As a reporter at my college newspaper I witnessed a scene that reminded me of the current wrangling over Bend's climate change resolution. A young undergraduate was taking advantage of the open-forum hour in the school's student center. Her topic: reducing our consumption of fossil fuels by going vegan. Surrounding her below the podium was not the usual cadre of simpatico hippies and beat poets, but instead a crew of boys who were skeptical to the extreme. To every point that the girl brought forth, the boys had a sardonic counterpoint. They dogged her for wearing shoes—bought from a thrift store—made with plastic soles. They chided her for riding the bus, which consumed fossil fuels.
Eventually, the girl stalked away from the podium with the exclamation, "I can't do everything. Should I do nothing at all?"
That little anecdote strikes to the heart of the question about the efficacy of the Bend City Council's pending resolution on climate change. Some have questioned the resolution for its current lack of actionable steps. Some have said it's going to be difficult to measure a city's overall footprint—and thus, it's impossible to measure whether City of Bend operations have actually been cut by 40 percent by 2030 and 70 percent by 2050, as the current draft of the resolution aims for. Still others say that a resolution means nothing if all those involved—businesses, residents, and governments, all—aren't held to the same standard as city operations. And of course, others have expressed worry about how much it's all going to cost.
These are all valid concerns, and ones the Bend City Council and its climate change working group have heard loud and clear. In a city where funding our road repairs and other capital projects is a serious concern, that team has some big challenges on its plate. Paying for a sustainability coordinator to carry out the eventual "teeth" of the resolution is going to require some cognitive muscle. Determining how to get residents to care—and act—is going to require plenty of creativity.
Whether there are eventual incentives or ordinances, we believe many residents are only truly going to act when they see it benefiting them. Thankfully for the City Council and its climate change working group, there's one big way to bring residents around to their side: cost savings. When a home is required to be built to a higher standard of efficiency, it saves residents money in their heating and cooling bills. Coincidentally, where's the money they've saved likely to be spent? In the local economy, of course. In the battle between the optimists and the naysayers, the argument about overall cost savings might bring more people over to the former side.
There's definitely a cost to adopting this resolution. In the grand scheme of things, however, there's a bigger cost to not acting at all.