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Saving world, one bulb at a time

Fri., April 13, 2007

Over the past few months, about 100 people across North Idaho have been meeting to do something about climate change and, they hope, help prevent a global catastrophe.

The consequences of global warming won’t be solved from Sandpoint or Coeur d’Alene, but members of the Climate Change Action Network say there’s no way the problem will be dealt with unless every community in the United States pitches in.

“We’re scared about it,” said Tammy Powell, with the Sandpoint-based coalition. “Just being a parent and knowing about the potential consequences of doing nothing scares me. We can’t do nothing.”

The group has recently spread to Coeur d’Alene – in part because driving from Coeur d’Alene to Sandpoint to attend meetings released greenhouse gases. The expansion also was the result of an upsurge of interest and a growing frustration over the lack of action in Washington, D.C., said Bill Irving, of Coeur d’Alene.

“It’s got to be top down and bottom up,” Irving said. “We’re doing the bottom up.”

The flurry of activity in North Idaho hasn’t gone unnoticed in Spokane. Leaders of the city’s environmental community are organizing a climate change group to harness the energy of city residents anxious over the issue.

“It’s great to see stuff happening in Idaho,” said Mike Petersen, executive director of The Lands Council in Spokane. “I’d say we’re a little bit behind Idaho, but we’re going to catch up.”

Petersen said he was surprised by the amount of interest shown in Spokane in recent days over organizing a rally Saturday – part of a national effort to urge politicians to cut greenhouse gas emissions. Rallies are planned in at least 1,300 U.S. cities, including Sandpoint, Coeur d’Alene, Cheney and Moscow.

“I’ve got more people calling and e-mailing about this than anything I can think of,” Petersen said. “I think there’s an unusual amount of interest beyond the usual choir.”

Author Bill McKibben in January helped launch the idea for hosting smaller rallies instead of a single, massive one in Washington, D.C. “We didn’t want people crossing the country spewing carbon behind them,” McKibben said.

The rallies will probably be more effective at persuading policymakers to act, McKibben said. “We need to have representatives and senators understand that their constituents in all parts of their districts care about this.”

The North Idaho groups say their focus extends well beyond a single afternoon’s activities.

Powell, of Sandpoint, said the Climate Change Action Network is lobbying politicians to adopt renewable and sustainable sources of energy, including wind turbines on ridges above Sandpoint, boosting mass transit and educating residents on the benefits of swapping incandescent light bulbs for fluorescent ones.

Irving said many continue to reject the growing evidence that humans are changing the planet’s climate, but few in Coeur d’Alene deny that nights are warmer, spring comes earlier and there’s less snow to shovel in winter. “Are we in Coeur d’Alene going to turn this around by ourselves? No. But I do think the most important thing is to engage people in the discussion.”

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