the end of the year. The American Institute of Architects, Nevada issued a position statement opposing coal-fired power plants and endorsing clean, nonpolluting, renewable energy sources. A report entitled “Economic Analysis of Nevada’s Future Electricity-Generating Alternatives” made an undeniable economic case in favor of clean energy for the state.
This is not the full list by any means, but it serves as a reminder of what has been accomplished in one year. Our community has much to be proud of and our shift toward green living is not going unnoticed by the rest of the world. At the same time, we must maintain a true sense of perspective if we are to succeed in our quest for sustainability.
Like conjoined twins, climate change and peak oil are the defining issues of our times. Our use of fossil fuels is exactly what is fueling climate change and our entire society is based on a cheap and plentiful supply. Peak oil refers to the eminent decline of crude oil production. But make no mistake, the same holds true for any nonrenewable resource, including natural gas, coal and even uranium.
As we learn more about these complex, interwoven topics, new data suggests that our efforts must continue to accelerate.
NASA scientist James Hansen, a leading expert on climate change, believes the climate crisis is a far more dire and present danger than most of us like to think. “We are closer to a level of dangerous, human-made interference with the climate than we realize,” according to Hansen. In a statement last month at an academic conference in San Francisco, he said, “The evidence indicates we’ve aimed too high — that the safe upper limit for atmospheric CO2 is no more than 350 parts per million.”
We have already reached 383 ppm and our emissions rate is still increasing. This is why our local efforts are so important and must continue to accelerate.
There will always be those who disagree. That’s normal in a healthy society. They may be uninformed, unable to face the facts or just too comfortable in the cocoon of modern life that we’ve all been born into. This does not mean the problem does not exist. Even the slightest hint of an issue of this magnitude demands precaution at the very least. We have had much more than a slight hint.
So with this global perspective in mind, where are we regarding our local efforts? I think the train has started to leave the station. We have movement and momentum. That’s good, but now the scale and pace of change must take on a new dimension. The train must become a rocket, hurtling toward a distant but achievable destination with pinpoint accuracy. Like an Apollo mission, there is no room for failure.
“Don’t just be the change, mass produce it,” wrote author Alex Steffen of WorldChanging.
How? Each of our homes is like our own personal part of the solution. Just as we can tackle large calculations by using the processing power of millions of personal computers, our homes give each of us the opportunity to contribute to the solution. It’s a way to mass produce the change by giving financial priority to weatherization projects, efficient lighting and Energy Star appliances, to name a few examples. Businesses are no different.
We must take rapid, collective and massive action. Do everything you can afford and then some, but remember that no one can afford to do nothing. At this point, our goal is not continued growth, it is survival. The goal is a world that our children can live with.
Yes, 2008 is going to be one heck of a year.
Steve Rypka is a green living consultant and president of GreenDream Enterprises, specializing in renewable energy, green building, alternative transportation and lifestyle choices for both residential and commercial clients. The company is committed to helping people live lighter on the planet. Rypka can be reached via e-mail at firstname.lastname@example.org. More information relating to this column is posted at www.greendream.biz.