City forum brings global issues back down to earth
About 130 listen to sustainability expert in first of city series
Just before delivering his address at the city of Beavertons Sustainability Forum, Bill Becker, executive director of the Presidential Climate Action Project, discussed his view that most citizens, regardless of political belief or economic background, believe in one form or another in the concept of sustainability.
Its important to engage people where they are, he said at the Monday evening event. People from any value system, you can find some aspect that will appeal to them because it affects their life. Somewhere you find a foothold, a point of entry for the conversation.
Attracting a crowd of about 130 to the first of four public forums the citys Sustainability Action Team is presenting this spring, Becker hit on numerous entry points during his address and subsequent question-and-answer session.
Launching the bipartisan Presidential Climate Action Project in January 2007 at the University of Colorado, Denver, Becker leads a team of national experts on developing policy recommendations for the federal government on energy and climate security. A former regional director for the U.S. Department of Energy, Becker spent 15 years administering programs to accelerate the use of energy efficiency and renewable energy technologies. A popular lecturer in Europe as well as the U.S. and an accomplished author, Beckers latest book is The 100 Day Action Plan to Save the Planet, published by St. Martins Press.
State of the future
Illuminated by striking visuals and startling statistics on the screen above him, Becker laid out the successes, failures and ongoing challenges related to sustainable growth and development in a presentation that was alternately dour, enlightening, humorous and heart-rending.
Increasing global famine, overpopulation, depleted resources, drought and extreme weather fluctuations are just some of the possible consequences this and future generations will contend with, he maintained, if citizens and global leaders dont take meaningful action toward adopting sustainable practices.
Without depressing us all, I think we can all accept we have many challenges ahead, he said, emphasizing the importance of engagement at the basic citizen level. The leadership and challenges trickle down to us. We cant wait on international agreements.
Crediting former President Lyndon B. Johnson as the first U.S. leader to warn Congress of the perils of environmental neglect, Becker said sustainability advocates are challenged with overcoming what he referred to as the perfect problem one considered too esoteric, confusing, expensive, overwhelming, or just too damn depressing to reach critical mass. Still, he noted, leaders and citizens are catching on and show an increasing level of interest in affecting positive change.
Theres lots of things we can do for climate change, he said. You dont have to believe it to fix it. Its about managing risk, buying insurance. Thats what were talking about with climate change taking out some insurance.
Responding to several questions from the audience, Becker emphasized steps individuals can take to reduce carbon footprints, reduce fossil-fuel use and exercise the power of democracy.
Youre not a drop in the bucket when it comes to voting, he said, before concluding, I dont know anything else to do but try. The only way to discover a breakthrough is to try.
Striking a chord
Theresa Karasek, a Beaverton resident preparing to work this summer as a ranger at Champoeg State Park, said she liked how Becker presented his findings and views on the planets future.
I was impressed, she said. It was very comprehensive without being depressing and overwhelming you, so I really enjoyed it.
She admitted curiosity about how the citys Sustainability Action Team will proceed after the forums wrap up in June.
Im not sure what the action team is going to do this fall, or whether its just greenwashing.
Roger Leverette, a physician who lives in the Denney neighborhood, said Beckers talk hit home with him.
I think it had the right tone of hopefulness, he said, praising city leaders for their willingness to take on such a far-reaching topic. Theyre dealing with the central issue of our time instead of wallowing in traffic light rules.
Cindy Dolezel, who leads the city of Beavertons Sustainability Program, said she invited Becker to the forum for his ability to bring sustainability on a global level back down to the Beaverton level.
I hope people leave with a concrete idea of what sustainability means, she said before the address. These forums are just the beginning.Add a comment