All around us is news about climate change, and as it pounds away at us, it can get very disheartening and frightening — a giant comes to slay us. Fear does keep the species alive, as you would not reach out to try your luck at letting a rattlesnake become your household pet, but too much fear is immobilizing.
There is plenty to be fearful about in this distressing, manmade crisis looming heavy in our path, but there are also blessings in this storm we face.
One such blessing in the storm is the powerful tool of the well-documented, authoritative, and compelling climate action plan. Along with the very skilled climate change consultant and Aquinnah resident Meghan Gombos, Liz Durkee was at the helm in the formation of this publication, and it was my pleasure and extreme learning curve to interview Liz.
I had many questions for her, but in the end, she is so masterful at the written word, I simply turned her loose to do what she does so well — write about climate change.
What prompted the climate action plan?
Oh boy! Two main things. I’ve been worrying about climate change for years. The more I learned about how it would affect the Island, the more I realized — we need a plan! We can’t react just as things happen. And, of course, I wasn’t the only one worried. In 2019 the Martha’s Vineyard Commission [MVC] established a climate action task force. A major goal of the task force was to develop an Island climate action plan.
How did it get started?
The MVC got two grants from the Massachusetts Municipal Vulnerability Preparedness Program. A small grant in 2020 allowed us to start educating the community about climate change issues, and a 2021 grant funded development of the plan.
MVC commissioner Ben Robinson started the task force. By the time we got rolling on the plan, we had more than 100 local residents working on it, including representatives from dozens of local nonprofits and businesses, as well as town staff and high school students. It was an amazing collaboration!
What was the purpose?
The 20-year climate action plan is called “The Vineyard Way: Connected to Our Past, Committed to Our Future.” We used local knowledge (along with a little outside help) to come up with a blueprint for addressing climate change in six areas: Land use, natural resources, and biodiversity; transportation, infrastructure, and waste; public health and safety; economic resilience; food security; and energy transformation.
What are some of the accomplishments?
A lot of what we are doing now is laying the groundwork for longer-term projects. For instance, we just got a grant to map out the Island’s vegetation; this will help as we plan jointly for future land use, transportation issues, and economic resilience. A Ferries Now event looked at how other island communities are electrifying their ferry systems. We did a survey of medical professionals to gauge their understanding of climate-related health issues. The 2023 Climate Action Fair focused on reusing, repairing, and recycling things, instead of creating more waste by throwing them away.
How has it been used, implemented, the plan?
We have a website, thevineyardway.org, where we will be tracking implementation of the plan. This is a living document, not one to sit on the shelf and get dusty.
What are some accomplishments being used now?
A Vision Fellow is investigating the use of biochar, an organic material made from wood chips and plants, to absorb carbon, help restore soil, improve water quality, and help lower the risk of wildfire.
We’re already planning for the 2024 Climate Action Fair. A focus will be resilient landscaping to address the climate-stressed natural environment.
Priorities for the future
As storms get stronger and the risk of wildfire grows, we need a full-time, regional emergency coordinator.
Excerpts from “The Vineyard Way”: “What the ‘Vineyard Way’ plan means for members of our community … we all care about our Island’s future. It’s time to leverage our community’s strengths and come together to take a collective action for a better tomorrow!”
“On the Island, 93 percent agree that our Island community should take action now to prepare for the impacts of climate change.”
“On a scale of 0 to 10, survey participants ranked an average of 8 for the importance of working Island-wide for climate change impacts (as opposed to working town by town).”
Suggestion for creating your own blessing in the storm
It would be of great service to you if you could become more familiar with this publication, so if you go to thevineyardway.org, you can read all about it, and copy any portion of it. You will be thankful for all that has been done, and you will be inspired to help in what we need to do.
If you have ideas or questions about climate change, email Doris Ward at email@example.com.