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No Paris Climate Accord for U.S? Make Your Own

The Paris Climate Agreement, aimed at keeping global temperatures from rising more than 2% by 2020, has been signed by 195 nations. But when President Trump withdrew the U.S. from the agreement last year, it left some people feeling powerless.  So they decided to take matters into their own hands.   

A small town, non-profit in the Blue Ridge mountains is making the political personal.  It created what it calls a Personal Climate Pledge. And anyone can download a copy of it for free.  By signing it, you commit to reducing your own climate footprint 20 per cent by the year 2020.

Fred First is on the board of Sustain Floyd. “This seemed like an opportunity for us to do so something. A small out of the way community could have a regional and possibly, a national impact.”

“If you look at our mission we’re very much an agriculture-based economy here and that depends on keeping the climate at some kind of predictable level. And we’re all convinced, those of us on the executive committee-- that we have a vanishing opportunity to prevent  climate chaos in the future.“

U.S. Senator from Virginia, Tim Kaine, with Woody Crenshaw of 'Sustain Floyd.' Crenshaw came up with idea for the Personal Climate Pledge after the U.S. pulled out of the Paris Climate Accord.

But can a small town really do anything to affect something as huge as global climate change.   Alison Wroblewski says, it’s the little things that add up. “For example, I personally found some LED Christmas lights for a very a steep discount and those are what I’m going to be using next year.”

Wroblewski handles social media for Sustain Floyd. “So that’s the kind of thing that we’re trying to publish on Facebook to give other people inspiration on how they can also reduce by 20%.”

The strategies people are sharing are simple, perhaps things you’ve already heard of but maybe haven’t made an extra effort to do lately. “With a lot of people in the area using wood stoves to heat their homes," Wroblewski notes, "putting the drying rack brings more humidity into your home, which it may be drying out with a woodstove. And it also reduces the energy of using your dryer. So that was something that was fun to hear.”

So the personal climate pledge is like a reminder you tack on your refrigerator, in fact that’s exactly what it is. You can choose to download free a copy of the pledge from their website and you’ll also get you a magnet to put on your fridge, or if you decide to donate to the Sustain Floyd, you’ll get an original framed print you can sign. It’s a painting of a well-loved tree in town known as the Floyd Maple.

Fred First says the tree is “an old wizened, beautiful maple tree that has lived for a long time, it’s going to live a long time in the future.  It speaks of continuity.”

Julia Bollinger is the artist who made the personal pledge painting. She finds that when she draws something like a tree and then encounter it again, in nature. "I feel like (I’m) seeing a friend.  I hope that some of that magic I experience when I draw something comes across and that, that makes people give pause to think about our connection to nature.”

Bolinger recently moved to Floyd.  She and her fiancé  built a small cabin on an old, family, tree-farm that they’re transforming into a sustainable garden.  They’re already doing a lot to lighten their carbon footprints. “There’s always (more) things you can do which is why this pledge is so appealing. It brings back personal responsibility and is a reminder that you have the ability to affect change no matter what your living situation is.”

It’s not only a reminder to keep a thought for the environment, Bollinger says, it’s also a message to the powers that be. “It’s taking some of that power back and not feeling so helpless.”

Its creators say their Personal Climate Pledge is not something for their town only.  They hope others will join in. If your, town, city, state or country hasn’t adopted the world’s climate change accord, you can always make your own.

Robbie Harris is based in Blacksburg, covering the New River Valley and southwestern Virginia.