Planet Earth is in the midst of an environmental crisis that will have dire consequences for human civilization. Overpopulation and the net addition of over 228,000 more humans per day is a huge driver behind rapid environmental decline, but how we live, and the systems we depend upon, are also key to the wanton excess imposed by humanity. Our lingering over use of fossil fuels, combined with population growth, is pumping increasing amounts of CO2 into the Earth’s atmosphere. According to the vast majority of climate scientists, this is the main cause of climate change and is going to result in sea level rise. This can be moderated if we act soon in a meaningful way to reduce our overall CO2 emissions. The time for baby steps has passed. We need to bend the curve of our eventual collective enlightenment to change our ways before it is truly too late. It’s time for Bainbridge Island to lead the way. We can do that, in part, by placing a tax on carbon emissions.
An obvious response to the idea of a local carbon tax will be the same as one detractor’s reaction to concern over the loss of trees on Bainbridge Island: In the larger scheme of things, the carbon sequestering capacity of the trees we lose to development is like the fluttering of a butterfly’s wings—imperceptible. I beg to differ. There is powerful symbolic importance in what we do here on Bainbridge Island. We are a highly educated community. We are very affluent. We are the elites. To outsiders we understandably appear as privileged. Maybe because we are privilged. If one accepts that climate change is, in fact, driven by deforestation and human carbon emissions, Bainbridge Islanders cannot continue to expect others to save their trees and others to generate lower carbon emissions. We have to help lead the way.
A couple of months back I attended a “Coal Free” event at IslandWood hosted by the Sierra Club. VIPs included former senator Phil Rockefeller and Trudi Inslee. The challenge posed by climate change was summed up by host Erika Shriner as imminent and dire. Time to act is short: We are in the last second of the last of the day in the history of human civilization. Closing down Puget Sound Energy’s coal-fired plants, which generate 30% of our electricity, would go a long ways towards addressing carbon emissions and climate change. I couldn’t agree more. What about the people working in those coal-fired plants(?): jobs working for clean energy companies. What was missing from the evening’s discussion, however, was a frank and meaningful discussion of how Bainbridge Island contributes its fair share to wanton excess and increasing carbon emissions. To be fair, the Repower Kitsap program was discussed by the City of Bainbridge Island’s “community engagement specialist,” Kellie Stickney. Repower offers free energy audits and encourages home owners to make energy efficient choices. Great, but the City of Bainbridge Island doesn’t even officially recognize that climate change is happening or that it is primarily driven by human activity. Meanwhile, development as usual and revenue-generating sprawl continue unabated as if they had absolutely no impact upon climate change.
As I sat through Sierra Club’s coal free event, waiting for a real challenge to Bainbridge Islanders it never happened. The closest it came was Repower Kitsap, which, of course, is a very small part of an overall meaningful response to climate change. What I mostly heard was that someone else needs to change: not us. At an event focused on climate change and CO2 emissions, four people out of about two hundred rode their bicycles to the event. It was not cold outside and it was no raining. The elites were being asked to use their political influence, donate some money, then drive home and feel better about themselves. Not good enough. Not even close.
If the elites are going to lead the way we need to get serious. Sustainability lite, and token programs to reduce the overall increase in carbon emissions, mostly make us feel better about ourselves. It’s time to set aside our polite deference and get real. A good start would be for the City of Bainbridge Island to impose a tax on carbon emissions. Such a tax could first of all be levied on all motor vehicles that are not fully electric, including hybrids with their not- so-environmentally friendly batteries. Building owners could be levied a small carbon tax, as well, for the carbon emissions it takes to build and maintain them, and for the carbon sequestration lost when the land is/was cleared. The revenues from our carbon tax could be used to purchase development rights and protect forests (not necessarily on BI). One thing is for sure, though: passing a local tax on carbon would be newsworthy beyond its Bainbridge Island, and one of the story lines would have to do with an affluent community stepping up to the climate challenge in a meaningful way.
- Climate Action Bainbridge Memorial Event for Lac-Mégantic Oil Explosion Victims
- Trudi Inslee and Phil Rockefeller to Speak at ‘Beyond Coal to Clean Energy’ Workshop
- City Commits (Partly) to Purchasing Green Power from PSE
- Visconsi Raises Much Bigger Questions for Bainbridge: Our City Manager & Others Weigh in
- After Some Bainbridge Input, State Commission Asks PSE to Reexamine Its Position on Colstrip Coal
- Climate Change on Bainbridge: We’re Talking Wyckoff, Visconsi, SMP & Waterfront Park
- Letter to the Editor: The Demise of a Forest
- Islanders Blow the Whistle on Devastating Environmental Hazard of Coal & Oil Train
- Letter to the Editor: The City Is Betraying Our Community for the Sake of Profit
- Letter to the Editor: Thank You, IB, for Putting Community First
- A Letter to the City Council from Environ- mental Bainbridge Founder Ron Peltier
- Letter to the Editor: City Trivializes the Word Sustainability
Photo by Julie Hall.