Climate Change Connections: It takes the Vineyard

It will take all of us to address climate change.


In the last column, young people were interviewed. In this column, people from the older generation are asked the same questions. This is so we can substantiate once again that it will take all of us, the whole Vineyard, young and old, to abate the effects of climate change. Inherent in this is the immediacy of this challenge, so as we proceed, let us think about what quick and calculated responses we can make, and let us also work in tandem to accomplish our goals. Truly it will take all of us, and time is of the essence.

We spoke with Jim Athearn of Edgartown, founder of Morning Glory Farm and a native Islander, and with Ardelia Stewart of Vineyard Haven, retired teacher, and proud to be 85.

What are your general feelings about climate change? 

Athearn: With current weather changes of heat and extreme storms, and polar caps melting and coral reefs dying, it seems clear that predictions of climatologists are correct and our future is in great peril.

Stewart: We were presented with facts about climate change by former Vice President Al Gore back in the Nineties. We ignored his recommendations and scenarios as part of some exotic thesis from a person who was not taken seriously. When he appeared on TV, he spoke of the urgency of acting to prevent the consequences that were bound to occur because of our inattention. As a result, I am frustrated and sad that I didn’t move and act more quickly to head off that which we are now experiencing.

What are your specific concerns about climate change?

Athearn: Specifically for us personally, our farm will be OK during our lifetime, and our kids can adapt as farmers to changing conditions, but radical changes such as more hurricanes or a shift in the Gulf Stream would be harder to deal with. Ultimately, global warming will have to be turned around, or the planet might be uninhabitable for humans.

Stewart: I am concerned daily about the effects on animals and human beings. We are seeing the drastic effects on people’s welfare. We are witnessing an increasing amount of drought refugees in so many places, especially those who are poverty-impacted, where there is no food to eat and no shelter to escape the heat. In some lands, the lack of available water is used as a weapon against those without resources to survive. As a result, disease, hunger, and death are the endgame.

What would be best for the Island?

Athearn: On a more immediate level, my concerns for M.V. are the same as they have been for decades, that we have too many people here, and their impact on all levels of life here is degrading our happiness, and eventually will degrade our economy, as the Island will be “spoiled.” If the people from the Southern states flock here to get away from their 100° temperatures, it could be like the COVID retreat, and swell our population.

Stewart: Continued research and implementation as regards climate change. With implementation come sensitivity and humanity for others’ feelings. Listen to others’ input, welcoming new ideas about food choices, less packaged foods. Eat more vegetables and less meat, and provide a cooler living environment. Change outside habits. For example, change to working outside in early hours. Be mindful of others, and charitable with help to workers.

So the young and the elderly have some of the same concerns, and they also have the same spirit of resolve and urgency to get in there and cause change for the planet, and our community in particular.

So what are some things we can do? Ponder these ideas:

Ride the electric buses more often. Use them to do your errands and for going to and from work. Let your children ride the buses in a group to the movies.

Carpool more often. Get a group of friends and do grocery shopping together. Include an elderly person, as they are the fastest growing population. Shop with or for them on a regular basis.

Encourage youth to consider climate change careers.

Talk about climate change with your friends, and share ideas that you have found successful and helpful. Keep the topic fluent and easy to discuss.

Get an energy audit at to identify ways you can conserve energy. Switch to renewable energy sources. Promote sustainable practices.

Go over ideas that you and your children have about recycling. For example, share culling clothes, books, etc., with each other. Then you can take those items to the two thrift stores in Vineyard Haven or to the Clothes to Go program at the Stone Church, which offers free donated clothes to the community. You could also send recycled items to areas that are under stress from climate change catastrophes.

Talk to each other in your family about how to cut back on water usage.

Buy a compost machine for the kitchen counter, and toss in your clean scraps. After the composting takes place, sprinkle this crumbly product onto your plant beds and lawn to enrich the soil.

Educate yourself in an ongoing effort to keep abreast of climate change and positive responses to it as an individual and with your friends and family.

Volunteer to be on your town’s climate committee, or attend their community meetings and book groups.

If you have ideas or information to share, contact Doris Ward at