'Others will save the Earth'

To the editor,

Are you clear that climate change is the biggest threat humankind has ever faced? If not, please find out soon. If you are clear, commit now to be personally active in the climate movement.

Only our personal investment can protect the world we love.

Durango can and should be the leader in the Four Corners in embracing renewable energy, conservation and sustainable living. But during the last decade, our progress lagged far behind that of comparable Colorado cities and towns. For a variety of reasons (and despite commendable efforts by some), Durango has not nearly fulfilled the very basic goals of its own 2015 Sustainability Action Plan, nor of earlier similar documents. We need to face the fact that our city has fallen woefully short in addressing the existential threat we all face: climate change.

So whom shall we blame? Who will make climate progress happen here in Durango? There’s only one meaningful answer: I am responsible.

Consider the sign held by a local climate protestor saying “The greatest danger to our planet is the belief that others will save it.” We have been busy working hard and caring for our families, so it’s understandable that we rarely engage with our local government. We leave it to them to figure out priorities. We rarely contact Durango’s City Council, hardly ever show up at a council meeting – we already have plenty on our plate.

But to make progress on the existential threat that faces us, each of us must get personally involved. Are you ready?

We need to first thank our current City Council. On Aug. 20, it passed a climate resolution containing both renewable energy and carbon reduction goals community-wide. Our Council also called for “performance contracting” to upgrade many of our municipal buildings to cheaper, clean solar electricity at no cost to the city. This is the kind of forward progress we need throughout our city – a smart, solid start.

But the Council’s proposed 2020 city budget falls short on climate action, offering only a small, one-year “opportunity fund.” The Council needs input from each of us, for reasons listed below.

Spend one evening showing up for your climate. Join us at the City Council meeting Tues., Nov. 5 at 6:30 p.m. (949 E. 2nd Ave.) to show your support for these vital issues:

1) A new Durango City Manager whose resume reflects true commitment to aggressive progress on climate action. Our previous manager retired, leaving us the opportunity to hand-pick the individual central to our city’s functioning. We need a climate champion, well versed on energy and/or environmental matters, able to navigate and accelerate our future complex path to carbon reduction and renewable energy.

2) A climate advisory board with meaningful input into City sustainability plans and decisions. This group should be composed primarily of consultant stakeholders able to provide pertinent expertise, funded for compensation. Given Durango’s past culture of sustainability disregard (for which we cannot blame our current Council), concerned residents must now ensure a municipal process that creates results. We owe our children our serious, committed vigilance and involvement.

3) A dedicated funding stream for climate action. Solid annual funding can come from several sources, including (in rough numbers): the $1 million generated by the LPEA Franchise Agreement; $3 million from the General Fund usually committed to Parks and Rec (which also has a yearly $8.8 million dedicated funding stream); or new revenue. Currently only $50,000 appears to be committed to actual sustainability work in 2020, a very weak start toward our new 2030 climate goals.

4) A transparent, well-publicized process of climate action efforts by the city. Every resident should be able to quickly locate in one comprehensive data source the city’s: climate progress; accountability for how sustainability funds are spent by each department; and a detailed City goals timeline. Currently, such data is tucked away in multiple places in the maze-like city website, deterring resident involvement.

Please email citycouncil@durangogov.org with your comments.

Also, join us Sat., Nov. 9, 3-5 p.m. at the Durango Public Library for a great free presentation. Local experts will explore Durango’s paths to 100 percent renewable energy in the major energy sectors: electricity, transportation and buildings. For more information about either event, see  “Renewable Energy Durango” on Facebook.

Only our personal investment can protect the world we love. Thanks for caring; now let’s act.

– Kirby MacLaurin, Durango