“It was the best of times, it was the worst of times…”
That about sums up 2014, though ours is a tale of one city with many interesting characters, dynamic civic uprising, opposing extremes — and possibly the start of a revolution. I reached out to a handful of environmental nonprofits to ask about their best and worst of times in 2014. Here’s my abbreviated recap.
In less than one year, IPL announced that they would convert the last coal-burning unit at the Harding Street power plant to natural gas by 2016, reducing harmful pollutants in our air and water (hooray!) and our trusted legislators decided to terminate the Energizing Indiana program and eliminate required energy savings goals for private power companies (what the dickens?).
It was a spring of hope. Legislators set a statewide target of reaching a 50% recycling rate with new, more comprehensive data reporting requirements by recyclers.
It was a fall of despair. A couple months later, we learned of the city of Indianapolis’ plan to sign a long-term “recycling” contract with the company that makes money from burning our garbage.
Lawmakers agreed to allow Central Indiana voters to decide if an improved mass transit system is worth a modest tax increase. Meanwhile, we witnessed major environmental disasters in nearby states, including pollution of drinking water for 300,000 West Virginia’s due to a chemical storage leak, the second largest coal ash disaster in US history in North Carolina, and Toledo’s contamination of drinking water from toxic algal bloom from farm run-off – all issues that could easily happen in Indiana without safeguards in place to protect our air, land and water.
It was the age of wisdom. Young Hoosiers, wise beyond their years, who are concerned about climate change are finding their voice and becoming activists. Twice this year, kids from Youth Power Indiana spoke before the Environmental Rules Board to advocate for a hearing regarding a Climate Action Plan for Indiana. These kids are an inspiration and give me hope.
It was the age of foolishness. Sadly, both times the Board failed to take action as they don’t feel they have authority over such matters. They went so far as to call the petition “devoid of merit”. Note: all of our neighbors – Illinois, Kentucky, Michigan and Ohio – have Climate Action Plans.
There was one positive theme among my green comrades, though. These are the people who are leading environmental efforts in Indiana and, if they have faith, then so do I.
“There is a collective movement building in Indiana unlike any I’ve seen in my time.” - Kerwin Olson, Citizens Action Coalition
“Sustainability is being embraced more widely and deeply in Indiana than ever: Kids are testifying on climate change science before government bodies. Congregations are installing solar panels at their places of worship. Mayors are enthusiastically backing bike trails and mass transit. Urban social entrepreneurs are growing organics and installing rain barrels in blighted areas.” - Jesse Kharbanda, Hoosier Environmental Council
“There is so much good work going on in our state, by so many good people, it is crazy inspiring. Let 2015 be the year YOU get engaged. There are numerous groups to join and help out, depending on your talents and interests. There is no more interesting time to be alive than now, as we bear witness to this global scale unraveling, with the opportunity to serve younger generations with a radical re-engineering of the consume-and-waste paradigm that was making us miserable anyway.” - Jim Poyser, Earth Charter Indiana