Washington (GGM) Analysis | October 16, 2021 by author and climate journalist Noreen Wise
From climate action landscaping to white roofs and solar panels, Americans are heeding the warning of the IPCC Report released on August 9, 2021 and jumping into action. Code Red for Humanity. We only have until 2030 to dramatically slow our current global warming trajectory of 4.4ºC above pre-industrial levels, and get it down to 1.5ºC.
System change is the way out of this nightmare. As we rush to apply the climate action tips we see on social media platforms and online webinars, we find themselves eventually getting all tangled up with our HOA. In fact, HOAs and its members have been battling over climate action in courts for years, with homeowners typically being on the losing side. That is, until recently. “The impacts of climate change have become clear to the person on the street,” explains Michael Mann, Distinguished Professor of Atmospheric Sciences, and Director, Earth System Science Center at Penn State, as well as one of the lead authors of the August 9, 2021 IPCC Report. HOAs now have their backs against the wall. They have to quickly decide between two options.
(1) Give it up and let their members rush forward with:
- solar panels
- no mow permaculture lawns filled with biodiversity
- pollinator gardens
- white or light roofs
- light colored driveways
(2) OR, continue with their hardline approach and decline most, if not all, requests to establish new breakthrough standards in order to create sustainable systems in the community.
Currently, the HOA system running through the bedrock of our local communities, has been exposed as one of the greatest barriers to keeping global warming below 1.5ºC, which is the goal of the 2015 Paris Agreement. With Biden recently announcing that we only have 10 years to turn things around, HOAs are now the obstacle to immediate action and have to accept the reality that they have no choice but to change the bylaws.
Heart of the matter. For more than 10,000 years, planet earth has fluctuated between +/- 1ºC. Under these stable conditions of reliable seasons and predictable weather patterns, humankind has prospered. Being at 1.2ºC, for the first time in the history of human civilization, we now find ourselves in uncharted territory. Predictions are difficult if not impossible. Weather patterns are very unreliable. We see how dangerous and deadly 1.2ºC is, and most humans instinctively know something has to give. The majority realize that the extreme weather events this past summer were absolutely dreadful and don’t want to find out how dangerous life above 1.2ºC might be.
According to HOA-USA, there are more than 370,000 HOAs in the United States that represent over 40 million households. If our current trajectory is 4.4ºC, which is technically uninhabitable, and we only have ten years to cut carbon emissions by 50 percent, we must move quickly to uproot the existing systems that have landed humans on the endangered species list.
Existing HOA landscape and roof color policies have been a major contributor to climate change.
States have begun passing laws that prevent HOAs from restricting homeowners from acting on climate:
- Virginia passed SB 504 Virginia Energy Plan in March 2020, limiting HOA restrictions on solar panels.
- Maryland passed HB 322 The Low-Impact Landscaping Legislation in May 2021, allowing “bio-habitat gardens and other features designed to attract wildlife; pollinator gardens and other features designed to attract pollinator species.”
- Minnesota appears to be one of the most advanced states in creating a path forward into the world of new sustainable systems with lower carbon emissions. Minnesota has established an impressive stepped ascension called the Minnesota GreenStep Cities and has a list of Model Ordinances for Sustainable Development that helps towns navigate the legal side of things. IE, Minneapolis: “…the right to install and maintain a managed natural landscape.”
These are just a few of the many examples that show the momentum of the climate action transformation and should provide homeowners with confidence that the law, and global community, are on their side. The strong, positive momentum empowers members in every HOA community to let their HOA know that the HOA is obligated to be resilient, adapt and change the rules, and policies that have helped cause global warming, and are thus now outdated.
- Review your HOA bylaws that pertain to landscape, solar panels, roof and driveway color.
- Contact your HOA and explain your plans and ask for approval.
- If they say “No,” then meet with your neighbors and start a petition in your community, aimed at getting 100 percent of the families to sign the petition.
- Inform the public on social media about any challenges you might have with your HOA, (HOAs hate bad publicity).
- Outline the details of any difficulties you might have with your HOA on Google reviews.
Sadly, we can’t rely on our politicians to uproot all the systems. With extreme polarization, getting legislation passed will likely take longer than 10 years. Thus, we the people have to uproot the system. Let’s begin with HOAs.
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