I recently ran across a copy of former Salt Lake City, Utah Mayor Rocky Anderson’s keynote speech to the 2008 Green Summit and am excited to share with you a bit about this remarkable difference maker.
We have all been forcibly made more aware of the issues of ecological and economic stewardship recently, with the substantial increase in extreme weather events lately, and the tawdry spectacle of many of our largest corporations revealing their overblown spending habits and abysmal judgment, to the point of coming to the government for bail-outs, filling the headlines.
Rocky Anderson, whose first name is properly Ross, became aware of these issues in the early 1990s, when he was a lawyer practicing civil litigation law in Salt Lake City. He had been a lawyer since 1978. He had done a good deal of work for the ACLU and spearheaded several civil rights and consumer protection cases, according to the Wikipedia article on him. But it weighed on him that as a private citizen, he could only do so much. So he ran for office, becoming Mayor of Salt Lake City in 1999 and retaining that office by re-election in 2003.
While he was in office he changed the face of his city! He committed the city to the standards of the Kyoto Protocol, an international environmental treaty signed in 2005 by almost every nation in the world except the United States under the Bush administration. This treaty establishes legally binding commitments for the reduction of four greenhouse gases - carbon dioxide, methane, nitrous oxide and sulphur hexafluoride - and two groups of gases, hydrofluorocarbons and perfluorocarbons, which are produced by industrialized nations. Under Kyoto, industrialized countries agreed to reduce their collective greenhouse gas emissions by 5.2% compared to the year 1990. And by the end of his second term, Salt Lake City not only matched the Kyoto Protocol standards, it exceeded them.
Anderson said, in an interview with David Roberts on February 6, 2007, “The way we accomplished our reductions was primarily through lighting retrofits in public buildings. In our city and county buildings alone, replacing our incandescent bulbs with compact fluorescent bulbs saved $33,000 a year in electricity. Then we used some of those cost savings to become the state’s largest purchaser of wind power.
“By doing just those two things alone, we not only saved taxpayers money — over the long term it will be millions of dollars — but reduced carbon dioxide emissions by over 1,100 tons. That’s because almost all the energy in this area comes from coal-burning power plants.
“We retrofitted all of our traffic lights with LED lights. We’re constantly converting our diesel fleet over to smaller, more fuel-efficient vehicles, and utilizing alternative fuels whenever possible.
“At our landfill, we used to capture the methane and then just flare it off. Now we use it to generate electricity — that accomplishes a reduction of 17,600 tons of equivalent carbon dioxide a year. We do the same thing at our wastewater-treatment plant through the utilization of a cogeneration plant. There we provide about half the electrical needs of our wastewater-treatment facility.
“We’re still taking a look at things like groundwater heat transfer, or geothermal heating sources. The more you get into this, the more you realize we really do have the technologies available to make an enormous difference.”
Having walked his talk, he says, he went to local businesses and offered to inventory their practices and make green recommendations. By the end of his mayor-ship, 42 businesses had become E-2 certified, and the number is still growing. He also reached out to people, offering to do the same for their homes as the city had for businesses. He got the whole city excited about the possibilities of reducing carbon emissions and living with more ecological awareness.
In that same interview, he said, “A lot of it is education. A lot of it is getting people to recognize that we can all engage in so much more responsible and sustainable practice in our lives and in our businesses as well as in government — together making a very significant difference, and at the same time saving money in most instances.”
Here in Louisville, there have been several serious pushes by city officials to raise the money to re-establish light rail commuter trains. We have the tracks. They have been out of use, however, and it would cost a lot to refit them for use, refit engines and passenger cars and staff the trains. No official has been able to raise the money to do that. Instead they keep widening roads and altering ramps to cope with the ever-increasing vehicular traffic, and declaring the metro area ever wider as commuters swarm to the countryside to get away from the high-density traffic in the downtown area.
In Salt Lake City, Anderson pushed that initiative through! In the Roberts interview, he said, “When we put in the first line of light rail in the Salt Lake City area, there was greater opposition to that than anything I can remember in politics: the cost, the contention that it’s outdated technology, that people won’t give up their cars to ride it. We don’t hear that any more, because it’s been immensely successful. It’s been so successful — and this is one of those cases of success breeding more success — communities that were adamantly opposed to light rail before the first line was ever built are now clamoring for it in their neighborhoods.
“Support has reached the point that there have been two sales-tax increase initiatives for money to increase transit opportunities, and they were passed overwhelmingly by some of the most conservative voters on the planet. It’s really heartening.”
I only touch the high points of some of his more stunning transformative work in his city here, but it is enough to show his high degree of success at changing things for the better. It was assumed that this immensely popular city official would seek a third term as mayor. He did not. When his term ended in 2007, he set out to meet a new challenge – raising the consciousness of the entire country.
His feeling is that people all over America want to help and they want to effect good changes. But they do not know just how to go about that. So he formed a non-profit organization, High Road for Human Rights (www.highroadforhumanrights.org). Part of the mission statement for that organization reads, “High Road for Human Rights organizes and empowers people to identify human rights threats and abuses and to ensure that policies and practices of the United States support and promote human rights around the world.”
The range of concerns of this organization is very wide. Its goal is to raise awareness about everything from global climate change to human rights issues from genocide to torture to human trafficking. Doug McDonough, writing about High Road for Human Rights in his blog on February 9, 2009, said,
“In concept, the High Road is simple. Anderson says if he learned anything in politics, it was that politicians don’t do anything difficult unless pushed. The big problems, like global warming, are ignored, he says, because elected officials don’t hear about them from voters. High Road exists to provide the shock troops, ‘to make it clear there will be short-term political costs for those who continue to ignore these kinds of problems.’
“High Road’s pitch is, ‘You never again have to say you don’t know what you can do.’ It promises that changing big policies really isn’t that hard.”
Anderson posits that if small groups of concerned citizens keep bringing the issues to the public officials in charge, the officials’ responses will be far different than they have been in the face of the public apathy of the past. We have a far more responsive President now, he says, and a far more progressive Congress. But they need to hear from us. The pitch on the organization’s site is,
“High Road for Human Rights is dedicated to real change. Please join High Road in its unique, vital work to make the world a safer, more peaceful, just place for all. Don’t remain silent. Don’t sit back, leaving it for others to do. Join in the mass mobilization organized by High Road for Human Rights and contribute toward compassionate change to help our brothers and sisters throughout the world.”
With a few clicks, anyone can begin to help by participating in e-mail and phone trees, writing and submitting letters to op-ed pages, meeting with reporters, receiving training in human rights and community organizing, speaking to students and organizations, writing congresspersons, hosting events and film showings at your home and so on.
There is a reason that Rocky Anderson’s message is falling upon listening ears, beyond the simple facts that he is right and that his concerns are exigent and timely. That reason is the time of Harvest that is upon us. Many of our people who have passed into larger life in the last twenty or so years have chosen to turn around and incarnate again on Planet Earth as fourth-density wanderers. Q’uo says, in a session recorded on February 10, 2008,
“Many and many are those who are incarnate at this time as fourth-density wanderers from third-density Earth. They have come back for the reason of stewardship to the planet, and within this next five-year period, for the lightening of Planet Earth and the maximization of the Harvest of Earth.
We see this as a valuable service, and we are ready to offer our thoughts through instruments such as this one not only until 2012 but as long as there are those entities upon Planet Earth who are devoted to the restoration of the planet and to the healing of the nations.”
And again, in a channeling recorded on March 19, 2006,
“You do not have to rescue Planet Earth! However, there is a karmic energy within many of your peoples which comes from actions in other lifetimes which resulted in making third-density environments uninhabitable. Therefore, the karma is involved in the restitution and stewardship of Planet Earth. And there are many people among your tribes all over the globe who feel a tremendous love for the planet itself and a desire to heal it. We would encourage this line of thinking, for truly all is one and your planet is a part of you.
“As you move into the future, realize that part of your job has to do with radiating the love and light of the infinite Creator. And another part of it may well have to do with working with whatever energies that are about you in your natural, everyday environment, to attempt to become better stewards of that which is around you.
“What is your environment? How can you interact with it lovingly? How can you create islands of peace and joy so that when you enter the door to your home you are entering a sacred place? If you perceive the Earth as a sacred place, what shall you do to clear the moneylenders out of the temple? We leave this to your consideration.”
I open my arms and embrace your spirit! Let us feel the inspiration to be better stewards of the Earth! Let us create our homes as sacred places! Let us follow Rocky in finding ways to make a difference by our caring acts and our loving thoughts!