By Every year the local Earth Day celebrations are a strong reminder of how vitally important our local environment is to the quality of life we enjoy in San Luis Obispo County. Our community is defined by a unique and beautiful blend of rural, coastal, city, small-town and collegiate ways of life.
It is also defined in large part by the way we use our land and how we consider the resources we have available to us. The daily choices we make about heating and powering our homes, getting around, where our food comes from and disposing of things we no longer want make up more than half of all local carbon emissions.
For example, a recent study by the Natural Resources Defense Council found that personal actions could reduce U.S. carbon emissions by 1 billion metric tons by 2020 (15 percent of national totals) at little or no cost. It is clear that each of us has an important role to play in protecting and conserving what we have. The good news is that making choices that make sense in our everyday lives can also protect the climate. These choices help us save money, be healthy, support our local economy and connect with our family, friends and community.
Climate-driven changes can affect resources critical to the health and prosperity of San Luis Obispo County and the rest of the state. For example, wildland fires are becoming more frequent and intense because of dry seasons that start earlier and end later. The county’s water supply, already stressed or in overdraft in several areas, will likely shrink under even the most conservative climate change scenario. Reduced water supply could negatively affect our prosperous agricultural heritage, tourism and recreational activities.
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Whether or not you believe in climate change and its potential effects, there is a consensus in San Luis Obispo that we want our community to be a healthy place to live and raise our children. The question is how we band together and decide ways to move forward in a positive direction. Key to that objective is developing county policies that preserve the air, water quality and rural lifestyle we have grown to love in San Luis Obispo.
For this reason I am encouraging everyone throughout the county to join us at a series of public meetings at which we will be discussing issues such as air quality and transportation, land use, waste reduction, and energy and water efficiency. Policies we develop on these issues should be defined by public input and are paramount to determining the long-term economic and ecological health of the community.
While there are numerous projects under way throughout the county that address policy development on these and similar issues, the county has undertaken two very important projects in particular: the Climate Action Plan and Land Use and Circulation Element. When approved, the San Luis Obispo Climate Action Plan will show residents and businesses ways to help reduce energy bills while also reducing greenhouse gas emissions. It will also describe ways to make a real difference to climate change in these four areas: healthy homes and businesses, ways to get around, food choices and disposing of unwanted things.
The Land Use and Circulation Element will, among other things, address regional growth issues and economic development and identify the least constrained areas where future strategic growth could occur.
Both of these projects will be featured at a town hall event at 6 p.m. Thursday at the County Government Center board chambers in San Luis Obispo, and we are asking everyone to attend.
This event will be the first in a series of meetings throughout the county in which we will be seeking your thoughts and opinions on the aforementioned issues. And it is our hope that you will take a couple of hours to join us and discuss how these issues affect your livelihood and your family’s everyday life.
The town hall-style event will feature live electronic polling that is fun to do. We will have discussion group activities, refreshments and a raffle for a free bicycle and other prizes in honor of Bike Month. The event will also include an important address by county Supervisor Adam Hill, who will provide a big-picture perspective on the county’s current policies and how addressing these specific issues will shape our standard of living. We look forward to seeing you at our event Thursday.
Chuck Stevenson is the long-range planning manager for the county of San Luis Obispo’s Department of Planning and Building.