Choose Sustainability this Year

By Sally Miller

Sally Miller and family members attended the People's Climate March in Washington DC last May."

Sally Miller and family members attended the People’s Climate March in Washington DC last May.”

The start of a new calendar year gives us an opportunity to look back but also to look forward. For many of us reflecting on the year we’ve just left behind, 2017 was a year that shook up the status quo, especially on the environmental front, even at a time when we saw record-breaking fires, winds and rains. Fortunately, bad news was countered by good news throughout the year.

Our President made his mark in the energy and environment world with actions aimed to undo critical work done in recent years. He abandoned the nation’s efforts to combat climate change, scaled back regulations on the fossil fuel industry and pushed for more drilling on land and at sea.

In June, he made a big deal out of his intention to withdraw the United States from the Paris Climate Agreement, stating it “is very unfair at the highest level to the United States,” even though the 2015 deal puts significant responsibilities on all major emitters including India and China as well as the European Union. Under the terms of the agreement, the U.S. can’t leave the compact until 2021, but it is clear that the current administration has no intention of fulfilling its obligations.

Luckily, with the U.S. political leadership withdrawing, China and the EU stepped up to spearhead the fight against global warming. In November at the United Nations Climate Change Conference delegates from over 190 countries agreed to a 12-month engagement focusing on next steps. Other positive announcements from the conference included new funding to support the poorest and most vulnerable and increased climate action coordination across countries and regions.

The world pushed back with jeers for the Trump administration’s defense of fossil fuels at the conference, and other nations denounced his decision to back out of the climate agreement, leaving the United States at odds with the rest of the globe.

In response to Trump’s decision to withdraw, other U.S. entities have signed up to reduce greenhouse gas emissions. To date, 20 states and more than 50 of its largest cities, along with more than 60 of the biggest businesses, have committed to emissions reduction goals. Added together, they have an economic power of the world’s third biggest economy, after the US and China.

In October, the Trump administration followed up on campaign promises when EPA Administrator Scott Pruitt announced that the Clean Power Plan, a 2015 policy to limit carbon pollution, would be repealed, and a formal proposal was signed to start the process. The standard federal regulatory procedures to implement or change a regulation will likely to take up to two years with potential legal challenges may cause delays to repeal the regulation.

Still, something else is happening throughout America. The grass roots support for a clean and safe environment continues to grow and find expression. In May, protesters descended on Washington to oppose his policies on climate initiatives and campaign against what they saw as an attack on science.

A Gallup poll taken in March 2017 found that 45% of respondents worried about global warming or climate change a “great deal” (up from 37% in 2016.) And this was before the summer’s hurricanes and recent fires.

The reality is we must take local action to help ensure sustainability where we live, work, and play, and we also have a responsibility to advocate for sustainable practices at the national level.

Sustainable Woodstock sponsors, participates in and serves as the catalyst for a broad array of activities to help Woodstock and the surrounding communities become more resilient. “Sustainable” and “resilient” mean that a local region can meet many of its basic needs, such as food and energy, with less dependence on complex and fragile global systems, and can more effectively adapt to expected changes in the climate, availability of resources, and the global economy.

Given the average American’s growing concern for and desire to protect the environment, join your fellow citizens and choose to make 2018 your year of action. If you’re an individual with a personal passion around sustainability or a member of a community organization that wants to link with Sustainable Woodstock, we should talk! Email Sally Miller, Director of Sustainable Woodstock and we’ll be in touch with you (

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