It was a very busy Earth Week in the South Bay, and everywhere I went people wanted to talk about Hermosa Beach's goal to become a carbon-neutral city.
They wanted to talk at the VOICE Earth Day celebration at Polliwog Park in Manhattan Beach, the GRID Alternatives solar install I did in Inglewood, the Northrop Grumman Earth Day Fair in Redondo Beach, the Earth Day Fair at SEA Lab and at my meeting with legendary environmental author (The End of Nature, Enough, Deep Economy and the recently published Eaarth) and 350.org founder/activist Bill McKibben.
The average person in Hermosa Beach hasn't heard of either 350 or Bill McKibben, but 350.org and McKibben have definitely heard of Hermosa Beach. They're looking to this small beach town to provide the hope, inspiration and real action needed to respond to the climate change problems headed this way.
No pressure now, right?
McKibben had a message for the city about its carbon-neutral intentions when we talked on Sunday at the L.A. Times Festival of Books: "Hermosa Beach, many, many thanks. This is the kind of leadership we need. We're not getting it done at the top right now. We have to work desperately hard to make sure that Washington and the U.N. and everybody else does what they need to do. But they only will once it's clear that it's both possible and popular to make it happen, so thank you guys enormously for showing the way forward."
I know McKibben through his 350 work. Environmentalists around the world know 350 is the magic number for safe CO2 levels for our atmosphere. Right now that level is 391--and climbing every year.
On October 24, the International Day of Climate Action, more than 1,300 people--many of them from Hermosa Beach--made the number 350 their priority for a few hours on the sand in Manhattan Beach as everyone lined up to be part of "The Amazing Waving Human Tide Line." News, photos and videos of that event have been seen around the world.
This October, the 350 organization won't be holding signs, making speeches or waving for the camera. Instead, its supporters are holding work parties to install solar panels, retrofit homes, start community vegetable gardens, ride bikes and promote more bikeways, plant trees and help restore wetlands--activities that are all designed to cut greenhouse gas emissions.
And all of it is exactly the kind of work we'll need to do to become carbon neutral.
The Hermosa Beach carbon-neutral goal is really quite simple from the big-picture perspective. All the CO2 tons the city is responsible for emitting must either be replaced by switching to clean energy and practices that don't emit CO2 or by removing those emissions the way trees and plants do. That's what carbon neutral comes down to: Remove the carbon or replace it with carbon-free actions.
That won't be easy and it won't be quick. Frankly, it's already too late to stop many of the quality-of-life impacts headed our way because of the coal, oil and gas we've already burned.
But there's no more time to waste if our kids and their kids are going to have any kind of fighting chance at preventing catastrophic climate change that spirals out of their control. That's why Hermosa Beach's leadership in becoming a carbon-neutral city is so important.
And it really doesn't matter where the always-swinging economic pendulum happens to be at the moment, no matter what politicians and big greenhouse gas emitters try to tell people. The climate doesn't care where the stock market or the unemployment rate is. It's the same way a house fire doesn't care whether the homeowner is a rich guy or a poor guy; it just burns unless the fire department puts it out.
The melting of our polar ice caps and glaciers; the destruction of our Western forests; the elimination of species; the sea-level rising; the acidification of our oceans; the increasingly hotter temperatures of our planet; and intensifying drought, wildfires and extreme weather--they're all going to keep on happening unabated until we all get to work and stop pumping the greenhouse gases into our air that cause them.
Joe Galliani is a weekly environmental columnist for Hermosa Beach Patch.