To the Editor:
The following was originally sent to the Martha’s Vineyard Builders Association board:
I’m writing as a citizen of Martha’s Vineyard. I am a design professional with over 40 years collaborating with our industry to create superb buildings with minimal negative environmental impact. I was saddened to see this letter.
Most of you would agree that climate change is an existential threat; that our “special corner” has high vulnerability to its effects; and that the principal driver behind climate change is fossil fuel combustion. In buildings, the sector with the largest share of U.S. emissions, alternatives to burning fossil fuels, chiefly electric heat pumps for space heat, domestic hot water, and pool heating, are not only readily available, but have lower costs to the building owner over time. No aspect of the building electrification transition will cause economic harm to design and construction businesses here. Eliminating fossil fuels in buildings also increases health and safety (no carbon monoxide, no explosive fuel, no opportunity for toxic fuel spills). Electrification of buildings and transportation, coupled with distributed renewable energy generation, is the path to a sane future. Numerous studies support this (rewiringamerica.org).
I’ve spent the past year on the energy subcommittee of the MVC Climate Action Task Force, and my principal contribution has been building a complex, layered model of the Island’s energy consumption, so that scenarios can be explored to see how we will most effectively achieve a fossil-fuel free, renewably powered Island. Buildings are the toughest sector — greening electric supply and transportation are easier. To not have the support of the MVBA in this work, and the aspiration that animates it, would be devastating.
Renowned essayist David Orr has written that climate change is the moral equivalent in our time of what slavery was over 150 years ago. In “Hope Is an Imperative,” he writes, “To see our situation more clearly, we need a perspective that transcends the minutiae of science, economics, and current politics. Since the effects, whatever they may be, will fall most heavily on future generations, understanding their likely perspective on our present decisions would be useful to us now. And how are future generations likely to regard various positions in the debate about climatic change? Will they applaud the precision of our economic calculations that discounted their prospects to the vanishing point? Will they think us prudent for delaying action until the last-minute scientific doubts were quenched? Will they admire our heroic devotion to inefficient cars and SUVs, urban sprawl, and consumption? Hardly. They are more likely, I think, to judge us much as we now judge the parties in the debate on slavery prior to the Civil War.”
I’ve been proud to be a member of the MVBA. My hope is that you will rethink this letter, and the position it represents. Please be part of the solution, not part of the problem.