Civic Engagement: A Messy Start to a Clear Resolution

Wednesday, 02 September 2009 14:38 Alice Leung
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I attended the first Boston Climate Action Community Advisory Committee (CAC) meeting yesterday. The City of Boston had put together a Climate Action Leadership Committee in March, 2009 to assess the risks of climate change in Boston and provide recommendations on how the city and community can work together to mitigate and adapt to the effects of climate change.  The CAC represents residents, businesses, organizations and other concerned stakeholders in Boston.  Our role is to make sure that the concerns and ideas of Boston’s diverse communities are heard and considered in the City’s process to update the Boston Climate Action Plan.

There were close to 40 participants at the meeting yesterday and the diversity of the participants was outstanding.  People are doing work in environmental justice, energy efficiency, urban agriculture (!), community organizing and development, real estate, green jobs creation, arts, conservation efforts, etc.  While everyone was concerned and passionate about how we can make a difference and want to take steps to change our future, we did not share the same experiences, expectations or outlooks.  While one person in the room saw more biking, recycling and general awareness in her neighborhood, another person doesn’t even have recycling bins in her building.

One thing was for sure: there is no one-size-fits-all approach to create an effective Action Plan that meets the needs of Boston.  My take-away:  We need to look at the past to inform our future.  I do think we have a good start. We need to now dig, dig deep to see where our communities are at, why and how they got there, create a shared vision of our future, and work with them to figure out how to reach that.  It will be messy and complex-the way it should be.   The process of sorting through the mess will help us understand the “why nots” and “hows” in order to develop the broad-based strategies we need to launch the city-wide effort. That, in my book, is civic engagement.