Blogs from Ben Jones Tue, 03 Jan 2017 13:21:00 +0000 Joomla! - Open Source Content Management en-gb White House Recognizes Oberlin as Climate Action Champion

The White House announced today that Oberlin is one of 16 local governments selected as the inaugural Climate Action Champions, a new initiative administered by the Department of Energy (DOE) that recognizes local governments that have taken proactive steps to cut carbon pollution and prepare for the effects of climate change and extreme weather. Oberlin was chosen as part of a competitive application process screened by the DOE.

By addressing these two goals together—for instance, by installing renewable energy sources on buildings in order to provide a reliable energy source for emergency responders; installing energy-efficient windows that are also more storm-resistant; or leveraging innovative green infrastructure for carbon sequestration and flood protection—the Climate Action Champions will serve as a model for other communities to adopt clean energy strategies.

As a designated Climate Action Champion, Oberlin will have priority eligibility to apply for targeted federal funding and technical assistance. Other support may include climate data sets and tools that can help with decision making; opportunities to participate in climate change- and disaster-related training offered by the Federal Emergency Management Agency; and an invitation to a peer network of communities that have experience with long-range planning to achieve environmental protection. The designation is expected to last 27 to 36 months.

Other Climate Action Champion communities announced include the city of Boston; Broward County, Florida; Minneapolis; San Francisco; and two tribal governments. Oberlin stands out as a small community that has built its programs from the ground up by leveraging resources with Oberlin College and other partners.

“We’re light-years ahead of other communities because of our energy portfolio,” says Sean Hayes, executive director of the Oberlin Project. Oberlin’s community-owned electric utility is on track to achieve 85 percent renewable energy sources in its portfolio in 2017, and Hayes says the city is on track to reduce its greenhouse gas emissions, as measured in 2012, by 50 percent in 2015.

“I think what we’ve done with energy and the gains we’ve made in a three-year period are the most stunning,” Hayes says.

Renewable energy sources include landfill gas (55 percent), hydropower (24 percent), wind (3 percent), solar (3 percent), and market power (15 percent), which consists of contracts and joint ownership of electricity projects, explains Doug McMillan, energy services and sustainability initiatives manager for the city of Oberlin.

McMillan says the city’s climate action plan, created in 2011 and updated in 2013, along with commitments to reduce greenhouse gas emissions, make Oberlin a natural climate leader.

The initiative is part of the Obama administration’s broader agenda to combat climate change. In November, Obama made a historic joint announcement with Chinese President Xi Jinping to reduce greenhouse gas emissions beyond 2020. Obama has also pledged a $3 billion U.S. commitment to the Green Climate Fund, an international fund to help poor countries cope with the effects of climate change.

]]> (Ben Jones) Community Tue, 09 Dec 2014 18:32:30 +0000
Solving the Carbon Problem "I think I've figured out the carbon problem," says my seven-year-old son. It's Monday morning, early, and I'm still half asleep. He stands next to my bed, already dressed and dancing with excitement.

Rewind a day or so. He and I lay on our backs in the mid-afternoon sunlight, staring up at the sky, wearing t-shirts in mid-November in northeast Ohio. It is almost 70 degrees. "Isn't this great?" he says.

I pause to consider his question carefully.

I have two main jobs as a dad, you see. The first is to give my kid a good childhood, to secure his happiness, to protect him from the burdens of the world. The second is to prepare him in every possible way for the future he stands to inherit. I can answer his question in a manner that will satisfy one of these, but not both.

Ultimately I choose to be honest with him about the theories behind weather like this, despite the knowledge that this will rob him of a certain innocence, perhaps too soon. Still, it is the only choice. I am determined to do my part to raise a generation that transcends the inertia of its predecessors. I know I must begin with this moment, because I do not have the same luxury of time that my parents and grandparents enjoyed.

So I explain the intricacies of climate change, the effect of carbon in the atmosphere, the country's dependence on fossil fuel. I explain melting polar ice caps and rising sea levels in the context of an underwater Boston (where he was born).

"Hmm," he says. "But I like Boston the way it is."

I am taken by his reaction, not so much by the words, but by the manner in which he says them. I detect no sadness or fear. His tone is one of pure defiance, and I can sense the wheels already turning in his head.

That night, I overhear him telling his little brother that there won't be any snow this winter. "Global warming," he whispers matter-of-factly. "But we can fix it." And he wastes no time.

Back to Monday. I'm awake now, propped up on one elbow. "So let's hear your solution," I say.

"It's easy," he replies. "We'll put solar panels on everything. On our cars, on our houses, on the school." He's clearly been thinking about this for hours. He's even figured out how best to retrofit the gasoline engines and oil furnaces to be compatible with solar energy, and explains this to me in great detail, using models built out of legos.

I praise him for his good ideas but send him off to school with a brief explanation of economics - the relative affordability of fossil fuels, the high cost of solar panels, the spectrum of household income levels, government and corporate influence. He just smiles at me. He is unfazed.

When I get home from work, he is waiting at the door. "Daddy," he says. "The solution is that this doesn't have to be all one thing or the other thing right away." He then presents me with the plan he's worked on all afternoon, which outlines how families at all income levels can transition from fossil fuels to solar energy, albeit at different speeds. It begins with every household getting one solar panel ("just one!"), perhaps on loan from the government ("like they did with the banks!"). "Since solar energy is free," he says, "you can take the money you save by using that one panel and buy more panels, and keep going until you have enough panels to not need fossil fuels anymore. Sure it'll take some people longer than others, but everyone could get there eventually, right?"

It occurs to me that my seven-year-old has ideas that are more impressive than those of several politicians I've heard speaking on TV. Before I can tell him this, he's off to play some game on his Wii.

I believe that the children of each generation are probably born with all of the answers. Then they begin to grow up - which we see as our cue to slowly, systematically mold them into versions of ourselves - and those answers are lost forever.

There's a lot we can do to combat climate change: conserve energy and water, recycle, compost, drive less. But perhaps more important than any of these things, and even easier: when our children tell us they know how to fix the world, let's listen to them and not muck up the simplicity of their ideas with our own damaged perspectives. Some lessons are better handed up than down.

Children love the planet in pure and uncomplicated terms. We should allow them to teach us what modern civilization has seduced us into unlearning.

]]> (Ben Jones) Community Voices Thu, 20 Sep 2012 20:30:45 +0000