“Think globally, act locally” is a phrase that has been used in the environmental movement for many years now. It has its origin in the town planning of Scotsman Patrick Geddes at the turn of last century. It’s an old enough phrase to be considered a cliché, assigned to the same Earth-crunchy hamper as the peace sign, smiley face, and “Turn On, Tune In, Drop Out.”
A shame, because when it comes to the action required to make our communities sustainable, lower our dependence on fossil fuels, and reverse the effect of climate emissions, the bottom-up “think globally, act locally” ethos could do as much good as top-down protocols and initiatives from governments, such as cap-and-trade and carbon emissions limits.
I’m sure much will come out of the UN climate summit planned for Copenhagen this December. But the debate at these mega-conferences can seem awfully esoteric and irrelevant to our lives. There are still plenty of communities in the US that have no recycling programs, meaningful public transportation, or community gardens, let alone sustainable town planning (where’s Patrick Geddes?!), green infrastructure, or green jobs.
Targeted government intervention in sustainability would be better than vast treaties. That is, legislation along the lines of smoking bans or the American with Disabilities Act: the whole nation is quite used to smoke-free and accessible buildings now. Just one local act that could make a huge difference is the slow phasing out of gas engines for lawnmowers, weedwhackers, and the like. It would be a way for folks could get used to battery engines and for Toro, John Deere, and Bombardier to be thrust to cutting edge of green technology!
--Martin Walls, Syracuse Center of Excellence