Earlier this month, I was in our nation's capital, which served as the stage for the most recent federal theatrics on the issue of climate change regulation. The seventh annual New Partners for Smart Growth conference, sponsored by the Local Government Commission (an organization of locally-elected officials, city and county staff, planners, architects, and community leaders), took place in the hotel neighboring the site of the Conservative Political Action Conference. While we attended sessions such as "Where is the Money? Trends in Funding Smart Growth," the young conservatives were rehearsing their Republican roles in sessions titled "What Do Liberals Have Planned for Your Money?"

Thickening the plot was the cast of characters that traveled from California, including state officials and representatives from the California Air Resources Board, the Governor's Office of Planning of Research, and Caltrans. Jake Mackenzie, the mayor of Rohnert Park and LGC board member, alluded to the reputation of the members of the traveling show as "fruits and nuts" at a session demonstrating the strides that the state is taking to achieve Governor Schwarzenegger's goals to combat global warming. Who would have guessed that the most dynamic session on climate change policy would feature a cast including the likes of Mr. Peanut and Chiquita Banana?

Over the three days, conference segments that are typically replete with droning wonky policy jargon that no semi-normal person can comprehend were replaced by approachable language and legible statistics. Professionals and policy experts came together not only to share the efforts being made by the planning, development, and public heath communities, but also to speak out against the lack of federal participation and leadership on carbon emissions.  The most recent sting resulting from the EPA's decision to deny California's bid to set stricter carbon emissions standards for motor vehicles was still on everyone's mind.

What began as a daytime soap opera viewed by few has become a blockbuster hit in the eyes of the 1,500 professional planners, architects, public health experts, and policymakers: the climate change issue has taken center stage. The message even recently graced the cover of Sports Illustrated.

Once I stepped outside and squinted against the afternoon sun, I briefly forgot why I spent three full days inside the sunlight-starved set of the conference, filling my head with new ideas surrounding the climate change issue. But once I got back to the land of fruit and nuts, and more specifically, Los Angeles, where everyone is looking for their 15 minutes of fame, I remembered why. I was now well-versed with the knowledge that acting on behalf of the climate change issue on Capitol Hill is more than just a cameo role.

- Jessica Daniels