We cannot become what we want by remaining what we are.
— Max De Pree
In the last post in my series on the environment and what you can do to help, we talked about the need to push for change at the municipal level. Today, we’ll kick it up a notch and focus on regional government.
Depending on where you live, that could be your state, your province, your county, your canton, prefecture, etc. For the sake of simplicity, let’s consider this any level of government between municipal and national/federal.
These governments aren’t quite as monolithic and hard to budge as the national governments can be, yet they quite often have really big budgets and mandates to deal with environmental issues.
What should you press for at the regional level? Here are some suggestions:
- The preservation of, the expansion of, and/or the creation of conservation areas, parks, or “green belts” (areas not made into parks but that are theoretically off limits to development).
- Subsidies for the development and installation of green economy infrastructure. This could include incentives to buy cars that aren’t powered by internal combustion engines, setting up charger networks, or providing incentives to homeowners for conservation and power generation.
- How is power generated in your region? Is it green or something like coal? What are the regulations regarding ‘going off the grid?’ Is it possible to sell power generated at home? Each one of these could be it’s own grassroots campaign.
- How do your waterways look? Are they clean? Which authority is responsible for them? Is there a plan to fix problems like phosphorus runoff from farms, or pollution from factories and municipalities? Who’s tapping into the water supply and are they paying a fair price to do so? (All that bottled water we drink? It’s purchased off municipal or state water systems for pennies and sold to us for dollars – and encased in plastic to boot!)
- How well do your public transportation networks link up? Is it possible to travel everywhere in your region through public transit? If not, could it be possible?
As with municipal-level issues, pick one to advocate for. You’re more likely to run into issues with multiple governing bodies here, so take the time to research who is responsible for what before you start taking action.
How to Take Action
There are three ways you can take action at the regional government level.
- Find out who else might be making noise about your preferred issue already. Chances are, given that you’re looking at the regional level, that there’s some sort of advocacy group or non-governmental organization (NGO) already involved. Then join it, and commit some volunteer hours to making it succeed.
- It might be the case that there isn’t an organization already, or no local chapter. Guess who could start one? You!
- You can make your views known to your regional representative. A phone call might be more effective here, as regional reps get a lot of email. You could even go old school and send a paper letter by post.
- Don’t forget the option of running for office here too. Obviously, this is going to take more money and effort than it would at the municipal level, so it might not be an option for you. But you could also consider…
- Joining a regional-level political party. Candidates and elected officials don’t come up with policy on their own; they’re just the public face of the party in their area. You can be one of the ‘behind-the-scenes’ people, pushing for policies at the party level between elections, keeping party members organized, helping to select candidates or delegates within the party that align with your issues, and helping to get your preferred candidate elected when the time comes. We talk a lot about how much money goes into political campaigns, but tens of thousands of hours of volunteer labour is also required. What could you contribute?
What issue would you tackle at the regional level? Comment below.