Here in Oak Park, it can feel like we are insulated from the worst effects of climate change. Huge hurricanes, massive flooding, and horrible heat waves, all intensified by the energy of a warming planet, can seem like someone else’s problem. And even when we confront the fact that we will see these same effects in the future, we wonder what we can do. Some of us take personal steps — taking public transportation more often, flying less, eating a more plant-centered diet — and while important, these steps are drops in the bucket. What could we do that would make a difference? 

At the Feb. 18 Oak Park Village Board meeting, the trustees did something that made a difference. They approved a proclamation in support of the Energy Innovation & Carbon Dividend Act. This national legislation would charge energy companies a fee for fossil fuels as they extract the fuels from the ground, and this fee would rise every year. This steadily rising fee would encourage companies and consumers to search for low- and zero-carbon energy sources. 

At the same time, the policy would distribute all fees collected back to American families, which would defray increased costs for families, especially those in the low- and middle-income brackets. Studies have shown that this policy would reduce carbon emissions by 40% in the first 10 years and 90% over 30 years.

The village board’s endorsement makes a case to our federal representatives and senators that this issue is important to our community and that this legislation is part of the solution. I’d like to thank the trustees for coming together to support this important policy. Among all their responsibilities as local elected officials, they found the time to discuss and learn about this legislation and have given it the weight of their approval.

What now? I volunteer with the organization Citizens Climate Lobby to advocate for this bill, and we will continue to seek local endorsements from officials and newspapers, while also advocating that our federal legislators support the bill. If you want to join that effort, you can find out more at citizensclimatelobby.org. You can also find more information about the Energy Innovation Act at energyinnovationact.org. 

Climate change is a massive problem, and there must be many facets to our solution. Our individual choices are important and so are our collective commitments and actions. I thank the Oak Park trustees again for supporting the Energy Innovation Act as part of this collective effort, and I invite you to do the same.

Jim Schwartz is an Oak Park resident, an educator, and a blogger at Entwining.org.

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