How City Governments Can Lead the Way on Environmental Protection (And Why They Must)

Many voters I’ve talked to feel that there is nothing that they can do to help preserve our deteriorating environment. There is a great deal that local governments can do to help save the environment while also lowering energy costs for residents, but we need courageous leaders to take charge. The federal and state governments are too large to quickly adapt and implement new changes. That is why it is up to smaller, more nimble local governments to innovate and see what are the most effective ways of preserving our environment. Cities can take steps to reduce energy costs and consumption, reduce traffic and associated emissions, and try pilot programs in their own communities.

unnamed (1).jpgOne issue I’ve heard from almost all Mission Viejo voters during my campaign so far is that their energy costs are becoming unbearably high. Cities must be exploring every available tool for reducing energy costs for residents. The Moulton Niguel Water District, for example, has partnered with the UC Davis Center for Water-Energy Efficiency to launch a pilot project aimed at reducing the energy required for municipal water services by streamlining operations. We must also invest in more cost effective energy sources. A recent study found that Mission Viejo has the capacity to generate 88% of its electricity through solar power. We need local governments to lead the effort on reducing energy costs and improving access to renewable resources.

Another major issue that all Mission Viejo voters seem passionate about is worsening traffic. Traffic is now costing local drivers about $1,711 per year in lost time and fuel costs. Many cities’ solutions are simply to build more roads, however research shows that building more roads actually worsens traffic through an phenomenon called induced demand. Any drivers who had found a way to get around without their cars (via carpools, bikes, public transportation, ridesharing, etc.) are drawn back to the roads by the promise of a quicker commute, and inevitably so many more drivers flock to the new roads that they end up more congested than ever before. By expanding public transportation resources—such as the free MV Shuttle—and optimizing traffic flow through better logistics, local governments can significantly reduce traffic and the resultant carbon emissions.

Local governments also have to explore more innovation methods of preserving the environment and reducing energy consumption. One cost-effective method would be rooftop community gardens, which have been shown to reduce ambient temperature, reduce the need for heating and cooling, and also reduce storm-water runoff. Various local gardening and horticulture groups, as well as high school clubs and classes, would be brought in to involve the community in the gardens. Any produce generated by these gardens could be used in local culinary classes or donated to food banks. Another innovate idea worth exploring is painting black asphalt white to reduce temperatures. There are so many unexplored possibilities for helping our environment and reducing residents’ energy costs, and local governments have a responsibility to examine every method of reducing costs and keeping our communities clean.

timelapse photography of falls near trees
Photo by Fabian Reitmeier on

Although local governments cannot do everything themselves, they should be doing everything they can to keep our communities clean. By reducing energy consumption and traffic, local governments can sharply cut pollution and at the same time put money back into voters’ pockets by helping to lower energy bills. We can look at innovative ideas like community rooftop gardens and lightening our roadways. If we elect thoughtful leaders, we can do a lot to preserve our environment and keep residents healthy even at the local level.

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