Sustainability means meeting the needs of the present without compromising the ability of future generations to meet their own needs. Given the current state of climate change, environmental degradation, and biodiversity loss, it is imperative that human societies achieve environmental sustainability. We are all challenged to embrace sustainable living, whether planning new development or our day-to-day activities.
One way to measure whether societies are living within the means of nature is the “Ecological Footprint.” An Ecological Footprint of less than 1.6 global hectares per person means the resource demand is currently in balance. People in the United States use the productive capacity of 8 global hectares per person, one of the highest per capita rates in the world. Another way to look at sustainability is through the number of earths that are required to support humanity if everyone had that ecological footprint. An astonishing 5 earths would be required if everyone on the planet lived like the typical American. Clearly, we cannot keep going like this.
Living sustainably means consuming less, switching from fossil fuels to renewable energy, and considering the environmental impact of our lifestyle choices, from eating less meat to walking or biking rather than driving. Living sustainably will also reduce greenhouse gas emissions, which are perilously close to throwing human societies into an unlivable future.
At the local level, we track some of our sustainability efforts through a communitywide greenhouse gas inventory that we produce annually with the help of the Marin Climate & Energy Partnership. Our most recent inventory (linked in the sidebar), which quantified emissions for calendar year 2019, reports that the Tiburon community has reduced emissions 27% since 2005. Much of this progress was achieved by greening our electricity and improving the fuel efficiency of vehicles.
We still have a long way to go if Tiburon is to meet the State’s longer term greenhouse gas emission reduction targets. The Town recently released a draft Climate Action Plan (also linked in the sidebar) that lays out a path to meeting the State’s 2030 goal, which is 40% below 1990 levels. Ultimately, the State is targeting an 80% reduction by 2050 and carbon neutrality – which takes into account actions to sequester carbon dioxide – by 2045.
Our workshop on January 25th explored how the General Plan can help achieve the community’s sustainability goals. We also reviewed the draft Climate Action Plan and gathered community feedback on the Plan.