A New Year’s resolution you can actually keep

As the New Year arrives, many of us make resolutions about what we promise ourselves we will do differently in the coming 12 months. Most often our resolutions involve personal improvement or growth: lose weight, exercise more, get organized, maybe learn a new skill or a foreign language.

Almost any personal resolution you actually keep can be a good thing, and might indeed make you a happier or better person.

But experience shows that most resolutions are broken or even totally forgotten within a month or two. Then we rationalize that, well, we’ll just do better next year. After all, once we stop exercising it becomes very difficult to start again, so we might as well wait until next January to give it yet another try.

But what if there is another type of resolution you can make and actually keep? A resolution that you can start at any time throughout the year, that will require no personal sacrifice, and will lead not just to a better you, but also to a better world.

Turns out there is: Simply resolve that you will ask every public office-holder, and every candidate for every office, at every level, if he or she accepts the science behind climate change and global warming. That’s it: just ask this one question of every candidate, at every level, at every opportunity you have.

Understanding and responding to climate change starts in our hometowns. The local actions we and our local elected officials take will drive our response to this current and future crisis. If each of us makes and keeps this resolution we will speed the discussions and decisions necessary to do our part to address the frighteningly real consequences of climate change. The future will thank you.

Each year countless local municipal council members and mayors are elected. Each and every one of these candidates should be asked again and again if they accept the science of climate change. Local decisions they make on land-use, energy, water management, and much more all depend on it.

Across the country local decisionmakers are now showing that they do, indeed, “get it.” Thousands of cities, municipalities, colleges and universities are actively and proudly demonstrating their understanding of the realities of climate change by committing to reduce or eliminate heat-trapping greenhouse gas pollution and obtain their power from renewable sources. But more must come on board, as fast as possible.

So, you can keep this New Year’s resolution right where you live and make a real difference. But you can also aim higher.

There are 7,383 state legislative seats in the U.S. Next November 6,066 of these seats, 82 percent of the total state legislative seats in the country, are up for election. And most of the candidates for these offices will face primary elections, often in the spring. In addition, of course, the entire U.S. House of Representatives, all 435 members, and 33 of our 100 U.S. Senators seats are up for election in 2018.

Soon candidates at every level will be knocking on your door, engaging in candidate nights and forums, holding town hall meetings, asking for your contributions of time and money, and, of course, asking for your vote. You will have constant opportunities to ask every candidate at every level about their acceptance of the science explaining climate change. Nothing is more important and nothing is more bipartisan. Simply resolve to ask every candidate at every opportunity.

You can make this resolution and keep it by acting locally, regionally, and state-wide any time throughout the year.

Anne Frank wrote: “How wonderful it is that nobody need wait a single moment before starting to improve the world.” By making and keeping this one resolution each of us has the power and the opportunity to do just that.

Psychologists say we have a better chance of keeping our resolutions if we make them meaningful and reasonable.

Yes, resolve to lose weight, take a daily walk, and learn something new. And also resolve to ask all candidates at every level at every opportunity about their acceptance of climate science. It’s a meaningful, reasonable and important resolution we all can make, and keep.

Bob Potter, of Boalsburg, is a member of The Climate Reality Project.