Environmental advocates and representatives shared their plans to combat the climate crisis with the Newton community at the Newton League of Women Voters’ climate change forum on Feb. 26.
The event, entitled “There’s No Time to Waste – Addressing the Urgency of Climate Change,” was held in the Scandinavian Cultural Center in West Newton and was co-hosted by five other branches of the League of Women Voters, from Framingham, Needham, Wayland, Wellesley, and Weston.
The panel brought together state Senator Cynthia Creem, Audrey Schulman and Zeyneb Magavi of HEET (Home Energy Efficiency Team), Jordan Stutt of the Acadia Center, and Craig Altemose of the Better Future Project to discuss climate science and the potential of regional transportation and energy improvements in Massachusetts and nationwide.
Close to 90 people attended the event, and representatives from local environment groups, including Green Newton, the Citizens’ Energy Commission, and the Citizens’ Climate Lobby were present.
Marcia Johnson, president of the Newton League of Women Voters board, said that she hopes that the forum motivates residents to bring up the topic of climate change more in their lives.
“I want them to go home and talk to their families and their friends, to call their state senator and state reps,” said Johnson. “And then to ask, what are the things that you can do yourself? Everybody needs to do something, and what is that for you?”
The panelists spoke about the merits of their specific projects, but centered on a theme of the need for both individual and collective action to fight climate change.
“My goal is acknowledging that we can’t keep polluting for 30 years and expect everything to be okay. The climate is already out of whack,” said Altemose, who gave a briefing on the state of climate science and how climate change might affect the future. In his presentation, he quoted youth activist Greta Thunberg and discussed how extreme climate events the world over can have an effect on local communities.
Altemose compared the time-bound difficulty of approaching the climate crisis with the push to land a man on the Moon during the Space Race of the 1960’s.
“This is a little bit harder than the moonshot,” he said. “But my overall philosophy is that necessity dictates action. You figure out what you need to do, and you figure out how to do it.”
The three projects at the center of the discussion were the FUTURE Act (Senate Bill 1940), a state energy transition bill sponsored by Senator Creem; Home Energy Efficiency Team (HEET), a nonprofit which promotes a system for transitioning from natural gas heating to geothermal; and the Transportation and Climate Initiative, a multi-state project encompassing 12 states that aims to improve sustainability and efficiency of transportation.
Creem explained the basics of the FUTURE Act, which creates a roadmap for gas companies to transition from natural gas to renewable energy. During her presentation, Creem recalled a conversation she had had with her high school-aged granddaughter when she told her that she was currently working on climate change legislation.
“She said, ‘Oh, it’s too late. I don’t know if you’ll be able to save the climate for me,’” Creem said. “So that was my challenge.”
Sharyn Roberts, a Newton Centre resident who attended the forum, was heartened by the presentation, but sees a long way to go.
“We very clearly heard that we need a call to action, and we heard some solutions, which was encouraging. But none of them have gotten through into law yet, so we need to keep working.”
Launa Zimmaro, of Carlisle, directs the Massachusetts state-level League of Women Voters board.
“We have to do a lot more public education about bills that are transformative, to transform this system,” Zimmaro said. “Right now, what we can control to some extent is Massachusetts. We can work in our cities, and we can work at the state level.”
Not all the presenters were Newton residents, but their projects all related to Massachusetts and New England in general. Frieda Dweck, a member of the Newton League of Women Voters Board who helped lead the event, said the state focus was important.
“It’s important on a state level for us to think about climate, but also on a national level,” said Dweck. “It’s not something that relates to just Newton.”
However, for Johnson, the move towards climate-friendly developments has a definite local connection -- that of the Northland development, which Newton residents voted to approve on Super Tuesday.
“If you think about the environmental sustainability of those buildings and of affordable housing, a lot of those topics do relate to climate,” Johnson said. “People need to be thinking about that, not just about bricks and mortar and how high and how many units.”
Julia Maruca can be reached at firstname.lastname@example.org.