There are many active climate change advocates on the Island. However, there are also many in the general public who are not informed about the local impact of climate change, what they can do to fight it, and some may even “fear” it. The Martha’s Vineyard Commission aims to change that.
Members and staff of the MVC met with The Times via Zoom recently to discuss the commission’s efforts to create a climate action plan.
According to MVC climate change planner Liz Durkee, the action plan is a 20-year strategy to address the impact of climate change and greenhouse gas emissions. She said the action plan has a “strong implementation plan,” so it doesn’t just sit on a shelf. Funding for the action plan comes from the state’s Municipal Vulnerability Preparedness Action Grant.
“Every one of us is or will be affected by the impact of climate change,” Durkee said. “We’re not just looking at coastal flooding in this plan. We’re looking at the big picture.”
There are six themes to the action plan: land use, transportation and infrastructure, food security, public health and safety, economic resilience, and energy transformation. The plan will look at climate change and the interrelated issues from a community-based perspective, using as much local knowledge and resources as possible. This means avoiding outside consultants and using local hires who know the Island, such as consultant Meghan Gombos from Aquinnah, who was on the call for the MVC. Additionally, input from the Island’s towns will be implemented in a regional effort so that they will be on the same page, and not be competing for resources in relation to the plan.
Durkee said it will also be important to include the Wampanoag Tribe of Gay Head (Aquinnah) because of their traditional local knowledge, and because she believes the tribe would have an insight toward historic land use alongside the implementation of it today.
“One of the most critical pieces of this plan is that it gets socialized within the public,” MVC commissioner Ben Robinson said. “There are die-hard climate supporters across the Island, and they show up at meetings regularly … but there’s a broad segment of the population that is not engaged, not really paying attention to this, don’t recognize the changes that will be coming, don’t recognize their role in this.”
Robinson also said the press’s role in spreading the word about climate change initiatives and the action plan is important to engage people. In particular, Robinson thinks getting high schoolers more involved would be beneficial, since the younger generations will be the ones who will need to face the consequences of climate change.
“They’re going to be growing up and living with this,” Robinson said. “The climate crisis isn’t just a climate crisis, it’s an ecological crisis, it’s a pollution crisis. It really is about how we live on this planet, and for adults that’s tough, because we’re old dogs and … we have our ways and can’t change that. But the younger generations has the ability to actually change … and I think engaging them in that process is also going to help out adults, because I think people look at their children and grandchildren and have a different perspective on what they should be doing.”
Durkee said MVC plans to involve interested high school students to be involved in the strategy’s thematic working groups alongside a youth intern.
Durkee also pointed out that many people are “afraid of climate change” and would rather not think about it. Additionally, many people don’t know where to get information regarding climate change, especially with a local and everyday context. This emphasizes the importance of getting people more familiar with climate change.
“We are trying to engage people from the towns from different boards and committees … because we see this process itself as a way to build our capacity as an Island and a community to have that climate lens,” Gombos said. “So it’s not about making the whole issue climate change, but looking at whatever issue is your focus area with that climate lens. We really think that if we get more people engaged … at the town level, and the broader community to have that lens through which they view things, then we’ll build our adaptive capacity going forward.”