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Mayor's Presentation on Climate Change

by Worldchanging Austin local blogger, GFoster:

Will Wynn, the Mayor of Austin, publicly presented his homegrown adaptation of Al Gore's "An Inconvenient Truth" slideshow for the first time on Thursday May 31st to an audience in City Council Chambers. This was the first of many presentations Mayor Wynn is scheduled to make as one of 1,000 citizens trained by Mr. Gore's Climate Project. The Mayor's presentation includes graphics, information, and rhetorical styles drawn directly from the hard-earned successes of Mr. Gore's internationally-honed presentation.

Photograph of the Frost Bank Tower by Wylie Maercklein
The Frost Bank Tower by Wylie Maercklein

Wynn is able to poignantly bring the realities of climate change disconcertingly close to home with examples drawn from the everyday city environment. While talking about an image taken from the International Space Station which shows the troposphere as the merest thin protective shield about our planet, Wynn says, "...it's only twelve miles from here where I'm standing straight up to the top of the sky. That's from here to the Arboretum." Or again, when helping his audience visualize the massive height of the (now collapsed) Larsen B ice shelf: "...as tall and half again as the Frost Bank Tower."

Wynn draws upon the audience's still tender experiences of the Hurricane Katrina disaster to reinforce the importance of listening to the warnings of the scientific community. He is persuasive when he points out that scientists were not heeded when they specifically warned that the New Orleans levees would not withstand a category three hurricane. After thus establishing the credibility of the scientific establishment in matters of weather prediction and disaster avoidance, Wynn draws out his point that the scientific community now stands in unanimous agreement about climate change: "...there is NO peer reviewed study which debates the reality of global warming. There may be religious debate, there may be political debate, or there may be bullsh*t debate."

The need for action has not been lost on the Mayor of the City of Austin.

Wynn spent a comparatively small amount of time on the still liquid details of the Austin Climate Protection Plan, though his enthusiasm for the Plan was apparent. The Mayor recognizes a unique confluence of cross-interest political will, primed economic factors, and an absence of leadership; this opens a window of opportunity to shift Austin into a position of national and international municipal leadership, embracing local responsibility for the global challenges of climate change. Wynn outlined eight points to show the time is right:

  1. Austin is the capitol of the worst carbon emissions polluting state in the worst carbon emissions polluting nation on the planet. Although it might seem counterintuitive, there is great potential for leadership after being saddled with such an unlucky designation. Some might even say there is a moral obligation.
  2. The city owns its energy utility. The city and utility can thus act in a more agile, concerted fashion to implement radical change.
  3. Austin is the fastest growing metropolitan economy in the nation (4.1% growth last year).
  4. Austin has one of the fastest growing metropolitan populations in the nation.

  5. (I will leave this point as an exercise for the reader to discover!)

  6. The Mayor is uniquely positioned as the Chair of the U.S. Conference of Mayors Energy Committee [pdf]; he is gaining an international reputation as a leader in shaping the power of local municipalities to take responsibility for their contributions to global warming.

  7. Austin is an international technology hub. With the potential for new fortunes to be made in Clean Tech, Austin has the technological and intellectual infrastructure to become a leader in the new wave of innovative global warming solutions.

  8. Last and most certainly not least, Austin's environmentally conscious citizenry is ready and eager to support concerted action for change.


Although much of the material Wynn presents will be familiar to those who have witnessed Al Gore's "Inconvenient Truth" (particularly the lengthy sequence on the collapse of the Larsen B ice shelf), it may be worthwhile to bear in mind the diverse audience the Mayor's presentation is intended to reach and the long-term goals of his presentation. If you are already part of the choir, now is a good time to harmonize in chorus (albeit while asking very tough questions about the implementation realities of the Plan). Mayor Will Wynn cannot take credit for the long-term work of the many environmental advocates who have made Austin a leading green city, but he is certainly up to the task of helping take things to a new level: Austin can become an international example for what a committed municipality can do in this great work before us.

If you cannot make one of the public presentations listed below, the video recording of the May 31st presentation will be available in the Austin History Center for viewing or copying by Wednesday June 6th.

The Austin Climate Protection Plan
http://www.ci.austin.tx.us/council/downloads/mw_acpp_points.pdf

Presentation at the Alamo Drafthouse Downtown, June 10th 4pm & 7pm.
http://www.originalalamo.com/Show.aspx?id=4640

Presentation at the Frank Erwin Center, June 12th 6-8pm. RSVP required by June 4th.
http://txgreens.org/drupal/node/76


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