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Editorial: Keep pushing on all levels

Over the weekend, 300,000 to 400,000 people flooded midtown Manhattan, in addition to tens of thousands around the world, to urge action on climate change. Students, celebrities, politicians and diplomats marched alongside each other in unprecedented numbers with a clear message. While this event undoubtedly underscores the growing importance of climate change awareness and the ever-pressing need for action, at the current juncture, it is uncertain that climate change is an issue that will be solved on the global stage. Rather, we urge local communities and municipalities to lead the proverbial charge.

As Politico appropriately highlighted, while nearly half a million people descended on New York, the event was all but passed over on Sunday’s talk shows in lieu of the NFL scandals, the Islamic State in Iraq and Syria and November’s midterm elections. Though partially a curated product of the media, the current and pervasive geopolitical tension is not conducive to effectively addressing the issue of climate change — an unfortunate byproduct of its relative urgency. Considering the hot-button issues and scandals of  the last two years — gun violence, border security, Gaza, veterans benefits, ISIS, Ukraine — climate control is on the minds of many Americans but is very rarely the priority of voters or lawmakers.

There is no chance of environmental legislation coming through Congress this fall, and the prospect for President Obama to pass a major bill on the issue gets bleaker with every inch we move toward war. The conflict in the Middle East is rightly the principal focus of the Obama administration, and though the character of action is not yet concretely established, the stark reality is that the degree of U.S. intervention in the region will continue to overshadow any tangible environmental legislation in Congress in the interim.

Thus we resort  to urging local and state governments to continue looking for ways to reduce their emissions. The change we seek at the national level will likely be preceded by action on the local level. In January 2013, the Barrington town council prohibited retailers from distributing single-use plastic bags. A year later, the Plastic Waste Reduction Act was introduced in the Rhode Island House of Representatives, a progressive move toward reducing the environmental impact of plastic bags.

The succession of these bills should serve as a model for the country. Many environmental issues are non-controversial, and, after implementation, Americans realize they have minimal impact on our lives. In these cases, we are waiting on leadership and initiative we might not see out of Washington for a few more election cycles. We hope this model of local action will continue to perpetuate itself and serve as the foundation for true, comprehensive reform.

 

Editorials are written by The Herald’s editorial page board, led by Alexander Kaplan ’15 and James Rattner ’15. Send comments to editorials@browndailyherald.com.



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