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Opinion: Our community is strong enough to address climate change
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As a resident of Gainesville-Hall County, I am continually impressed with and often proud of my community. Surveying the current state of our society, I can’t help thinking that we are poised to lead the pursuit of a better world. I’m certainly not the first Gainesvillian to consider what this would look like, but I want to offer my two cents in favor of a bold vision.  

Sure we often disagree with our neighbors, friends and even family on current issues, but if we set aside Facebook, Twitter and party affiliations, I see a strong set of common values here: moral commitment to the well-being of fellow residents, desire to preserve our home environment and optimism regarding the potential of this region. 

Over the past three years, I’ve witnessed many inspiring actions. Churches overcome doctrinal differences to address local needs systematically. Charitable organizations and social services join forces to aid struggling families. Riverkeepers, nature center staff and local environmental groups collaborate to protect Lake Lanier, local rivers and our native landscape. Local government works with our universities, industries, businesses and city planners to keep the economy healthy. School systems labor tirelessly to cultivate healthy, intelligent, responsible young people. Our medical industry and philanthropies partner to improve health care. And police dialogue earnestly with citizens to improve relationships and protect residents, regardless of color or creed. 

To capitalize on this momentum, I propose a bold next step: A model that integrates these efforts and boosts the benefits exponentially, offering an example for other Georgia cities and counties and the nation at large.  

The goal is ambitious, but will that stop us from forging ahead with courage and creativity? In The Green New Deal and Beyond, Stan Cox argues that we can count on neither Republicans nor Democrats to do what is needed to salvage the world we love. He draws clear connections between social injustice, health, economic policy and our current climate change crisis. The people with “more” create the greatest volume of CO2 emissions, and the repercussions weigh most heavily on the poor.  

Whether or not you believe that climate change is dire, we can all see that the tide is changing and that failure to look ahead will result in negative impact to our region. We could put our best minds on this complex plan and pursue a future of social, economic and environmental justice.  

Let’s not fall back on the old adage, “It will hurt the economy,” as an excuse to keep doing what we’ve “always done.” If change is coming, shouldn’t we plan for and benefit from it rather than reacting as it is thrown at us? The best defense is a good offense, right?  

Hall County is well-endowed with smart and creative people — let’s put them to work on this! And let’s make sure that all our micro-communities are involved in the planning so we can benefit from their talents and perspectives. A resilient, comprehensive, long-range vision depends upon it. 

Tanya Bennett 

Gainesville 

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