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Lawmakers must act to help preserve open space

Re “Flooding a risk across state, report predicts: Shift in climate endangers more than just coastline” (Page A1, Oct. 18): A way to combat flooding is to preserve open space, which absorbs water during floods and releases it during drought.

There are about 1.2 million acres of open space nominally preserved in perpetuity under Article 97 of the Massachusetts Constitution. However, the protection can be removed by a two-thirds vote of each branch of the Legislature. This may sound unlikely, but laws are enacted every legislative session removing protection from parcels protected “in perpetuity.”

The Public Lands Preservation Act would shore up the protection by requiring that any proponent of transferring or changing the use of protected land provide notice to the public and the Executive Office of Energy and Environmental Affairs prior to filing legislation; perform an alternatives analysis; and provide replacement land of equal or greater size, market value, and natural resource value and of comparable location.

The bill has passed the House and is now in the Senate Ways and Means Committee. If you believe open space is important, contact your state senator and urge them to ask the committee chair, Michael Rodrigues, to support this measure.

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Philip Saunders Jr.

Weston


Start relocation process now, before disaster hits

David Abel’s article “Flooding a risk across state, report predicts” makes it clear that impacts of climate change, including more intense storms and sea level rise, mean catastrophic flooding is a matter of when, not if. Action is needed now.

State officials must begin to employ property buyouts and nature-based solutions as key strategies to proactively address flood risks across Massachusetts. An Act establishing a Massachusetts flood risk protection program, filed this session by Senator Marc Pacheco, Democrat of Taunton, and Representative Sarah Peake, Democrat of Provincetown, would create a statewide program to help residents and businesses relocate before disaster hits.

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Under the voluntary program, land would be permanently conserved and restored to absorb flood waters, buffering neighborhoods, protecting first responders, creating habitat and outdoor recreational opportunities, and preventing costly future damage. Those with few remedies to address flooding, such as low-income homeowners, would receive priority consideration.

The full impacts of climate change might not be felt until 2050, but that means we need to act now to get people out of harm’s way before we reach a point of no return. Passing this critical legislation could be the starting point.

Thomas O’Shea

Managing director of resources and planning

The Trustees of Reservations

Boston

The writer is the lead author of the organization’s State of the Coast report.


Insurers — society’s risk managers — help prop up fossil fuel industry

Sabrina Shankman’s recent front-page article (“Study offers forecast for a city underwater: Flooded Common is one prediction,” Oct. 13) powerfully demonstrates the risk of climate chaos to Boston, illustrating how vulnerable a huge section of the city is to sea level rise. One of the landmarks that the article does not feature, ironically, is the global headquarters of Liberty Mutual in Back Bay, which is also projected to be underwater with 3 degrees Celsius of warming above preindustrial temperatures.

It’s ironic because insurers — society’s risk managers — are actually one of the drivers behind climate chaos, providing critical support to the fossil fuel industry by insuring new fossil fuel projects and investing billions in dirty energy. Insurance giant Liberty Mutual is one of the largest oil and gas insurers in the world, despite knowing the material costs of climate risks for decades and already dropping customers in wildfire and flood zones.

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We need to end fossil fuel expansion today, and we need all sectors, including insurers, to do everything they can to protect this city and our lives. As Massachusetts residents and Liberty Mutual policyholders of more than 30 years, we call on Liberty Mutual CEO David Long to stop insuring fossil fuel expansion to save this place we call home. Save our friends, families, and communities from life-threatening flooding.

The Rev. Christine Elliott

The Rev. Mike Clark

Northampton

The writers are volunteers with Rainforest Action Network.