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Light A Fire Under Your Council Member To Curb NYC's Carbon "Foodprint"

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Do you count yourself among the thousands of New Yorkers who worry about climate change? Are you bothered by the lack of access to fresh, healthy, affordable food in so many NYC neighborhoods? Would you like to see more gardens take root all over our city, in front yards and back, vacant lots and empty rooftops?

If you answered "no" to any of these questions, I'm going to hazard a guess that you're some kind of Limbaugh-loving, Beck-boozled, beyond-the-Palin lemming who will hopefully follow your near-sighted leaders off a cliff before you've had a chance to mate and perpetuate your unfortunate species, which, alas, is not yet on the endangered list and threatens to destroy our habitat.

If you answered "yes," I congratulate you on your clear-eyed grasp of the challenges that face us, and implore you to help New York City become a role model for other cities when it comes to tackling climate change and food justice, as well as promoting urban agriculture.

We have a golden opportunity to do something about all these things, if only you'll pitch in and share your 2 cents. Because small change--if we can just collect enough of it--will add up to sea change. So please, take just a couple of minutes to tell your city council representative that you'd like him or her to help lead the charge on climate change and food justice by signing on to the "FoodprintNYC" initiative. You can find out who your representative is here, and then check to see if they're among the leaders who've already co-sponsored the FoodprintNYC Resolution.

Why do we need this resolution? Well, a lot of us--including our very own mayor--are only just starting to understand that our food choices affect the environment's health as much as our own. Mayor Bloomberg has famously (and courageously) launched numerous campaigns to fight various public health nuisances: trans fats; smoking; calorie listings; sodium; yada, yada.

He's also demonstrated a burning desire to tackle climate change with his sustainability initiative, PlaNYC, an ambitious attempt to curb NYC's carbon footprint through innovation and conservation.

And yet, for a man who seems pretty adept at crunching numbers, Mayor Bloomberg hasn't put two and two together when it comes to food and climate: PlaNYC doesn't take into account the ways we produce, distribute and discard food, even though they collectively create more greenhouse gases than transportation.

NYC's carbon foodprint must be considered, too, when we examine how to conserve resources, improve our aging infrastructure, and create a more sustainable city. So a bunch of us grassroots activist-types and non-profits who are passionate about this stuff formed the NYC Foodprint Alliance and have been shouting from our (soon-to-be-green) rooftops, trying to persuade the powers that be that if we really want to make great strides to combat global warming, we can't hop along on one foot.

We're still working on persuading Mayor Bloomberg, but we've found a formidable ally in Manhattan Borough President Scott Stringer, whose Food in the Public Interest report shares our agenda (maybe because Stringer actually took the trouble to consult with folks like us before he crafted it. ) And NYC Council Member Bill DeBlasio has taken the lead on sponsoring Resolution #2049, a citywide initiative that would:

...establish climate-friendly food policies and programs, financial and technical support, a public awareness campaign regarding the City's food consumption and production patterns and greater access to local, fresh, healthy food.

As DeBlasio stated on Tuesday:

Obesity and global warming are two immense challenges facing our City. Today it is estimated that nearly 1/3 of green house gas emissions come from pollution caused by the production, processing and transportation of food. In collaboration with Manhattan Borough President Scott Stringer, I have sponsored the first City Council resolution ever that addresses climate change through our food system.This resolution calls for a citywide initiative to increase the use of locally grown, healthy food and decrease the amount of pollution caused by food transportation, shipping and packaging. Today, and in the days going forward, I urge all New Yorkers to call their City Council Member and ask them to support this resolution. Working together we can provide all New Yorkers with access to better food and help protect the environment at the same time. Please join me in fighting for a cleaner, healthier New York City by visiting my website, or foodprintusa.org to look up your Council Member and call today.

Maybe you're allergic to action alerts, or you steer clear of politicians for fear that they're some kind of alien species possessed by an inexplicable passion for schmoozing and glad-handing. Are they power-hungry freaks? Maybe, but they're our power-hungry freaks--at least in theory.

It might help if you thought of politicians as puppets. I mean that in the nicest possible way (I happen to like puppets.) Both are guided by unseen hands and strings--or maybe purse strings, in the case of some politicians.

Can you make them jump? That's up to you. How can our local representatives actually represent us if we're not asking them for anything?

If you don't like the idea of politician-as-Pinnochio, here's an alternative analogy: think of politicians as appliances. They run better when they're plugged in, preferably to us. It's called people power, and it's the ultimate form of renewable energy. Why not use it?