I just got back from Seattle where I had the pleasure of spending some time with a global warming hero, Mayor Greg Nickels. He is proof positive that taking strong actions locally can have far-reaching impact.
Last year, Nickels organized the U.S. Mayors' Climate Protection Agreement, which currently includes 224 mayors representing more than 44 million people in 39 states. New Mayors on the pact include those from Omaha, Nebraska, Topeka, Kansas and Arlington, Texas.
Cities that endorse the Agreement pledge to reduce their emissions and take other important steps to reduce their contribution to global warming. Seattle, for example, is transitioning its 3,000 vehicle fleet to hybrids and biofuels, and has already reduced city government emissions by more than 60 percent since 1990 (more than 8 times beyond the target of the Kyoto Protocol).
"I got ticked. I was embarrassed that our country didn't sign the Kyoto Protocol, so I committed to do something on behalf of the people of Seattle," Nickels told an audience of 300 gathered in the Seattle Public Library (one of the city's 13 LEED-certified green buildings) to see the premiere of HBO's Earth Day special, Too Hot Not To Handle (of which I'm an executive producer)
Nickels has received lots of coverage for his leadership, including a glam photo spread in the current green issue of Vanity Fair. "It's a strange role for someone whose job it is to fix potholes," Nickels says, "But American cities care about this issue even if the federal government doesn't. I wanted to send a message to the rest of the world to stick with it, because America will catch up."
"I believe it will become our common purpose as a country to lead on solutions to global warming," Nickels continued as the crowd applauded loudly (for a library at least).
The mayor stayed to watch the doc (airing on HBO on April 22nd). I was moved watching his reactions as he watched the film, repeatedly shaking his head and exchanging concerned glances with his wife as the evidence of global warming flashed on the screen.
What a difference a week makes. Seven days earlier I was on Capitol Hill in Washington, D.C., where it's easy to get depressed by the total lack of action by Congress and the White House.
Only 3,000 miles separates Seattle and the "other" Washington, yet on this all-important issue, they are light years apart.