Globally, coal is on the way out and in America small towns are suffering because coal demand is dropping. The predictable plight of coal-backed small towns in the USA has some politicians trying to bailout the coal industry in order to protect jobs, which is obviously the wrong approach. Instead, what those backwards-looking politicians should do is look at Tonawanda, New York.
Tonawnada had a coal power plant that recently shutdown due to lack of demand. The community was going to be hurt by the closing with lost jobs and tax revenue. Instead of bailing out the power plant they provided a plan to transition to a post-coal economy – and it’s working!
“Instead of spending millions on propping up coal plants,” Schlissel says, “we need to spend money to help communities make an economic transition.”
The Huntley Alliance took its cues from other communities forced to evolve beyond heavy industry. Members traveled as close as Appalachia and as far as Germany, where they were amazed to witness how the German government funded worker retraining programs and recycled old production plants, as renewables supplanted fossil fuels.
Even the tiniest of towns can do good things for the environment and contribute to global efforts to fighting climate change. We usually cover big cities and their efforts of improving their relationship with the natural environment, so it’s worth looking at the other end of the scale. We’ve looked at a zero-waste town in Japan, a town banning bottled water, and way back in 2007 we looked at a town banning smoking around kids and another that was Europe’s first town to ban plastic bags. This all proves that no matter where you live you can make the world a better place and maybe you can get inspired by these villages.
Grist has collected recent examples of small towns making big change. Here’s one that decided to fight apathy:
Ashton Hayes, a small town in the British countryside, set out to be the country’s first carbon-neutral community in 2006. But instead of using policy to regulate emissions, the community-led initiative focused on changing residents’ behavior. The townspeople strung up clotheslines, took fewer flights, and improved the insulation in their homes, shrinking their total carbon footprint by 40 percent so far.
Garry Charnook, the villager who jumpstarted the town’s low-carbon quest, told the New York Times: “There’s so much apathy. We need to squeeze that layer of apathy jelly and get it out.” About 200 towns, cities, and counties from around the globe have reached out to the Ashton Hayes community to learn how, exactly, they squeezed their “apathy jelly” (what is that — a dessert?) and got to work.
Read about more towns making change.
In what is probably a first for our planet, a small town in Australia has banned the selling of bottled water. This is absolutely fantastic to see because bottle water is an asinine idea for the developed world. Most bottled water comes form the same source as municipal tap water then shipped around via fuel-burning vehicles.
Bottle water is a fantastic model of inefficiency so it’s good to see this news coming out of Australia
“Every bottle today was taken off the shelf and out of the fridges so you can only now buy refillable bottles in shops in Bundanoon,” Dee told AFP.
The tiny town, two hours south of Sydney, voted in July to ban bottled water after a drinks company moved to tap into a local aquifer for its bottled water business.
“In the process of the campaign against that the local people became educated about the environmental impact of bottled water,” said Dee.
“A local retailer came up with this idea of well why don’t we do something about that and actually stop selling the bottled water and it got a favourable reaction,” he said.
Dee said the 2,000-person town had made international headlines with their bid, which he hoped would spur communities across the world to action.