A light of hope for our planet, however small, was snuffed out one night last week by a $4 per month charge.
For two years, Oak Park was a model of success for sustainable, non-polluting energy. In 2012, Oak Park residents, by virtue of their village trustees, adopted an Illinois Community Choice Aggregation program for the purchase of 100% renewable electric energy.
According to the U.S. Environmental Protection Agency's website, Oak Park became "the first municipality in Illinois and possibly the nation to choose an all-green power portfolio standard for its residents and small business operators. … One of the biggest benefits accrued to the village of Oak Park through its aggregation program was a sense of community pride not only for committing to a purchase of 100 percent local wind renewable energy certificates (RECs) that will reduce local emissions by 171,000 metric tons of CO2 per year but also for leading hundreds of other municipalities to start aggregation programs, many of whom also requested rates for 100 percent renewable energy portfolios."
Dear reader, please note: "One of the biggest benefits … was a sense of community pride." Yes! Community pride!
But last week that pride turned, for me, to shame, as the village board decided against purchasing 100% renewable electric energy for electricity generated from coal-fired plants.
We all know that world-wide burning of coal and oil (fossil fuels) is causing the crisis of global warming. If this warming continues at the current rate, scientists predict the collapse of ice sheets, a rapid rise in sea levels, difficulty growing enough food, massive die-offs of forests, and mass extinctions of plant and animal species. And that rise in sea levels and problems growing enough food will affect the poor who are not the cause of the warming and are least able to deal with its effects.
So, Oak Parkers, as we drop the muffin into the toaster, turn on our massive TV with surround-sound, and light and air-condition our ample houses and condos, we can think about how we are contributing to warming the planet.
According to a report of the meeting, the village board decided that an average increase of $4 a month for 100% green energy would not be acceptable to you and me. You and me who have so much!
In order to make the big changes that are needed to stop global warming, communities, cities, states and nations must act. Individual acts alone are not enough.
That is why two years ago, Oak Park was the little light of hope. It was until that one night last week! Now with that little light gone, I, for one, feel covered by a cloud of despair.
If a thinking community like Oak Park cannot make even a small sacrifice to help avoid planetary warming, then what are we as moral human beings?