The other day I went to Covenant Presbyterian Church to staff a table after a service focused on the environment. The pastor emphasized our ethical obligation to do something about what humans are doing to the planet. He read most of a TED Talk by Greta Thunberg, a 16-year old Swedish climate activist. As a part of her talk, she describes how she’s been diagnosed with Asperger’s syndrome and wonders if others with her diagnosis might be the ones who are really normal:
“The rest of the people are very strange, especially when it comes to the sustainability crisis, where everyone keeps saying climate change is an existential threat and the most important issue of all, and yet they just carry on like before. I don’t understand that, because if the emissions have to stop, then we must stop the emissions. To me that is black or white.”
That’s the way I feel about climate change, and that’s the way I feel about funding the SPLOST Energy Sustainability Project that will help Athens transition to 100% renewable energies by 2035. The commission will be voting on a 100% Athens resolution in a few months. I don’t understand why everyone else doesn’t see funding project 84 as a top priority. Why are the glasses I look through seemingly different than everyone else’s? I only say this because the 100% Athens Energy Sustainability Project was among the last to make the citizen committee’s initial selection of projects to make their 150% list. I am deeply worried that it might not make the final list of SPLOST 2020 projects.
I am not supposed to write about the ethical, moral reasons for supporting project 84. Instead, I’m supposed to focus on the economics if I want to be persuasive. But for me, the moral arguments are the most important. An increase in carbon dioxide levels is warming up our planet, with disastrous effects on our oceans, polar ice caps, and weather patterns. Like Greta says, “There are no gray areas when it comes to survival. Either we go on as a civilization or we don’t. We have to change.” We all need to do our part and make doing so a priority. By funding project 84, Athens would be doing its part to mitigate this global crisis. It’s as simple as that.
Instead of such moral arguments, though, I should write about the economic reasons for supporting project 84. The ones that are true and practical and will sway the electorate, I am told.
I’m supposed to emphasize how project 84 is one of only three projects that will pay for itself over time with 13 years of energy savings costs equaling the project’s initial cost of $10 million.
I’m supposed to emphasize that with this project, you get to spend the money twice, once for the initial energy sustaining purchases – solar panels, electrified vehicles, LED lights, other energy efficient insulation – and then once with the money added to the general budget from reduced energy costs.
I’m supposed to emphasize the practical nature of Project 84, how we can use these funds to add renewable energy sources and high-level efficiency measures to new buildings being planned like an Eastside library and a new judicial center.
And I’m definitely not supposed to put down other projects.
However, I can’t help but point out the obvious. There are lots of projects on the list of those being considered that would be great for Athens. I love the Memorial Park zoo and Bishop Park and the Holland Youth Center. I want to do something about affordable housing. I care about making our roads and intersections safer and keeping our police and fire departments equipped with the latest essential technology and vehicles.
But Athens is only a great place to live if the Earth is a good place to live. Climate change IS an existential threat, and I want the city I love to be part of the solution. We have to be. There’s no other way that we can look future generations in the eye if we don’t do our part. And that’s why the Energy Sustainability Project (Project 84) should be at the top of the SPLOST 2020 list.
If you agree with me, please do one or all of the following:
1) Attend the SPLOST Citizen Committee Public Forum on Wednesday, April 10, 5:30-7:30. Starts with overview of SPLOST program by Keith Sanders but then is mostly a hands-on meeting with citizens having time to prioritize their project choices via stickers. 120 W. Dougherty, Planning Dept
2) Submit an online public comment in support of Project 84. https://accsplosttest.formstack.com/forms/splost_2020_comment_form
3) Email your county commissioner in support of Project 84: https://athensclarkecounty.com/DocumentCenter/View/60/Mayor–Commission-Contact-Information?bidId=
4) Attend the Mayor and Commissioner’s Public forum on Wednesday, June 19. Time and place TBA
5) Attend one of the commissions’ agenda-setting and/or voting meetings and make a comment during the 3-minute public comment periods. The public can make comments at the end of the voting meetings on any subject. SPLOST 2020 project selections will be on the agendas for both the June 18 agenda-setting meeting and at the July 2 voting meeting, so there will be public comment periods earlier in those meetings. https://athensclarkecounty.com/176/Mayor-Commission-Meetings