This week, 4/17

There’s no shortage of alarming climate news, but I was especially chagrined to discover, in the course of our reporting for this week’s Green Issue, that households in Charlottesville—ostensibly progressive, outdoorsy Charlottesville—
had carbon emissions that were more than a ton above the national average. Why?
One reason may be that the area, overall, is a wealthy place, and more money means bigger houses and more cars—and a bigger carbon footprint.

There are other, systemic reasons, too, suggests Charlottesville Climate Collaborative’s Susan Kruse, like the city’s overly cautious climate reduction goals, and its lack of an effective public transportation system. Those things need to be addressed. But the money issue rankles. We all want to save the planet, it seems, as long as it’s not uncomfortable or inconvenient.

As last fall’s U.N. report made terrifyingly clear, however, this is not the time for environmental dilettantes. The only response that will save us is one of full-on, five-alarm-fire urgency. As 11-year-old Gudrun Campbell, who organized our local Youth Climate Strike last month, told us, “there’s only time to act.”

In this issue, we take a look at some of those actions: from the city’s (and county’s) efforts to set new, more ambitious carbon reduction goals, and what it might take to meet them to the neighbors challenging each other to reduce their energy use at home.

Change on the scale that’s needed can’t just come from individual actions. But little things—the shopper who piles his groceries into a backpack and bikes home, the café that stops handing out plastic straws —can add up to the cultural shifts that need to happen if we’re going to survive. —Laura Longhine