On a cold Monday night a couple weeks ago, a group of stalwarts gathered at the Hudson Opera House for a meeting organized by Sustainable Hudson Valley (SHV). The purpose of the meeting, as SHV Executive Director Melissa Everett defined it, was to "sound an alarm about climate change" and "seed an idea."
It was a meeting in two parts. In the first part, Barbara Ettinger and Sven Huseby, creators of the film A Sea Change (and, of course, Two Square Miles), talked about their experiences in Copenhagen at COP15. What I found most compelling (and, as a "gossip" instead of a reporter, I get to use the first-person singular) was not what they had to say about the conference but what they said about the experience of being in Copenhagen.
More than thirty years ago, as a consequence of the 1973 oil embargo, Denmark, after a three-year debate, made the commitment to sustainability. Today, Copenhagen is the model of sustainability. Ettinger talked about the preserved architecture of Copenhagen and about the bicycles of Copenhagen. Fifty-five percent of the people in Copenhagen cycle to and from work--and that includes tradespeople, such as electricians and plumbers, who carry their equipment on specially designed tricycles that have the two wheels in the front and the single wheel (and the steering mechanism) in the back. The design creates "cargo space" in front. For plumbers and electricians, this space is used for tools and supplies. For others, it's used for groceries, children, and/or dogs. Ettinger told how when it snows--as it did while they were there--the snow plows clear the bike lanes before they clear the roadways for cars. Sounds good to me.
In the second part of the meeting, Michael O'Hara, Director of Operations for SHV, held out the possibility of Hudson becoming a little Copenhagen. He proposed that Hudson accept the challenge of "10 Percent in 2010"--that is, that there be a concentrated campaign in Hudson to reduce carbon emissions--both individual and municipal--by 10 percent in the next year. O'Hara clued the audience in to Earth Aid, an online service that lets you track your energy usage. He also told about Bedford, NY, where the municipality took a bond to create a fund for energy-reduction improvements. Individual property owners could borrow from the fund to finance the installation of solar panels, individual wind turbines, or whatever, and their repayment would become part of their property taxes. The enabling legislation for such programs has already been passed by the New York State legislature.
On the municipal level, the idea was that the City of Hudson make a commitment to reducing its energy consumption by 10 percent in 2010. In pursuit of this, O'Hara was going to make a presentation to the Hudson Democratic Committee the next night. Hudson is, after all, controlled by Democrats. The mayor, the treasurer, the Common Council president, and nine of the ten members of the Common Council are Democrats--albeit Democrats of very different stripes.
The word is that meeting was very successful. Common Council President Don Moore reported that "the buzz is growing and looks genuine." Victor Mendolia, chair of the Hudson Democratic Commmittee, reported that Hudson elected officials had an informational meeting today--January 25--at Solaqua to learn about the requirements for Energy Efficiency Block Grants (part of the federal stimulus package) and to talk about which city buildings might be good candidates for the grant. The deadline for applying for Energy Efficiency Block Grants is February 17.