To the Editor:
When I think about the global climate crisis, I am grateful that Americans are able to rapidly innovate in the face of an existential danger. We need that ability now.
Transformation at the scale required to address climate change only happens when many hands do the work. Within our unique democratic system, the power for change remains as always with us, the people, and this gives me courage that we are capable of the undertaking in front of us.
On Martha’s Vineyard, this critical work is already well underway. Sea level rise and increasingly powerful storms are threats Islanders know we must take seriously. So far, our efforts have included supporting offshore wind farms and solar panel expansion, developing a local food system, and banning single-use plastics. We have been actively planning, strengthening, and retreating from our more vulnerable coastlines. Our Island towns have enacted Municipal Vulnerability Preparedness Programs that are supported by a $2.4 billion appropriation bill recently signed by Governor Baker for Climate Change Adaptation, Environmental Protection, and Community Investments. The Vineyard Transit Authority has a goal for a full fleet of 30 electric buses by 2025.
Local and state responses alone, however, aren’t enough to address global carbon pollution, which is at all time highs and the root of the problem. We will also need national and international cooperation and action. On Dec. 10, my family and I traveled to Washington, D.C., where we joined 1,000 other Sunrise Movement members to petition our legislators for a Green New Deal. The idea, in part, is to mobilize a workforce to upgrade our nation’s infrastructure as we simultaneously address climate change by quickly moving away from fossil fuels.
The Green New Deal proposal is analogous to many past national efforts to transform the country. I am encouraged and confident that if we all take on the challenges of solving the climate crisis, it will provide us opportunities to create new well-paying jobs, clean up past pollution, repair fragile ecosystems, advance technologies, increase economic prosperity and, most of all, save future generations from dealing with a planet that may not be habitable.
I also believe that solving the climate crisis will bring us back into balance with the natural processes that aid carbon sequestration. It will also give us a chance to right some of the egregious injustices of our past and present, moving us toward a more equitable world.
In response to the Sunrise Movement activism on Dec. 10, 31 U.S. Representatives signed on to supporting a select committee to draft a Green New Deal, joining the dozen Representatives already committed. Seven of the nine Massachusetts U.S. Representatives, and Massachusetts Sen. Edward Markey, have come out in support of a Green New Deal.
And just after Christmas, incoming House Speaker Nancy Pelosi officially established a Select Committee on the Climate Crisis. It is incumbent upon the voting public to show support and push their elected officials to make this effort a success. As the committee’s appointed chair, Representative Kathy Castor of Florida, said, “Failure is not an option.”
Interestingly, the problem of deep political divide may be solved by addressing climate change. A recent poll from the Yale Program on Climate Change Communication shows that a Green New Deal shares broad bipartisan support. In fact, in an age of considerable partisanship, it is the most bipartisan topic today. The poll showed that a clear majority of both liberal Democrats and conservative Republicans support the Deal.What all this says to me is that we may finally be ready, as a society and a global civilization, to take on this massive issue. Over the coming weeks, months, and years, as activism continues to grow at state and federal levels, I hope there will also be a doubling down on the Island about what we can do to address the issue locally as well as abroad.
For all of us, now is our time to act. Talk to your family, friends, neighbors, coworkers, fellow community members, and summer visitors alike about what more we can do to transition away from carbon-based energy. If you would like to learn more about the Sunrise Movement, please go to their website: sunrisemovement.org.