Task force focuses on climate change

But first group needs to fine-tune its mission.

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The Martha's Vineyard Commission's climate action task force met Friday morning.

The Martha’s Vineyard Commission climate action task force met Friday morning, and was still smoothing out its mission and what differentiates the group from the MVC and other environmentally focused organizations on the Island. 

Formed in April, the task force gathers every two weeks to keep climate change afloat as a priority issue in Island policymaking. The task force is composed of roughly 20 members; commissioners Ben Robinson and Joan Malkin, MVC staff, community climate experts, and leaders of local sustainable businesses and organizations. 

Task force member Kate Warner said the group’s role within the patchwork of Martha’s Vineyard governing bodies should be more aggressive: “We lead by setting regulations and policies that can help this Island adapt to the climate crisis and mitigate our impact on it.”

Ben Robinson, who represents the commission and Tisbury on the task force, said in his view the task force as “working and thinking ahead of the commission, and we want to pull them up to meet us.”

The group resolved to continue to discuss its mission in meetings to come. 

Warner recounted her visit to Nantucket for their recent Coastal Conference, and aired her frustration with the rate of progress in sustainability on the other island. 

“It’s staggering how much they have going on. We are so far behind,” Warner said.

Richard Andre, president of Vineyard Power countered, stating that while Nantucket is making progress, it is at the expense of additional non-environmentally-friendly technologies, such as a “40 megawatt gas turbine that they just built at the airport.” Several members also noted that Nantucket’s geography allows for a more centralized government, and therefore, quicker policy turnaround. Another key difference: Nantucket funds sustainability initiatives through taxpayer dollars.

On this point, Robinson said, “I think we think that we’re going to grant our way out of this. We are going to have to accept some responsibility for this on the Island.”

Nevertheless, this task force is looking to the work of Nantucket and Cape Cod’s town sustainability groups as models for this new body. 

Determining the best way to communicate the dire issue of climate change to Martha’s Vineyard residents is at the top of task force members’ minds. 

One way that the group is planning to prick Islander’s ears is through town-level educational presentations. Later this year, the task force hopes to “talk to our own people,” i.e., Chilmark representative to Chilmark residents, in order to bring these issues home. 

Another way to personalize the threat is through animated maps showing sea level rise. Martha’s Vineyard’s most immediate climate concern is flooding, yet, task force members worried, many people don’t realize that the water is already creeping higher. Such a video — depicting 1.5 and 5 feet of sea level rise on Island landmarks — is available to watch on the MVC website. Showing seasonal and year-round residents the impact of a few feet of sea level rise, surmised Norman Willard, might get people to care. 

Noli Taylor, representative of Aquinnah, Island Grown Initiative, and ICAN, also gave an update on the work of the Island Climate Action Network, and shared a list of climate-centered events happening in the next few months. 

The task force will meet again on Friday, Aug. 2.