We Can Be Our Own Paris Agreement

The environment doesn’t care about politics.

That doesn’t mean politics doesn’t affect the environment. We know it does. And many Chattanoogans are troubled by the environmental policies the federal government is currently implementing and advocating.

But whatever humans decide to do, the environment will respond based on the laws of nature, not on the politics of the decision, or the political party of the decision makers.

That’s why it’s so important that we continue to find ways to protect our natural resources even when politics seems to get in the way.

Chattanooga has made so much progress in the last 40 years. You probably know the story: In 1969 the Environmental Protection Agency labeled Chattanooga “the dirtiest city in America.” Decades of manufacturing pollution had blackened our air and sickened our river. Manufacturing had put the city on the map, but pollution was about to wipe it back off.

Today, Chattanooga has clean air, a sparkling riverfront, and a reputation for environmental leadership. How did we get here? The will of the people, harnessing public and private resources, over multiple city and county administrations, Republican and Democrat, made it happen.

Just as “all politics is local,” local environmental action can have significant effects, even when national policy is inadequate or harmful. Several states and cities, including Chattanooga, have announced that they are still planning to pursue the targets set in the Paris Climate Agreement, even if the President has decided to pull the U.S. out.

So we can all be our own Paris Agreement. We can commit to protecting our environment with the actions within our control. We can recycle. We can participate in community solar programs. We can reduce our transportation footprint. We can support and participate in the numerous environmental organizations here in Chattanooga, from green│spaces, to the Sierra Club, to the Tennessee River Gorge Trust, to Name of Your Favorite Environmental Organization Here. We can be kind to our planet, and to each other. We can be George H.W. Bush’s thousand points of light while advocating for Barack Obama’s Clean Power Plan.

The best part is that by taking these actions we can help grow the local green economy that has been steadily emerging since the EPA’s 1969 wakeup call. And that helps everyone, no matter which political party we belong to, or political approach we favor.

- L. Bell