There have been numerous articles over the past few weeks suggesting the high points of 2015. Many of these are looking at national or global issues. Some of the ones I have been reading summarize environmental initiatives and others discuss the progress in the adoption of sustainable practices by business and government. Clearly the Paris Accord is a big step as is the movement on addressing carbon from multiple sources including the burning of fossil fuels. I was also pleased to see the progress and more competitive nature of the clean energy industries and the bipartisan support of continuing incentives for clean energy installations for the next 5 years.
I was equally interested, however, in local and state progress so I contacted people at both levels of government. I am awaiting their responses. If you have suggestions please send them to me and I will compile a list for a future blog.
The one things I have noticed over the past 8 years and it showed up more this past year is that there has been a shift in our culture that is reflected in our actions and even in the words of some of our elected officials as well. More people are thinking in terms of using less energy, polluting less, and considering cleaner forms of energy.
I was recently collecting my mail and I was approached by a neighbor who said he was interested in installing more insulation in his attic and was wondering who I used as a contractor. He had heard that I had cut my energy use in half and wanted to lower his costs as well. Another person joined us and asked why we had not installed solar collectors on our roofs. He then went on to discuss the need for Electric Vehicle charging stations in our condominium complex. These are all things which were not commonly discussed in the past around the mail box. They are all on the table today.
So yes I think there were some dramatic events that happened in 2015 and they should be celebrated. But the shift in our collective understanding of our priorities and the slow shift in our behaviors may be just as important. I recall that in researching for my second book, Saving the Places We Love, I learned that behavior change often takes decades. I think that the environmental awakening of the 1960s may finally be going mainstream. It seems to me that progress is often like a slinky going down the stairs – if you remember that toy. Parts of our society push ahead, then other parts push back, and then all of it moves forward, but only one step at a time.
Take-a-way: Keep pushing ahead. Whether we change our wasteful energy behaviors for economic, health, or future environmental impact may not matter. What matters is that we do our best to understand our impacts and we take the steps to change.