Bringing climate action back home

Climate course highlights education, local initiatives, and individual lifestyle changes.

The climate course offered by the West Tisbury library concluded with various ways the participants could bring their newfound knowledge back to their individual communities to affect change. — Screenshot

There are so many ways to support our environment and advocate for sustainable practices, in both our individual and collective lives.

The three-part climate change course offered by the West Tisbury library provides a wealth of knowledge and context surrounding the various ways each person can strive to strengthen their understanding of environmental issues, and work to effect meaningful change. 

Led by Tony Lee and Bari Boyer, the class provides a powerful connection to global issues and local initiatives, and ultimately shows that both personal choice and collective action are important ways of supporting the natural world.

In the final segment of the course, people discussed the ways they are planning to bring all the knowledge they gleaned back home to their communities.

Hunter Moorman suggested looking for local groups who are already doing important work, so that your time is spent in the most efficient way possible. “On the Vineyard there is a host of stuff that is going on already. If you go to the ICAN website, you will see a load of initiatives that have already been happening for around three years now,” Moorman said.

He also noted that the Island energy committee has put forth a 100 percent renewable energy by 2040 article that was passed by the town of West Tisbury at its recent special town meeting. “This is an important article, so whatever town we live in, it needs to be lobbied for and supported,” Moorman said.

And the Martha’s Vineyard Commission has a climate subcommittee that is working on bringing Island towns together to work on climate change mitigation and adaptation to some of the negative impacts such as erosion, stronger storm surges, and ocean acidification. “They have done some excellent work trying to bring some, dare you say the word regional, but some Islandwide perspective that brings together the individual towns and individual people’s efforts,” Moorman said.

Moorman added that the Elders Climate Action group on Martha’s Vineyard is closely tied with the national organization, which offers sophisticated programming and education that looks two generations into the future, when the most major effects of climate change will start to be seen.

“Let’s look at these groups as a way of organizing and harnessing our own efforts. Official backing is very important to get things done beyond the individual level,” Moorman said. “There are some very smart people who have studied these issues deeply, and can say, if you want to do other things, here are some options where your energy can be best spent, and where other people are already focusing.”

Jack Ensor said he believes in leveraging existing structures as well, but he is also making small lifestyle changes alongside his daughter. Ensor said he recently got involved with the Edgartown energy committee, and has been working on a number of initiatives on the solar front. Ensor is also on the Martha’s Vineyard Airport Commission, and said the airport has a solar Power Purchase Agreement that was signed a number of years ago, where a developer arranges for the design, permitting, financing, and installation of a solar energy system on airport property at little to no cost.

He said he would like to expand the solar initiative similarly to the way other airports have done, and construct an array or possibly some rooftop units.

In a broader sense, Ensor said, he is a “big fan” of getting the right incentives in place for people to make it easy for them to do the right thing. “Our priorities need to get realigned — we subsidize oil quite a bit, but we really need more subsidies for solar. People should get rewarded for sustainability initiatives,” Ensor said.

On a more individual level, Ensor said he is learning from his daughter about small lifestyle choices to be more environmentally conscious, such as eating less meat. “She has certainly raised my awareness of sustainability and environmental responsibility,” he said.

Peter Fried of New Jersey said his small Zoom group discussed living off the land more, and utilizing home gardens and livestock like chickens to reduce reliance on supermarkets, to do your small part in reducing carbon emissions from processing and shipping food.

Fried said his group also talked about sustainable architecture and passive housing. He said tougher building codes should be enforced that advocated for electric energy, sustainable materials, and efficient fixtures.

His group also spent time talking about the potential for youth education, and posed the question of how to get the youth involved in environmental initiatives from an early age. “How do we motivate the youth and instill positive values when some of them stay inside, latched to their screens?” he asked.

Fried also talked about joining advocacy groups like the Sierra Club and the Citizens’ Climate Lobby to better organize efforts.

Boyer said she has gotten much more cognizant of doing small things to effect change within her household, such as turning out lights when no one is in a room, taking shorter showers, and being more aware of consumption. “The virus has made it very obvious to us that we can use a lot less energy and fuel without it impeding our lives very much,” Boyer said.

And Kate Warner said she has been involved with energy and climate initiatives on Martha’s Vineyard for many years, but there is always more to be done. She said she is working with the energy committee to reach out to architects and builders, and advocate for things like air source heat pumps and electric water heaters in any new construction.

“West Tisbury has passed the 100 percent renewable energy by 2040 article, so we don’t want to see any propane or oil used in this town,” Warner said.

The course started out by providing important context and facts on climate change, but the participants were the ones to decide how they might bring that newfound understanding back to their hometowns to make a positive impact.