• a majextic building with sun rising behind it

      Pasadena City Hall (Photo – ©Gareth Peries)

      I wish I felt like my choices made a difference when it comes to climate change.

      By Carl Selkin

      Do my solar panels or my electric vehicle have any impact on the slide into an irreversible, unlivable climate? Maybe I should just save the money that cheap carbon-based energy provides? I could eat, drink and be merry.  Maybe I could turn the A/C up full blast and drive a couple of blocks to Vons for some steaks to grill and a case of beer. Should I commit to an electric clothes dryer that costs ten times more to operate than the gas version? Not an advantageous cost-benefit analysis.

      The latest “informed” discussion on Twitter is no help.

      On the one hand, it is argued that the aggregate effect of individual action can make a significant dent in the slope of the growth curve of greenhouse gasses, although the aggregated numbers would have to be huge to register on the atmospheric weathervane.  Every little bit helps—a tiny bit.  Yet moving enough people to act takes an enormous amount of time and energy, psychological and physical. Public relations drives or coordinated campaigns, like the ones that convinced us to ditch tobacco and buckle up for safety, cannot bring change quickly enough or at a rate that will save us.

      On the other hand, every individual action is, well, action. Each is a sign of commitment to work hard and make deep sacrifices to work against climate change.

      Certainly, not everyone can afford to make the big life changes and shell out money for electric appliances running off home-installed solar panels.  In fact, for condos and apartments, the solar option is out of the residents’ control. Yet when those who can make the leap do so, it sends a spark to the political gridlock.

      Those unable to afford the transition on their own can point out the inequity of the wealthier residents reducing their electricity bills even to zero while poorer neighbors are stuck fueling the status quo.

      The advantages of carbon-free power need to be democratized–made available to the have-nots suffering the most from heat waves and drought, carbon induced war, and skyrocketing power bills.

      Local Solar Plants

      We can dramatically reduce the costly burden of electric bills on those least able to afford it by public investment in reliable, resilient neighborhood-scale solar power plants. Once the infrastructure is in place, that zero-carbon free power can be distributed to benefit all.

      Sure, large-scale, centralized solar and wind power plants connected to the existing grid of long-range transmission lines are more efficient and cheaper to build on a per-kilowatt basis, but they take years to acquire land and construct. Local solar plants and battery storage on the scale needed in a city like Pasadena can be built relatively quickly and can be cost-effective to construct, saving all residents millions of dollars on our utility bills and tons of greenhouse gasses.

      As Pasadena embarks on crafting the Integrated Resource Plan to meet our energy needs for the next decades, we all need to add our voices in urging the transition to this new direction already adopted by dozens of California utilities. Relatively nimble localities must lead the way for our nation to move forward against the politics lubricated by carbon.  I guess this is the third hand. The one that has not yet been dealt.

      Make your voice count by joining with neighbors in Pasadena on October 24 (Monday) at 3:30 on the steps of City Hall when a coalition of local non-profits and individuals organized as “Pasadena 100” rallies to make the difference we all need!

      Carl Selkin is co-chair of the Pasadena Jewish Temple and Center Social Justice Committee.


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