Local To Global: How Los Alamos County’s Good Government Helps Mitigate Climate Disruption

By JODY BENSON
Los Alamo Sierra Club

The United Nations initiated their Climate Talks in Paris Monday despite the Daesh/ISIS attack Nov. 13.

The refusal to postpone the international meeting accentuates the fact that the world thinks the climate issue is at least as important (or even perhaps what exacerbates) terrorism. Most leaders recognize climate as the most critical concern humans will confront into the next century. Actually, these leaders recognize that this is the most critical issue for humans right now. 

We in Los Alamos know first hand about how climate change has disrupted our community. Just a couple examples: think two catastrophic wild fires, and the destructive flash floods that followed. Think the 2001 regional piñon-tree mortality, and the on-going die-off of big conifers. These events not only impacted our local town and regional communities, but cost American taxpayers millions.

Here, however, is some very hopeful news: Los Alamos County has already taken actions to mitigate climate threats at a local level. These include:

  • Initiating a study for Future Electric Energy Generation (including plans for energy efficiency in new building construction and increasing solar-power generation), with the goal of carbon-neutral electricity generation for the County (excluding Los Alamos National Lab) by 2040
  • Participating in a community-wide smart meter study of residential electricity use
  • Expanding our capacity for solar electric power with a collaboration between NEDO (Japan) and Los Alamos National Laboratory to initiate community solar power generation
  • Supporting the Los Alamos Middle School in its solar-power grant
  • Investing in a siting study to be done for a small, modular “mini-nuke” reactor with Idaho group UAMPS andwith Idaho National Lab
  • Increasing our investment in hydroelectric power
  • Establishing the free Atomic City Transit bus system
  • Linking to regional public transportation systems
  • Large-scale recycling of everything from asphalt and plastic, to glass and yard waste
  • Collaborating with Bandelier to develop and run the Bandelier Shuttle
  • Installing electric car fueling stations at the County Municipal Building
  • Adding bicycle lanes on most major roadways in town
  • Developing a trail system to “shortcut” through canyons to neighborhoods on multiple mesas
  • Designating capital improvement money to fund the Los Alamos Nature Center that inspires generations to protect and conserve the natural world of which humans are a part
  • Reducing the risk of damage from wildfires to our town and Los Alamos National Laboratory and the subsequent CO2 emissions, through better forest management and fuel reduction strategies.

In a world where few citizens can involve themselves in local government, in a world where few cities pay attention to their citizens, we can be proud that our County—with its citizen investment in both the leadership and in directing the direction of issues—is already working to mitigate climate disruption. Let’s keep it up. Los Alamos is not merely a National Historic District, a brass plaque that honors a long ago project when a team of brilliant scientists collaborating on a single problem could save the world from fascism. Los Alamos is still alive and kicking back at problems that threaten civilization, both through LANL research and County investments. 

Los Alamos can continue to contribute to saving the world, although the problem is so much more huge, difficult, and insidious than a war with a single goal, albeit one of beating a multi-nation army. This problem is global and the primary enemy is attitude, ignorance, misdirected political posturing, the failure to understand the cost-benefit analysis of working toward sustainable energy, corporatocracy that puts profit ahead of the good of the nation, money in politics, and just plain laziness. But—

Here, in Los Alamos, at this local level, we’re working on it, and doing a darn good job.

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