Look homeward, angels

If the last seven years have shown us anything, it’s that the antics of our federal “leaders” can distract us—media, citizens, voters, volunteers—from involvement in the local actions that really can make a difference in our communities.

It’s been said that all politics is local, but when you get right down to it, really, only local politics is local. We can decry the coal-fired power plants in China, but as long as we’re driving low-mpg SUVs in Reno, we are not standing on moral high ground (not that certain state-level “leaders” wouldn’t be perfectly happy to build a few more coal-fired power plants right here in Nevada).

Last week, this newspaper offered a special report on how the world had changed since the Kyoto Protocol was approved 10 years ago by most of the civilized, industrialized countries in the world, but frankly, the distance at which these decisions are being made leaves many Nevadans feeling disconnected and impotent, particularly as we watch plastic grocery bags blow down the street or flutter in the wind, suspended like eternal flags by winter’s bare tree branches.

There are so many opportunities around us to help save the planet, but as we wait for our “leaders” to save us at the latest global warming conference in Bali, we fail to act locally.

Who says there has to be a street light on every corner? Our savings in taxes and carbon impact and light pollution boggles the mind if we just eliminated half the street lights.

And yes, maybe we could do with a third fewer traffic lights. Wouldn’t a four-way stop sign sometimes accomplish the same traffic-calming affect as an electric light? Wouldn’t fewer lights be easier to synchronize, which would further decrease the belching of carbon dioxide? And what’s with the left-hand-arrow stop that requires turning traffic to idle even when there’s no oncoming traffic? It’s bad enough that vehicles emit ton after ton of global warming gases when they’re moving about, it seems almost criminal to contribute to the death of polar bears in the north seas while sitting at a red arrow here in Reno.

And why in the world should we be concerned about the death of rainforests in South America when we can’t even create commuter bicycle paths or pass laws in Northern Nevada to make it safe for human-powered traffic to travel on our roads?

But we’ll talk all day long about how King George didn’t ratify the Kyoto Protocol or how the Shrub subsidizes the oil companies or how Dubya wants to attack Iran and never lift a finger to help stop construction of a new city at Spring Mountain at Winnemucca Ranch. It’s kind of like getting all heated up about the destruction of CIA tapes of harsh interrogations but turning a blind eye to the fact that our government is torturing prisoners.

We’ve got to make sure our own houses are in order before we go traveling thousands of miles away to clean out George Bush’s and Dick Cheney’s and Harry Reid’s garages. It has become very clear that our national “leaders” do not want the same things for our children and our world that we do, and while we are distracted by the insane actions of remote power brokers 3,000 miles away, we are leaving the lights burning in City Hall to simulate a Christmas tree.